The Sellers had been working towards a dream for more than two years — opening up a coffee shop in West Columbia. That dream will soon become a reality, with the March opening of Brickhouse Cafe, inside of meal prep company PRIMAL.
Plans for Brickhouse began while Akera Sellers was still in graduate school in New York. Frequenting a cafe in Harlem, he began to fall in love with coffee and the idea of owning his own cafe. When he finished his degree in 2018, he moved to South Carolina to join his wife, Alexis, and opened up a coffee beans business in 2019.
For two years, the Sellers sold coffee beans and tea leaves online and at local markets while searching for somewhere to open a physical location. When COVID-19 hit, finding a spot to operate became difficult.
“When I started writing the business plan, and then when the pandemic kicked off, I was like, ‘Man, I’m not gonna be able to do this,’ but now here’s the opportunity,” Akera said.
While the pandemic complicated the plan, it was ultimately what led to the opportunity for the Sellers.
PRIMAL — which was formerly known as Primal Gourmet Kitchen and Market — was hit hard by the pandemic, according to owner Greg Martin. At the beginning of this year, he announced he would temporarily be closing the business because of staffing and supply chain issues.
That closure lasted about two weeks and opened the door for Alexis and Akera, who had recently left his job in corporate finance to pursue the coffee shop full time. The two businesses were connected by PRIMAL’s general manager, Jennifer Boyd, who had worked with Akera in the past.
“When Greg mentioned we were looking for someone to do their brick and mortar coffee shop here, Brickhouse had been looking for quite some time for a space … They’re ready to go and it just fell right into place,” said Boyd.
Martin ditched Primal’s hot bar during his closure and invited the Sellers to operate their then-nomadic coffee business in the space. In the future, Martin hopes to bring in one or two more vendors, like the Sellers, to set up shop in PRIMAL’s space to give smaller businesses a place to operate.
“That’s where we can step in, and, at least for one or two people, be that ability to get into the retail market without having to make that massive investment. That’s basically like a permanent commissary for only like four people,” Martin said.
Hosting another business inside his own is not an entirely new concept for Martin.
Before the Sellers, local chef Bryan Pierce Bowers, who owns Dorsia Pasta Co., had been selling his pasta at PRIMAL and teaching pasta-making classes in the space. In the future, Martin hopes to house another complementary business, while also hosting food classes and private dinners.
Brickhouse joins a sparse independent West Columbia coffee scene. The Hideout in Weco opened last year, but there are little other options for coffee. In nearby Cayce, Piecewise Coffee and a Starbucks operate as well.
Primal and Brickhouse’s shared growth also helps further bolster a business district that has grown rapidly in the last five years. D’s Wings moved from Cayce to the area and Savage Craft Ale Works opened a year ago.
“I foresee us continuing to grow,” said Joseph Dickey, a West Columbia councilman, “We’ve come a long way, but in doing so, it hasn’t changed what makes the city unique and that’s what we want to hold onto as we grow.”
Akera and Alexis’s business doesn’t fall too far away from where they started out — at the city’s Meeting Street Artisan Market, which began in 2019 and operates on Saturday mornings.
And Brickhouse is the second artisan market vendor to open up a brick and mortar spot. In the spring of last year, Seminole Candle Company, opened up a physical location in West Columbia.
Brickhouse joins a string of recent businesses in and around Columbia that have opened up brick and mortar spots after operating by alternative means, through food trucks and at local markets.
In early January, The Donut Guy opened up in Columbia’s Vista after operating as a food truck and farmers market tent for years. In February, Chubby’s Burgers and Brewhouse opened up in Blythewood after starting as a food truck in the middle of the pandemic.
Brickhouse is located at 725 Meeting St., West Columbia and will open on March 7 with tentative hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends.