Who knew that smoking an awesome tasting pastrami could lead to a career shift?
Just ask Chris Shelton. He is living proof that can happen.
Shelton, once in financial management, stepped out of his comfort zone and turned from financial expertise to perfecting sandwiches and coffee. He used his business acumen to open CURE coffeehouses with business partner, Mike Aston. Together, they have opened four CURE coffee shops in Hampton Roads. The first opened in Norfolk in 2011. Smithfield came next in 2017. Then Portsmouth in 2022. And last but not least, the Newport News CURE came to life a short time later. The name comes directly from the connection to the famous pastrami and how it was cooked.
“It was the greatest thing we had ever tasted,” Shelton says of the Reuben sandwich they made with the pastrami. “We were at home and thought, ‘people need to have this. It blossomed from there.”
The pastrami served up a conversation about business ideas. And from there, CURE was born. The duo decided “it was more rewarding to grow a business from scratch” then to adhere to a big company’s playbook. Shelton and Aston decided to wed food and coffee, creating a place people could gather to socialize, do business or study. They have also added alcohol to the menu. The coffee beans they use come from a roaster in North Carolina that provides an amazing product, Shelton says.
“We lucked out and found one of the best roasters in the United States on the East Coast,” he says. A CURE employee crafts her own “top shelf” syrups to put into coffees, so those are also used and, Shelton says, add a fabulous touch to the coffees the café serves. Shelton and Aston worked diligently to find the perfect formula for a coffeehouse experience.
“It was exciting. There were so many things we had to learn and figure out,” Shelton says. “Our philosophy is ‘make the best decision you can at any given point, using the best information you have.”
It worked for Shelton and Aston. But when COVID hit, it forced the partners to go into survival mode. They weathered the storm, and, Shelton says, are stronger for it. “They were very dark days,” he says.
Shelton focuses on the business side of the house, and Aston is the foodie of the two. Shelton also likes to build things, so he finds many projects in all of the coffeeshops to keep him busy.
The Newport News coffeehouse opened in the space that once was occupied by Aroma’s in City Center. It serves food and specialty coffees with flavors such as sweet potato pecan pie.
“The Newport News location fell into our lap,” Shelton says. “The real estate agent called us and said ‘I’ve become aware of an opportunity you should consider. You might want to take a look at it.’”
It didn’t take long for them to decide to jump on it and add a new member to the CURE family. “We knew there was a need for the kind of approach we take to coffee. We offer a much more curated experience,” Shelton says. “We knew there was definitely room in the market.” He massaged the space into a CURE kind of atmosphere, keeping the old to maintain its character and adding some unique touches.
“We reused as much as we could,” Shelton says. Each CURE has its own personality and feel.
Shelton and Aston are pleased at how the Newport News location has developed into a place where customers enjoy hanging out, eating and drinking. They plan to add an open mic night and other evening events. “We are very happy here,” Shelton says. “We have a lot of room to grow. People are still finding out about us.”
TO THE POINT:
Owners: Chris Shelton and Mike Aston
Address: 706 Town Center Dr., Ste. 104, Newport News, VA 23606