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Knoxville’s Honeybee Coffee Shop Founder Speaks Out on Brand’s Meltdown

Coffee shop brand crisis

Knoxville’s Honeybee Coffee Shop Founder Speaks Out on Brand’s Meltdown

It’s been a surreal start to summer for Norris Hill, the Knoxville businessman who sold the majority of his Honeybee Coffee company to a charismatic self-proclaimed entrepreneur, only to find months later the man had driven away nearly the entire staff and singlehandedly tanked the store’s reputation in a matter of weeks.

As a community of loyal customers and other business owners rally around Hill to help him save a beloved Knoxville brand from ruin, he is speaking out about Aaron Hensley, the man he says is behind the meltdown.

Founder’s Statement

“I am writing to acknowledge and address the extent of my knowledge about the current state of affairs with Honeybee Coffee. Simply stated: I am appalled by the actions of Aaron Hensley,” Hill said. “I started Honeybee Coffee in 2017 and have taken much pride in it becoming a safe place of inclusion, kindness and respect for ALL people.”

“The recent events, solely led by Hensley, are absolutely unacceptable, and I regret that those actions have been beyond my control. I am actively working to do everything I can to right the wrongs,” Hill added.

Takeover by Hensley

Hill had no previous business dealings with Hensley before the entrepreneur, CEO of business coaching company Rise USA, said he could pump capital into the business to help it thrive while driving down debt and growing the brand. Hensley took control of the company after signing a letter of intent for 80% stake in February, Hill said.

Unpaid Staff and Vanishing Owner

Hensley has not paid any employee he hired, including for many hours of overtime, and maintains control of the company’s accounts, Hill said. The rogue owner has not been in contact with his staff or with Hill. The Honeybee Facebook page also was taken down, along with several other social media pages for Hensley’s companies, including Rise USA.

Community Response

After a torrent of negative stories about Hensley were posted to Facebook and Reddit, some by anonymous posters who said they were former employees, one community organization took action. SoKno Pride, which will host its annual LGBTQ pride event in South Knoxville, announced it would pull all vendors and events from Honeybee’s Sevier Avenue store “in solidarity with our community.”

The coffee shop has hosted a disco afterparty for the pride event for several years.

Founder’s Resolve

“I am unsure of the next steps, and I am working with an attorney to determine what authority I even have to fix things, but I will do everything I can,” Hill said about the company changes.

Knoxville's Honeybee Coffee Shop Founder Speaks Out on Brand's Meltdown

HERE Knoxville
Author: HERE Knoxville

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