Theory wine bar doors closed

MIKE SPRINGER/Staff photo Savanna Edwards, right, of Newton and Rishi Parmar of Chelmsford watch as a friend pours a glass of wine at the Theory Wine Bar in downtown Andover. 5/16/2019

Theory Wine Bar and Listening Room has closed its doors less than seven months after opening in December 2018.

Owners Christian Bachmann and Jennifer Schneidewent said they officially closed the business they invested their life savings into July 13 — a decision they recall as "painful."

Bachmann said the closure came down to the mere fact that they simply weren't making the income to support the business.

"It came rather suddenly, just over a matter of three weeks or so," said Schneidewent. "We didn't stay afloat for the summer. We finally just drained every business and personal resource and had to stop."

The first few months their business flourished. Patrons filtered into the unique atmosphere which offered high-level wines and finger foods for people to enjoy while listening to original, local music.

The reviews on Yelp and Facebook praised the venue. Customers commended them for their offerings to downtown.

"A lot of other people felt surprised too," Bachmann said. "The past six months everyone that has come through the door has been really happy and said Andover really needed this."

Bachmann said part of the problem was the lack of a strong advertising budget, which made it hard to spread their name to communities beyond Andover.

He also noted the high rent that accompanied maintaining a business on Main Street.

The duo said the Sept. 13, 2018 gas disaster further contributed to their closure, as they had to postpone their opening for about a month and a half. Originally set to open right before Thanksgiving with the hope of getting a nice ramp-up going into the holiday season, their date was delayed for weeks.

The disaster, caused by over-pressurized gas lines, affected nearly 900 small businesses across the three impacted communities of Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, leaving some closed for days and others for several weeks or months.

They considered themselves lucky, however, they did not open prior to that.

"If we had just opened two weeks before that (Sept. 13), it would have destroyed any momentum we had," Bachmann said.

The lack of shoppers and diners at local businesses and restaurants was felt by Bachmann and Schneidewent. When you can get something delivered to the foot of your door without a second thought, Bachmann said, it can be tough to want to venture out and support the local business model.

In a joint post from the two owners on the Theory Facebook page, they encouraged people to support local businesses in the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Other small business owners who know firsthand the struggles of getting people to shop locally have empathized with Bachmann and Schneidewent.

"We've talked to a couple (business owners) and they completely get how tough it is," Bachmann said. "A lot of it, unfortunately, is time and luck. They totally feel for us. There's nothing they can do, but they've shown solidarity."

One of the most difficult parts of their closure was letting their seven staff members go, whom they said became very dear to their hearts over the months.

Even though they were only open for a brief time in Andover, they are appreciative of the time they had and the impact they made.

"I don't think we regret doing what we did," said Bachmann. "We are glad we could provide what we did for the time. We met a lot of great people and had a lot of great conversations, and that made us feel really good. We are sad that we can't continue."

The outpouring of support from the Andover community has slightly eased the heartache of the decision, as a flood of comments have streamed through Facebook, expressing gratitude and empathy for the owners, and wishing them luck on the uncertain future of their business, they said.

Schneidewent recalled a couple that recently stopped them at the grocery store. They told the owners how much they enjoyed Theory and how devastated they were about its closure.

Bachmann and Schneidewent said the future of the bar is in limbo, but almost definitely will not reopen as Theory.

"We have a couple things in the works, but nothing to really keep the business going as it was. We are waiting to hear back on a bunch of different things, like a possible partnership with local restaurateurs," Schneidewent said.

The only way the place would remain the same, according to Schneidewent, is if a miracle investor swooped in and kept things running as is.

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