For Chris Sears, the road to Maple Street was a long one to get him back home where he belonged.
His first job at 12-years-old was in the kitchen. It wasn’t just any kitchen; it was his mother’s up and coming gourmet-to-go restaurant in Philadelphia. After school, Chris would eagerly hop to Primarily Pasta, ready to wash dishes or make homemade pastas. He likes to joke it was his mother, Mrs. Lockee, who was on the cutting edge of Italian food, when people stopped calling all noodles spaghetti and started calling them pasta.
However, biscuits were still nowhere in sight for Chris.
Years passed and Chris found himself married in Jacksonville and dreaming of one day owning a restaurant. He and his wife Michelle thought maybe in retirement they’d finally have a chance to open their own fine dining restaurant or possibly even a charming bed and breakfast.
Later. Down the road. Not now. There wasn’t enough time.
There was too much stress. Too much work to be done.
A job that wasn’t so much a dream; it was a living. Fearing the restaurant industry meant late nights away from his future family, Chris and a friend opened a granite company in North Florida. He thought it would mean better hours, greater job satisfaction and assurance as an owner, and thus, a manageable schedule for his family. The reality was his business wasn’t a 9-5 job. Instead, it was more like 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and a lot of sleepless nights due to mounting stress like so many small business owners face in today’s working environment.
Increasingly unhappy and with three growing children (Ian, Harris, and Sarah), Chris craved change. He reached out to an elder at his church to help him with his resume and find the next challenge.
That elder was Scott Moore: the founder and visionary behind the new up-and-coming Maple Street Biscuit Company. With the first restaurant thriving in Jacksonville’s San Macro neighborhood, Moore was looking to do more. And he too had long believed there were better ways to work. He thought people should always be treated with respect and that work shouldn’t make you miserable.
He recalled Chris had restaurants in his blood. One day after church, he confided in Chris that Maple Street Biscuits was looking to expand, and more importantly – did he want in?
That question couldn’t have come at a better time, says Chris. It was an opportunity that was a life-changing blessing for his entire family: a joyful purpose with better hours, less stress, and at a time he’d never imagine he’d need it the most.
Within two months of finding and remodeling a store, Maple Street Biscuit Company’s second location was up and running on August 15, 2013. The community was falling in love and Chris was finally finding happiness again. Sure, some moments can be stressful, but he says they’re just that: a moment that passes and not a way of life.
The balance couldn’t have come at a more critical time for the Sears family. A year after opening, Chris’ wife was diagnosed with cancer. Through chemo and radiation, Chris says he was humbled by how his team members rallied around him to help, and how customers in the community offered support. Customers offered their prayers to his family, and he was blown away by how truly concerned they were.
But that’s just it, says Chris. Maple Street is a family.
Whether you’re a part of it from the kitchen as a biscuit maker, sandwich preparer or a smiling face on the register, or whether you’re the first time customer through the door or the resident regular, our team hopes the “community feel” touches every single person who passes through the doors — even the store directors.
“It’s so simple that it’s brilliant,” says Chris. “It’s an amazing concept. The mantra of ‘easy to do right and hard to do wrong.’ It’s so entrenched. It makes it easy to have fun and enjoy working together and possible to tackle any obstacle.”
Chris Sears is not the same person he was three years ago. Gone, he says, are his days of living as an intense, skeptical and doubtful person. Now, he hopes you always see him greeting you with a smile — and maybe an Iced Cinnamon Pecan biscuit at your table.
Nowadays as Maple Street continues to grow, many Jacksonville Beach customers often stop Chris to tell him how they feel they too have a piece in Maple Street’s success. When family and friends come to town, they take them to “their” store to share the entire unique experience.
As for his mom, she’s traveled from her home, now in Tennessee, to give Chris and his biscuits her seal of approval.
Sears Family Maple Street Favorites:
Chris: Five and Dime
Michelle: Squawking Goat
Harris: The “Sticky” Farmer (his creation of the Farmer covered in Maple Syrup)
Sarah: Sausage “retro” biscuit
The tables in the Jacksonville Beach store are different than all other stores. That’s because days from opening the distributor didn’t deliver. In desperation, Chris called his former granite company, which provided many table tops in just a day and a half. At the same time, the husband of a San Marco team member built the 14-top table from scratch with lumber he picked up from Home Depot. He also built the table bases for all the granite tables – all in two days. Then, as Chris puts it, nearby World Market was his “savior” with so many other tables on hand. “We loaded them up, and the Maple Street Biscuit Company family had an assembly party in the hours before opening.” And that is what family is for!