By LANDON WOODROOF
The second location of a beloved Brentwood restaurant will be closing its doors later this month.
Puffy Muffin CEO co-owner Kristi Elzinga announced Friday that the restaurant’s Cool Springs location just off of Carothers Parkway will close Sept. 23 after about four-and-a-half years in operation.
The flagship Brentwood store at the Hill Center on Franklin Road will remain open and will absorb the staff from the Cool Springs store.
The decision to close was not an easy one.
“It’s an emotional thing for us, and it’s difficult,” Elzinga said. “We’re having to walk through a really difficult business decision, but it’s a positive one for the future of the company and our family.”
Elizinga’s mother, Lynda Stone, founded the restaurant in 1986. Lynda and her husband Jack are transitioning into retirement, and, as a result, Elzinga will run the family business. She is passionate about carrying on her parents’ work, but thinks that safeguarding that legacy could best be accomplished by putting all of her focus into the longstanding Brentwood location.
“Ultimately my parents have put in, it’s their life’s work,” she said. “I want to carry on my mother’s legacy and what she started. The founding principles of our business are…the Lord directs all of our steps—that’s a huge thing—and we want to be excellent at everything we do. And we’re spread too thin honestly. We want to be the best that we can be.”
Staffing has been one of the biggest challenges for the Puffy Muffin in recent years. Keeping a full staff capable of executing the restaurant’s signature dishes and desserts is hard.
“You can teach cooking and you can teach baking, but really you need people who are skilled in that area,” Elzinga said. “We’ve got them, but not enough for two places.”
Elzinga said the Puffy Muffin currently employs about 130 people, all of whom she intends to keep on at the Brentwood location.
“We’re combining all of our staff,” she said. “We’re not letting anyone go.”
There are plans to expand the kitchen at the Brentwood location at some point to accommodate more people. Other updates will eventually be made to the restaurant as well, but there are no firm dates yet for this work.
Ever since its beginning in Lynda Stone’s kitchen, Puffy Muffin has been a family operation.
“It started in our home with my mom’s rolls she made,” Elzinga said. “They were so fabulous.”
Elzinga cites the desire to keep the restaurant true to its roots as another reason for the painful decision to close its Cool Springs location.
“We’re not wiling to bring in outside people who want to change who we are,” she said. “We want to stay who we are, just family owned and operated.”
The Cool Springs store will keep to its regular hours until its final day later this month. Even beyond that, Elzinga said, Puffy Muffin will continue to deliver to clients in the Cool Springs area.
“We just want them to know we’re here,” Elzinga said. “We’re just going to be operating out of one location instead of both.”
She likewise wants her Cool Springs walk-in customers to know that Puffy Muffin still cares about and wants to serve them. Elzinga, her parents and her sister, Ali Burns, plan to be at the Cool Springs location for the past few days of business to visit with and thank those customers.
“Our connection to our guests, really that’s our focus,” Elzinga said.
When Elzinga made the announcement about the closure on Facebook, many of those customers replied with sadness to the decision.
“We understand it’s disappointing for people, but Brentwood is just a few miles up the road, and we hope they’ll come there,” Elzinga said.
Although Elzinga is sad about saying goodbye to the Cool Springs restaurant, she is excited to devote her passion and energy to the flagship location in Brentwood. It has been at the Hill Center Brentwood for 27 years, and she sees no reason why it can’t go on for at least 27 more.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Elzinga said. “We’re going to thrive and grow and do what we do and hopefully do it the best we’ve ever done it before.”