More Than Just a Cup of Coffee


Eleanor Sims, Staff Writer

Ugly Mug’s grand opening in Lenoir City was March 25, 2017. Shortly after its grand opening, this local coffee shop became a community favorite. But, the story behind this store and the work done behind the scenes is really what makes this shop unique.

“Ugly Mug actually started as a brand in the late 2000s as a coffee cart run by a church. Unfortunately the cart didn’t generate much revenue for the church, so my great uncle David decided to buy the brand and rights to the name and change his store in Memphis from Lamberts’ Coffee to Ugly Mug,” Derose said.

Alex Derose is the son of the Lenoir City Ugly Mug’s store owner, Jessie Derose. He also worked at Ugly Mug a lot throughout high school and understands a lot of what has gone into the creation of his family’s business. 

“At first… there were too many problems to count. It was extremely tough renovating the old laundromat to turn it into a cafe, and it had staffing issues, meal preparation inefficiency, problems with payment systems, low customer count– you name it,” Derose said.

Overtime, the store was able to overcome these issues and now runs “akin to a well oiled machine” according to Derose. The store now does very well, and many people enjoy the “cafe and restaurant feel” to it, as it has a wide variety of not just drink options but food as well. 

“Another big thing that makes Ugly Mug different is that it’s woman owned and managed and caters to businesses and parties. We also have a very attentive and patient staff which can virtually make any drink you like, just the way you like it. We strive to always provide the southern hospitality of any small business,” Derose said. 

Ugly Mug not only has an attentive and patient staff, but they also make the quality of their food and drinks different from other larger chains.

“We use manual machines instead of automatic latte makers, which adds character and more flavor to each coffee and pastry”, said Derose.

Overall, Ugly Mug now has three locations including Memphis, Nashville, and Lenoir City. Its brand is becoming more well known and popular throughout Tennessee. Seeing how it has overcome challenges already and how it is such a unique brand, it’s exciting to see how this brand will expand and develop in the future