How did we get here? That's a good question... As we mentioned in our previous post, just prior to the pandemic, the shop was on the up and up. We were set to break new records and were growing at a fairly rapid pace. Everything was going pretty well for the most part. However, once COVID-19 became a house-hold name/acronym, things were altered significantly. At the time, we made the best decision possible based on the information that was available to us. We opted to close the coffee shop for 6-months and focus all of our efforts on the roastery during this time. It was the best way to ensure the safety of our staff and customers. After all, as much as we love combining coffee and community, this was largely a time and place decision... It was not the time or the place for such things. So, we turned off the lights on what wasn't working and focused on what was. In the meantime, we spent a great many hours and dollars adapting the downtown coffee shop for what we imagined would be necessary to operate in a COVID-19 world.
As of 1/3/2021, COVID-19 is still very much a thing. In fact, it's damn-near everywhere these days. Cases and deaths are still reaching new peaks. We're hearing more about new, more infectious, strains. There are issues with the vaccine roll-out timeline. Overall, there's just a lot more uncertainty. That, and the initial blows that were dealt at the onslaught of the pandemic are just now being felt and the gravity of those blows understood. Our local hospital is at capacity; as is the story for communities all over the globe. Now, regardless of your personal feelings regarding the implications of COVID-19, these are the facts. These are the pieces on the board, and it's up to us to decide what moves to make (sorry, we've been watching The Queen's Gambit a lot lately). So, now that we've set up the situation... let's talk specifics.
Due to the number of messages and calls that we had received during the initial pause in regards to when we'd be re-opening the shop, we assumed that a walk-up window would be a great place to start while keeping our staff and customers safe. We thought of the walk-up window as a sort of test to see how the public would react to all of the new protocols. We'd read plenty of horror stories from others in the service industry, but we wanted to see it with our own eyes. Thankfully, the large majority of our customers were extremely polite and understanding. However, we also experienced our fair share of nastiness from people as well. We experienced it all... anger, frustration, fear, and etc. COVID-19 is closer to home now more than ever. We all know people that have it, have had it, completely healed, or partially healed. The proximity of it makes staffing complicated (especially with a small staff). We've found ourselves short-staffed due to contact tracing and etc. I don't know how many times we've had to be tested at this point. The fact of the matter is that, if Lauren or I get COVID and have to quarantine, the business completely stops for 10ish days. It is for these reasons that we have opted not to allow people to come indoors.
Regardless of our feelings on this social/business experiment... One thing was clear, numbers are down. Significantly. The walk-up window has not been as great as we had intended. The shop is slow. Really slow (especially as the weather continues to worsen). Slow enough that it actually costs us more to keep it open than it does to keep it closed. For the 2020 fiscal year, the coffee shop will only have made 29% of what it would typically make. Keep in mind that with that 29%, we are still paying 100% of utilities, insurance, rent, preventative maintenance, regular maintenance, payroll, and etc. The fixed costs of the operation don't move much... So, you have to find ways to make reductions wherever possible. Sadly, for owners, that means forgoing pay... then, if that's not enough, you start to reduce staff. As of today, the coffee shop has gone from a pre-pandemic staff of 12 down to 3. This means that Lauren and I are now doing the jobs of 9 people and for less than half of what each of those employees were being paid. Take a moment to let that sink in.
Again, this is not a goodbye for the coffee shop. This is just a pause. At least, that's the plan. No one knows what the future holds... this community means a lot to us. Lauren and I have worked so hard to give this community something to be proud of. The last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone. So, rather than be stubborn and follow a path to an inevitable end, we are going to opt to put the coffee shop back on pause until further notice. This is not an easy decision. It's not fun. It's no vacation. We've gone over every possible scenario and considered all of the variables. This is the best decision that we can make if we want there to be a chance of bringing the shop back later on. This will allow us to focus on the roastery and continue to support the needs of our customers and wholesale partners through this dreary time.
Please stay tuned to our social media accounts for updates. Despite the bummer news, we have a lot of exciting things that we're looking forward to sharing with you all. If you're looking for ways to support our endeavors, here are a few ideas. Order coffee from us online. You won't regret it. The stuff at the grocery store is gross and you deserve better. Try out a coffee subscription and quit worrying about running out. If you're in Muncie or Yorktown, USE THE FREE LOCAL DELIVERY OPTION... It's the best deal around. Lastly, if you just want to help, but you don't want anything in return... You can donate here: https://thecaffeinery.com/products/covid-19-small-business-relief-donation
Thank you for everything.
Lauren & Frank