On nearly every Monday and Friday morning, around 8AM, you can find me at the same place: Stay Golden, grabbing my delicious drip coffee to go, all part of their Bottomless Plan (I know, sounds scandalous).
Not only is it a hell of a deal, but it's part of my commitment to support a small business at least once a week (you can make the same commitment here). Little did I know the long odds places like Stay Golden are facing.
I've written about how over 100,000 businesses are now closed since March. And, how we need more demand to help those still hustling for their survival.
Particularly vulnerable these days is your local coffee shop.
Check it: for the first time in nine years, the number coffee shops are decreasing —down about 7% since last year in terms of locations. This amounts to about a 12% decrease in sales which, sadly, results a decrease in jobs as well.
While these are industry-wide numbers, small businesses are the hardest hit (as usual) since they don't have the capital needed to pivot quickly to app-based ordering and seamless curbside service. The big chains do and they're gaining ground.
Dunkin' stock is expected to keep growing as it continues aggressive expansion (and many franchisees received PPP loans). While it has and will still close some locations during the pandemic, Starbucks is planning to open 800 new locations.
Each morning, I pass an overflowing Starbucks drive thru on the way to my son's school. This is the edge that a major chain gets by spreading capital (which it often has easy access to) across several locations: prime real estate, technological innovation, brand recognition, and loyalty programs.
All that for an expensive cup of mediocre coffee.
Enough about the big guys. We wanted to talk to the little guys and gals who are hustling, brewing, and foaming. Here are the Davids that are taking on the ever-growing Goliaths.
"Just like any other primarily customer-facing business we've certainly had a challenging year. In the hospitality business you get used to seeing your regulars everyday, which in turn becomes a family of sorts - and when that suddenly goes away it's definitely a bit of a shock.
"At the beginning of the shutdown we shifted heavily to shipping coffee directly to our customers, communicating to them via postcards, and hopefully bringing about some sense of normalcy and familiarity by recreating a piece of our in-shop experience. In addition to online sales, expanding our retail and grocery presence has been crucial for us during the pandemic and for anyone early on who wanted to pick up a bag of coffee right away we were able to direct them to the closest retail location that offered our coffees.
"Constant contact with our wholesale partners has been crucial as well, trying to figure out who's open, who needs deliveries, and the logistics of getting coffee to our partners in the midst of a pandemic. Lastly, we've done a lot of product development in an attempt to diversify our wholesale partnerships and introduce our products into some new avenues. The heart of our business will always be in our shops, but given the current climate we're really having to look outside the coffee shop shaped box and get creative. We're definitely looking forward to a return to a normal day to day, but until then support your local businesses where you can!" - Seth Wood
"This year has been a gift. That may at first seem a surprising take, but it's true. I'll explain.
"There's no question that it's been quite possibly one of the scariest, challenging and uncertain years for all of us, and we recognize this includes countless ways for others that we could not even begin to understand. But because of our shared experience, two realizations have occurred:
"First, more than ever, 2020 has reinforced personally and professionally, our relationships with partners, friends and family are sincerely all that matter. SYPCOFFEE, itself borne out of personal loss, exists for this very realization and as such, our mission will always be to help you confidently recognize and gift those special people in your life, albeit with beautifully packaged and personalized gifts of specialty coffee. Still, along the way it's nice to be reassured, via a year like this, that a single moment in our preciously quick lives is all it takes to make a positive impact on others.
"Second, this year has placed even higher value on the ability to adapt. Professionally, by early March, our Corporate, Wholesale and Event channels went to zero. Literally. We had no plan for such a scenario, but out of necessity, we simply adapted and made one. Because we had to. And when you have to, it's amazing what each of us can accomplish.
"For us, we put on hold our 2020 plans to expand to a 2nd storefront, and placed renewed emphasis on improved gifts and related services for SYPCOFFEE.com and our first, proof of concept Gift Boutique inside Rolls-Royce Nashville. While that emphasis has not replaced our 2020 goals for those other channels, it has afforded us hope, confidence and excitement that we are going to continue building SYPCOFFEE - and having loads fun while doing it - for the long haul." - Craig Margolius
"Working on a roastery team during the pandemic has felt like 0 to 60 in 5 seconds. When all of our cafe partners and restaurant partners had to limit service or shut down temporarily we felt gutted as a team. It was an emotional and financial blow. But, all of a sudden, when that business went down our grocery store partners and subscription partners skyrocketed. People still found a way to support us, even if it wasn't with their daily latte. Our restaurant had to adapt even faster. Rolling out a curbside service model with no warning is more than difficult. But even then we had our regulars coming in to support us, ordering family meals and coming in for their weekly bag of coffee. Now that Nashville is adapting to our new normal we are starting to see our friends and customers coming back into the shop for meals with friends. It's a huge encouragement to see people living life face to face again...even if it is behind a mask." - Chelsea Kallman
"This year has been brutal for everyone. Stay Golden is only still here because:
- Our community rallied around us and gave us continual support, and
- Because we rallied around our community.
"We immediately And continually checked in with our guests with surveys and asked how we could best serve them throughout COVID-19. At times they needed us to be a grocery store or a toilet paper store. So we did it. Other times, those super vulnerable needed hot meals, so we created a program to provide meals to those in need.
"We love our community and we feel their love back. We couldn’t be more grateful for those who have chosen to support local businesses. Now more than ever." - Jamie Cunningham
It's the not the size of the coffee shop in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the coffee shop.
Now it's your turn to become part of the community that our friends have seen and felt this year. Take the small business pledge and then, make it a daily or weekly routine to visit your local coffee shop. I know it's easier to pop in to the breakfast chain since it's on the way, but the extra trip out of your way makes a real difference to that small business.
And if you aren't able to get your fix in person, we'll send it to you. Click here to see our selection of more than 15 independent coffee purveyors (or even just grab this six-pack).