Editor’s note: This is a weekly series focusing on the importance of buying local.
While the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown local coffee shops for a period of time earlier this year, it didn’t stall their progress.
Ironically, by the end of this year, the shutdown actually helped open the businesses to new practices and awareness not seen or thought much about before.
For Chicco Baccello, The Table, and Crazy Horse Coffee, the pandemic and all that has been learned since its inception have changed the way the three coffee shops are operating business now.
“The first shutdown impacted us quite significantly, business was down more than 50%,” said Lacie Bryner, manager of The Table, which is owned and operated by Life Church, at North Main and East Chestnut streets in Washington. “It got better, and the last few weeks of the current shutdown has made an impact but not as significant.
“This (pandemic) has taken a toll on the entire community aspect. But there is a silver lining. We started looking at things in a different way. Online and curbside ordering were the biggest (operational) changes. Both the most impactful change is we saw the needs of the community throughout this.
“We see all kinds and hear it all in coffee shops. People were vulnerable. It’s given us a greater picture of the real needs in our community.”
Bryner said Life Church has handled the special projects like a food pantry and other benevolent actions during the pandemic.
The reviews of Chicco Baccello, South Main Street, Washington, have long been good.
Lisa Aprea, one of three owners of Chicco Baccello said she knew it would be a long road to recovery for the business, but the owners would not give up or give in.
Aprea added the owners were determined to try new things, come up with new ideas and to just work at positive change.
“It’s tough to operate a coffee shop when people can’t come in to get their coffee,” she said.
Like others, Chicco Baccello instituted online ordering and curbside pickup.
It didn’t stop there.
“We had talked about online ordering in the past,” Aprea said. “We never pulled the trigger. This forced us to do it. It’s been a huge plus. We didn’t realize how effective it could be. It’s amazing how things work.
“We had a customer who was computer savvy and one day he got up the nerve to say to me that our website, when looked at online, cut off certain things. I asked him if we did a new website if he could make it work? He said he thought he could. I told him, I needed it done Monday, so he had 48 hours. We had some growing pains, but it worked out well.”
Crazy Horse Coffee, 900 Wildflower Circle, Washington, did more than 115 transactions Tuesday, according to owner James Bendel.
The business made adjustments, focused on helping the public through blood drives, school supply drives, car shows, toy drives and other things to help Washington Area Humane Society and the Salvation Army, among others.
“We’ve done a bunch,” Bendel said. “All things considered; our business is up significantly this year. “We have focused on how to give back. Sometimes you come out of your comfort zone.
“We have our constants in what we serve. But we rotate our offerings. Brownies today, pierogies tomorrow, hot chocolate balls the next.
“We launched online ordering. We added Door dash. We ship our coffee all over the United States. It’s all been a huge help for us. We’re just trying to keep it cranking.”
Aprea said the addition of a cold-brew system, and the rehabilitation of Chicco Baccello’s basement – which has created a “speak easy environment” and also a “nice place to work” for long periods of time has boosted her business.
She added she and her partners, Jim Martin and Nancy Ogburn, decided during the initial shutdown to make the business just liked they wanted it.
“We chose to be positive,” Aprea said. “We just didn’t want to waste time. I feel like we are the little engine that could. We just didn’t stop.”
Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Chris Slota at 724-225-1326 or by email at email@example.com. Discount cards are available at the Observer-Reporter and Almanac office, 122 S. Main St., Washington.