As the pressure to social distance increases, local coffee shops have closed their doors to the public in search of alternative measures to serve their customers and keep them safe.
Johan Jo, owner, manager and head barista of Ristretto Lounge, has been working with fellow community members to develop creative ways to continue paying employees and serving the community at a distance.
“It’s definitely a struggle,” Jo said. "It’s hard for me to just chill. At times like this when it’s hard to stay open, you push through it, and the community really comes together.”
Jo has been receiving mobile coffee orders and delivering them to his customers curbside. The coffee shop owner said he has also been working with his friend, Garrison Snelling, to develop an app called Opel.
“It’s a communication platform that basically, as a bonus, allows us to make transactions and hold membership accounts with customers,” Jo said.
In an effort to help other local businesses, Jo said he has opened up his property on Corporate Park Drive to local food truck owners. He is using his parking lot as a vendor space.
“The best way to do this is to really lean on each other,” he said.
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Another local coffee shop, The Bean, has been closed since the University’s spring break.
“It was a difficult decision," said Hope Nichols, head barista at The Bean. "A couple of our employees have weakened immune systems, and we just didn’t want to put anyone at risk."
The staff has been closely monitoring the situation and ultimately wanted their employees to be able to choose whether to come into work or stay at home with their families. When the majority of the employees were unavailable, she said they made the decision to close for the time being.
“I fully think that we’re going to be okay. We’re trusting that the Lord is going to see us through this," Nichols said. "It’s sad, definitely, but we have nothing to worry about."
While their doors are closed, The Bean has not ceased all business. The family-owned coffee shop still holds cinnamon roll pickup days for customers.
“We are doing zero contact with that; whenever you show up, your order is set on a table," she said. "You’re not handing anything to anyone or touching anything."
Similar to The Bean, Coffee Cat has also made the decision to close for the time being.
“Because it’s not an essential part of life, it just didn’t feel right staying open,” said Coffee Cat’s Owner Maddie Corbeau.
Corbeau said the combination of an increased number of confirmed cases in Auburn, the medical staff at the East Alabama Medical Center and Coffee Cat employees with compromised immune systems helped her make the decision to close.
She is not worried about her business financially, Corbeau said, because the state, city and county are willing to work with small businesses during this time. The biggest issue has been in regards to being able to pay her employees and staff, but she has been trying to stay positive.
“This is not permanent. It's scary and emotional, but it’s not permanent," Corbeau said. "We are all going to come back, and in the meantime as a community, we’ve already shown that we are going to take care of one another.”
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