Local Auburn coffee shops not only survived COVID-19 but are now seeing their business reach a record high.
According to a report by Food and Wine magazine, 2020 will be the first year that the number of coffee and tea shops across America will decrease since 2011. And according to a report by Bloomberg News, an estimated 7.3% of these small shops will be closed by the end of 2020.
Despite these national trends, the number of coffee shops in Auburn has increased in 2020. While they saw a dip in sales during quarantine when students fled Auburn, their businesses are booming to a new record number of sales.
The mass exit of students early this year sent their sales plummeting because coffee shops in Auburn largely depend on students to keep them running.
Toni Holt, owner of Ross House Coffee, said that her coffee house had only one quarter of normal sales during quarantine.
Ross House Coffee briefly closed its dining room and shifted to take-out and delivery for two months to obey state orders.
Holt had her workers clock in so they could continue to get paid, but she would send them home instead of putting them to work.
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“It was just me working in the store for a while,” Holt said.
She said the Auburn community rallied around her and her coffee house.
Community members began to come in with the purpose of supporting her business. Police from the station across the street would come to buy several drinks, and they even catered from Ross House, Holt said.Regular customers would come every day to purchase coffee and to buy gift cards.
“The people were so great,” Holt said.
While the stimulus checks kept her business on its feet, the thought of having to close Ross House Coffee was still in the back of Holt’s mind.
Looking back, Holt said she thanks Auburn students and community members for being supportive and keeping her coffee house going through the pandemic.
Now that college students are back in town, Holt said her business is even better than before COVID-19.
“Students are working online, and they want to get out of their dorms or apartments to study,” Holt said.
Kasey Hancock, junior in law and justice, has been a regular at Auburn coffee shops. However, she was quarantined in Birmingham during the first few months of COVID.
Hancock couldn’t drive to Auburn much because she lived in a dorm on campus, which was closed during quarantine.
“I feel like people appreciate coffee shops more so now that we know what it’s like not to have them,” Hancock said.
Now that classes are online, Hancock and her roommate study at a local coffee shop in Auburn every day to get out of her apartment, she said.
Several new coffee shops have been introduced to the Auburn community during quarantine, including Well Red Coffee, Books and Wine.
Well Red’s construction took place in the middle of the pandemic and opened its doors on June 22.
Husband and wife pair Richard and Crystal Tomasello, the owners of Well Red, said they didn’t know what to expect when they started their business this past summer.
Their goal was to make their customers feel safe going into their coffee shop by implementing cleaning standards well above state recommendations, Crystal said.
Within the Auburn coffee community, Crystal describes a “mini-community” of Auburn coffee shop owners that supports one another and visits each other’s shops.
While Well Red can’t compare their business to pre-pandemic conditions, the new coffee business has only grown since their opening.
“We were able to do so well because the community has supported us since the first day that we have been here,” Crystal said.
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