Courtesy The Bison

SEARCY, Ark. – COVID-19 hit small businesses across the country last March, forcing many small business owners to adjust and adapt amid the pandemic — including several coffee shops in Searcy.

Mr. Postman Expresso, a hybrid coffee shop and post office, closed their indoor seating and used drive-thru service only from March 16 to May 12, 2020, when the business opened its lobby again. Many customers wanted the convenience of their daily caffeine and post office; however, the coffee shop faced the challenge of delivery delays for milk and stamps.

“We were at a lower amount of sales and had to turn people away,” Mr. Postman Expresso manager Mary Willhelm said. “But people definitely came out to support small businesses.”

One coffee shop turned to curbside service to continue business throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Rise & Grind Coffee Co., located inside the Natural Food Store on Main Street, was able to stay open because the grocery store was considered an essential business.

“The health department would come by, and a separate COVID inspector would check our space,” Rise & Grind Coffee Co. owner Lisa Douglas said. “We also had to adjust our menu to keep people coming. We couldn’t serve just coffee.”

Midnight Oil Coffeehouse reached the community of Searcy by serving customers through curbside pickup and their porch window, allowing customers a new, COVID-friendly way to place and pick up orders during the summer months.

“It was refreshing to have MO still be open because it was a part of the normalcy that was left,” senior Chantel Ceaser said. “Even though [it was] through a window, it was nice to see their faces.”

Stu’s Brew was one of the coffee shops that kept rhythms of normalcy. The coffee shop has two locations that are small shacks with drive-thru windows on either side. This allowed the baristas to continue brewing their specialty lattes and give Searcy customers the opportunity to grab their cup of coffee from a safe distance.

Another coffee shop, Savor + Sip, could not sustain its business during the pandemic. The coffee and crêperie closed its doors officially on August 30, 2020. Now, WellBar, a gym and physical fitness center, occupies the space that Savor + Sip once did in downtown Searcy. WellBar opened in December 2020 and offers bar, cycle, strength and yoga classes.

Reflecting on a year of COVID-19, the coffee shops of Searcy are able to see the benefits that arose from the challenging months.

Both Midnight Oil and Rise & Grind Coffee Co. expanded to an additional location in 2020. Customers of Rise & Grind Coffee Co. are now able to grab a cup of coffee from their Natural Food Store storefront or their new location inside Soda Jerk, while Midnight Oil customers can purchase coffee from the new location in the Brackett Library. Additionally, Mr. Postman Expresso will be releasing an online ordering system with an app in the next few months.

“You have to keep pushing and not throw in the towel,” Douglas said. “It was  totally worth it because we didn’t give up.”

Article sponsored by Rise & Grind Coffee Co.