For Chris Garrison, coffee is more than just roasted beans and hot water.
The caffeinated drink has three times as many chemical and flavor components as a glass of wine and acts as a vehicle to facilitate community.
“People use coffee or coffee shops in a lot of different ways, from just meetings or catching up with people to doing work by themselves to coworking,” said Garrison, who started Old World Coffee Lab after leaving what he described as an unfulfilling corporate job. “So, there's a lot of community and things that happen in the walls of coffee shops.”
Since COVID-19 forced his two locations in Reno and Carson City to close, Garrison said he has moved exclusively to online orders which consist of a coffee subscription service, various teas, matcha, and coffee-related swag.
Even though he could be doing curbside delivery, he does not want to jeopardize the health of his customers or employees.
“Personally, this is one of the hardest decisions I've had to make as a business owner. I believe in a sovereign, gracious and loving God, who will bring Old World through this in a way he sees fit,” Garrison wrote in an April 6 email explaining the decision to customers. “I believe choosing to love our neighbors by not providing coffee, but safety, is the right thing to do. The outcome from here for both this virus and this business is out of my control — but I do trust God.”
Garrison said that even though customers are shopping online, sales are down roughly 90 percent, and he has had to lay off his 14-person staff.
“You get to know these people, you get to care for them, and they're part of your work family, and you're like, ‘well, okay, now … you don't have a job,'” Garrison said. “The good news is, I think most of them are being cared for through unemployment and the new stimulus things that have come through … but it's still not easy.”
Garrison said he plans to hire his staff back once the state of emergency is over. In the meantime, he has applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and hopes that the money will come through soon.
“I have been working to push a lot of our bills out or defer them and things like that, but there's still stuff that I have to pay for,” he said. “And every day, the money in the bank gets a little bit less, so whenever we could get that, the sooner, the better.”
So far, he has filled out the loan application two times but has not heard back from the government and does not know of anyone else who has received a loan from the SBA. He said he filled out the application a second time because the form changed.
“I was thinking about [applying a third time] since I haven't heard anything back yet, but they closed the applications down as of today, I believe,” he said. “Apparently, the funding has been exhausted already.”
He is optimistic about the future, but can only guess how the pandemic will affect his customers and whether people will again be excited to gather in a coffee shop or want to maintain distance once the state of emergency ends.
“We just have to be prepared for whatever that change is and be willing to shift with whatever our consumer climate looks like,” he said.
Disclosure: The Nevada Independent has applied for a loan from the Small Business Administration.