Nevada Interrupted: Open just four months before pandemic hit, Reno’s Coffee N’ Comics wants to be part of the solution
The Nevada Independent
"Nevada Interrupted" is an ongoing series of stories launched this week by The Nevada Independent that features interviews with businesses and workers about how they are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic’s realities.
This story first published March 30 by The Nevada Independent and is republished here with permission. Read more about impacts to Northern Nevada businesses in the Nevada Interrupted series:Sparks distillery transitions from making hard liquor to hand sanitizer amid shutdown
RENO, Nev. — Wearing a hoodie and black gloves, Alex Farside, co-owner of Coffee N’ Comics in Reno, roller skated coffee and doughnuts out to customers waiting in the parking lot on a recent Thursday afternoon.
He and his business partner, Kevin Wilfon, have been delivering beverages and food to customers since Gov. Steve Sisolak gave the order to close all ‘non-essential’ businesses on March 17.
“We just opened four months ago,” Farside said about the business, which is a coffee shop by day and a bar by night. “We’re not Apple. We don’t have $500 billion in cash that we’re sitting on. We’re just two guys who have a coffee shop. And, unfortunately, at UNR they didn’t have a class in the business section that said how to open a store during a pandemic.”
In addition to their drive-up services, Farside and Wilfon started a #localdollars social media campaign where for every order they receive, Coffee N’ Comics will give one dollar back to spend at another local business. They said they noticed an uptick in patrons in the lead-up to the order to close.
“We’re really trying to just figure it out as we go … We’ve had people come in and buy graphic novels and stock up on stuff that I know they wouldn’t normally do,” Farside said. “The support from the community has been overwhelming.”
Wilfon added that even though closing the store to walk-in customers was not the easiest decision, he is afraid of contributing to the spread and was contemplating closing the shop even before businesses like his were ordered to do so.
“The faster we stop the spread, the faster we can get back open. If we just really only focus on the business … and it keeps spreading, we could be shut down for longer,” Wilfon said. “I would rather us fail and go bankrupt than have one person die because they came in here.”
Farside emphasized that although he understands the decision to shut down restaurants and coffee shops, he wishes he had a way to keep serving his customers and worries about his employees. He may have to do a temporary layoff.
“We’re hoping we can hold out for as long as we possibly can to not lay them off,” he said. “We feel like here, it’s kind of like a family we created. So [I’m feeling] the sadness of not being able to take care of them, I guess … that bothers me.”
Both Farside and Wilfon emphasized how grateful they are for the way the community has rallied to support local businesses like theirs by purchasing coffee, ordering gift cards and sharing information about them on social media.
“When a tragedy happens, it does bring us together. We’ve shown that throughout history many times,” Wilfon said. “I think we will come together and help each other out.”
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.