When the metro area went into lockdown at the start of the local spread of the novel coronavirus, the owners of Sump Coffee, like many others in the service industry, did not know what the future held for their business.
Shellshocked alongside the rest of the world, Scott Carey and Marz Yamaguchi felt compelled not only to take care of their employees but also to provide aid during their community’s time of greatest need. Following the model of a San Francisco-area coffee shop, Sump Coffee opened a donation website to allow customers to fund coffee runs to local hospitals in support of frontline workers.
“Everyone in hospitality is in the same storm,” Carey says. “We may be on different boats, but it’s the same storm. Our community of fans and supporters came together early on. They wanted us to survive and embraced buying a coffee for a frontline worker. It was altruistic, giving aid and comfort to hospital staff, and it helped Sump make it through.”
As they look to the upcoming colder seasons, Sump Coffee, which has a compact storefront, continues to face new challenges.
“Trying to make guests feel welcome is still the goal, but there’s a lot more criteria [to meet] now,” Carey says. For now, Sump Coffee is open for curbside service only, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with availability for customers to order online for curbside and outdoor dining.
To provide dine-in service, though, the coffee shop would accrue significant cost, Carey says, through supplying single-serve consumables and hiring the personnel who would ensure no gatherings occurred.
“Café culture is not just about enjoying a cup of coffee,” Carey recognizes. “It’s about community – the relationship the café has with the community and that the community has in supporting the café. Your favorite coffee shop is something nurturing and ritualistic and anchoring. It’s about the experience one has in that space.”
One thing is certain, based on the community’s support of Carey and his business. As the world keeps weathering the public health crisis, something as simple as ordering a cup of joe can bring about a sense of normalcy that is dearly missed.
Sump Coffee, 3700 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, 917-412-5670, sumpcoffee.com
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