It’s been a little while since we last blogged, but as you can imagine, we have spent the past few days, weeks and months adjusting on the daily and doing our best to stay healthy and grounded. We wanted to take this opportunity to share a few updates and how we as a company have navigated though these uncertain times. First, before I dive in, I would like to personally give my deepest thanks and gratitude to our amazing staff, who managed to safely come to work daily to ensure that our orders were being fulfilled while always having a positive outlook even when there were days that seemed like the world could not possible get worst. Thank You!
So, at the beginning of the pandemic, like many of us I’m sure, we felt a slurry of emotions and among them where thoughts like “is this real?” or “is the world ending?” Of course, we couldn’t help but to feel like there is an apocalyptic tone to what’s happening in the world, so that confusion mixed with not knowing how we could possible move forward left us feeling shell-shocked and unsure if we could even exist after all is said and done. As a small, independently owned company, we depend on the support and patronage of our customers which means, we do not have access to surplus cash to weather the imaginable or in this case, the unimaginable so that fear was very real for us and sobering reminder that we needed to take a hard look as to how we’re doing business. As a small roasting company, Metric was founded on the principles of bringing humanity and honesty in everything we do. Of course, by virtue of being “humans” we too fall short in many ways, but our goal and mission is to source and roast quality coffee from producers we know and pay the highest premium possible. For many years, this has been our “call to action” and I doubt that will change much, but merely saying that, without finding ways to show the public why buying sustainably can truly make an impact with clarity has shown us that we have a lot of work do on that front. The word clarity now brings me to transparency. Anyways, let me get back on track here before I veer off the rails. Once the city announced the closures, we learned that our business was deemed essential which meant that we could move forward provided that we follow strict CDC guidelines. After a long discussion and the possibility of shutting down operations indefinitely, we chose to move forward by first staggering schedules, coordinating daily employee pickups from home, stocking our warehouse with all of the PPE we could get our hands and enacting bi-daily sanitation procedures on all of our work spaces. For our café, which is a 400 square foot addition inside our roasting operations, our biggest concern was having the public in close contact to our baristas, so the decision was quickly made to utilize our front doors as a purchasing point, which would undoubtedly change the way do service but letting customers in was not a risk we were wiling to make. Still, once we shifted to our new service, even with the fear of experiencing a considerable drop in sales, which we initially did experience, we noticed that even with having less visitors at any given point, they for the most part where very respectful in visiting our café wearing mask and gloves and from the feedback we have received from our staff, most of our guests where patient in the slightly longer service lead-time and very grateful to still be making coffee.
Now, let me pedal back a little bit and talk about what felt like a “punch in the gut!” The core of our business lies in the roasting we do for others which means, we have built Metric through local and regional partnerships which were no longer in operation. What this meant is that our volume dropped significantly in the beginning and not knowing what’s next was first a very alarming feeling. Of course, once we had time to put everything in to perspective, we quickly realized that there was more at stake here than our business. Our business can close and be sold off, but lives cannot be replaced, so accepting the loss and finding ways to keep moving definitely showed us how resilient we can be, but this resiliency would not be possible without the support and hard work of our amazing staff. So, here we are, more than 80% of our business is gone overnight and we aren’t sure if we are going to be open in a few days, but as our story goes, we decided to safely move forward and from one week to the next we experienced a pleasant twist that we never could have imagined. From one week to the next, we saw an increase of online sales through both our one time purchases, subscriptions and our nights in shinning armor Trade Coffee which have committed to buying not only our coffee, but coffees from some of the best roasters in the country. Today, most of what we do is retail with a few partners slowly and safely making their way back to service, so while we are still mentally feeling like bracing ourselves for the other shoe to drop, we have now learned an extremely valuable and humbling lesson in the resiliency of our small but mighty company. So what’s next? Prior to Covid-19 we could say “visiting producers” or “opening a second café!” but given the way things are, our objective now is to continue to operate safely and roast delicious coffee.
The last thing I want to leave you all with is- we want to thank you all for supporting us through our online shop and café- without your support and patronage, it would make it nearly impossible to cover our payroll, pay our employee health insurance or even the rent. We are not lost at how fortunate we are which is why, I will be following up with two more posts; one will cover the topic of the effects of COVID-19 and what the current outlook is from our producer partners and two, a personal essay on racism within the Specialty Coffee market.