Coffee shop business 'extremely slow'
April 1, 2020
CLOVIS - COVID-19 has altered life. And perhaps how we choose to live our everyday lives, how we choose to relax and spend our down time, were aspects of life that were most taken for granted.
Something as simple as being able to lounge in a coffee house was a part of life nobody ever thought would be snatched away. But it has been due to coronavirus restrictions designed to prevent too many people from gathering.
Blackwater Coffee Co. in Clovis has been able to remain open for now because it provides food and drink, part of the essentials, but its lobby is closed for anyone who wishes to enjoy that food and drink there. It's no different for any coffee house, any restaurant in the country.
But Blackwater was like a family, where official and unofficial family members gathered to catch up, enjoy some coffee, relax. No more of that for the time being.
"Yeah, it's been really different," Joslynn Carrillo, a forensics biology major at Eastern New Mexico University and part-time barista at Blackwater said Tuesday morning. "It's kind of sad not being able to interact with everybody, because everybody is so loving. But we still get to see them."
Losing those lobby customers and the live performances some of them came to see has hurt in more ways than just the friendly atmosphere they provided.
"At Blackwater, yes, it's been extremely slow here; sales are down about 70 percent," said Maggie Lansford, owner of Blackwater since late 2017. "We're covering labor costs and costs of goods."
Lansford said the profit margins were already challenging – 3 to 9 percent – and now Blackwater is reduced to 30 percent of that.
Kasia Olguin, a junior studying psychology at Eastern, was used to working at Blackwater 30 to 40 hours per week. There currently aren't that many hours available at a coffee house that was closing at 6 p.m. but now closes at 2 p.m.
"Everyone's got cut pretty significantly," Olguin said. "There are usually five people on staff; now there are two to three."
It's a hard reality for many.
"It's been interesting," Lansford said. "Clovis has taken on some good initiatives to try and help restaurants, but the fact is, the order is to stay at home. And so I think people are trying to respect that as much as possible, and I have to respect that. So moving to delivery and take-out is a good option, but it's never going to be what we were doing before, even close to it."
Lansford's husband, Micah, owns Roden-Smith Pharmacy in the space that adjoins Blackwater Coffee Co. Roden-Smith has only drive-through and pick-up service now, so even in a medical crisis, business has been hurt.
"The pharmacy is actually more interesting because sales are down about 5 percent over there," Maggie Lansford said. "Just given that people aren't doing anything elective. They're not out of their homes. There is kind of this perception that the medical world must be really benefiting, but I think in all reality they're burdened."
"Across all medical fields they're cutting out all the elective things," Micah Lansford said. "Hospitals aren't doing elective procedures; they just aren't doing anything that's not necessary. So that affects our business, of course. We're not filling acute medications; it's mainly just the maintenance medications that people take every month."
Customers, though, still need their local pharmacies. And not just for their medications.
"One of the weirdest things," Micah Lansford said, "people are looking for a reason to get out. We're trying to encourage - especially our older patients - to let us deliver to their homes so they don't have to get out. But a lot of people are saying, 'No, please. Let me come pick up my prescription. It's the only reason I have that's legitimate to leave the house. ... I don't care if I have to wait in line for an hour at the drive-through; I want to get out of the house.'"
As for Blackwater, things are tighter but the Lansfords remain optimistic. Their extended family, their customers past and present, have been an immeasurable help.
"The community has reached out specifically and asked what they could do," Maggie Lansford said. "But we also designed these t-shirts that are Clovis-themed, so they have all the major industries and landmarks pictured on there, and then there's Blackwater's mug. And we sold them to benefit the baristas; all of the proceeds went to making up their tips. They get tips like crazy because they are fabulous and friendly, and so a lot of their income comes from tips."
"Everybody's been so supportive," said Cyndi Kuemmerle, a part-time Blackwater barista and junior studying vocal performance at ENMU. "The community's come together and really supported us."
Kuemmerle, though, wishes that support wasn't necessary. She wants things back to normal.
"So much, so much," she said. "The energy when people are here is so lively, and the spirit of Clovis is so warm. So that'll be nice to have that family community."