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Local coffee shops relying on community support, walk-up windows and online sales to survive

Posted at 6:49 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 20:29:26-04

Screenwriters and students, despair: There’s no such thing as a cozy corner table at the neighborhood cafe in the age of COVID-19. Like every other business that used to serve food and drink in an enclosed space, Cincinnati-area coffee shops are zagging to continue serving their customers.

At Awakenings Coffee and Wine in Hyde Park, co-owner Eddie Walter marked out spots six feet apart so his customers know where to stand while they wait for coffee. His business is carryout-only now, and he cleans the iPad on which he takes orders after every use.

His old peak hours are quieter than they’ve ever been.

“It's scary for everybody,” he said. “You know the saying ‘this too shall pass’ — hopefully it's sooner rather than later for everybody.” 

Across the river in Newport, Carabello Coffee owner Emily Carabello acted on a suggestion her father made for years: Her shop has a brand new walk-up window.

“I think because people are itching to go out on a walk it's been working,” she said.

She’s also working harder to move coffee online. Carabello Coffee is now listed on delivery apps; customers can tweet with the hashtag #carabellocurbside; and all online orders come with free shipping.

Carabello created a virtual map of the United States to visualize where the orders go, and she’s hopeful she can send one package to each state by the end of the pandemic

“We're just trying to think like, ‘What can we do to keep people engaged?’” she said.

She knows engagement is likely to be the make-or-break factor for her business and others as the pandemic continues. Keeping Carabello Coffee strong means relying on the kindness and support of customers who are experiencing the same crisis right alongside her.

“The generosity has just been pouring and it is so awesome,” she said. “Because they are all getting cut hours, they are getting cut pay. I mean everyone. I know I’m not going to get paid for months.”

The plan for now is to keep pushing.

“As long as each day is a win, we will keep going,” Carabello said.