Vienna Coffee at the Regas Building, 318 N. Gay Street, Knoxville, November 2017 (Photo by Doug Finley)
Today, we take a look at Vienna Coffee Company and how they have weathered the current storm.
Marc Atchley responded on behalf of the company. He told me that Watagua Coffee Company, LLC bought the shop from Vienna Coffee back January, but they continue to operate under the Vienna Coffee banner. “Vienna Coffee is a terrific brand that I have personally been associated with for nearly six years. Watauga Coffee is owned by a group of Christian investors and the Knoxville Leadership Foundation. It is a for-profit business with a vision for being a sustainable platform for Christian ministry in downtown Knoxville and beyond.”
Here’s Marc (edited lightly for clarity):
Like other coffeehouses in the downtown Knoxville area, our business has had to adapt to the changing circumstances. As things began to unfold and the need for social distancing became evident, we acted to limit the seating space in our dining area and took additional precautions to ensure the safety of our staff and guests. Besides washing hands and keeping surfaces sanitized, our staff now wear masks and gloves.
Following St. Patrick’s Day weekend we experienced a sharp drop in sales and had to curtail our hours and staffing. The “Safer at Home” orders confirmed the inevitable. Closing temporarily was an option, but we decided to continue operations with some level of acceptable losses. If we could hang on, we knew our staff and customers would appreciate a bit of normalcy and stability in this very abnormal and uncertain environment.
Like so many others, we’re trying new things. Early on we initiated curbside service. Just last week we launched our online ordering which allows customers to order and pay with the least contact. Now we’re looking at adding delivery service, preferably with our own staff if we can. In a way, we’re offering more to our customers now than before all of this started. We’ll likely keep all or most of these services, but our hope is to once again have our shop filled with people . . . with friends. That’s the business we miss the most.
When we decided to shorten our hours, we operated with a single barista each day and limited shifts to those employees who most needed the income. We went from scheduling nine employees per week to scheduling only three. Those who could give up the hours were extremely thoughtful of their co-workers and helped us as owners to make the difficult scheduling decisions.
One bright spot in all of this has been the generosity that customers have shown to our staff in the way of tips. One of the core values of our coffeehouse is to see customers as people rather than transactions; and the community has in turn done the same thing with us. It’s amazing and encouraging!
Knoxville hasn’t experienced the health crisis to the same degree as some other places across the state and nation, and things seem to be looking up. That said, the predictions of the economic fallout from COVID-19 can be rather frightening. We’re hopeful, but it’s still hard to say at this point just how things will play out for downtown businesses like ours.
Ultimately, we recognize that our business is in God’s hands. If Vienna Regas becomes a casualty of COVID-19, God will bring some good from the efforts we’ve made to build genuine friendships with our customers. And if the business survives, then we expect He will continue to use it to seek the peace of our city.
We are thankful to have received an SBA loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Two weeks ago, we brought back all of the employees who were able to return immediately, and the others will return soon. This is a tremendous help to our employees and our business and, frankly, to the community at large.
The PPP loan provides enough funding for 8 weeks of payroll and rent, and extends our ability to operate under these recessive market conditions. These emergency measures should help to stabilize our finances as the local economy begins to rebound. Hopefully, it’s a quick rebound. The best help to our business will be for folks in our community to be able to safely return to their jobs.
We’re looking forward to being able to open our shop to dine-in customers this Friday (May 1) under Phase 1 of the City/County COVID-19 Reopening Plan. We already have our seating reduced and tables appropriately spaced. It will be great to see our coffeehouse utilized as a gathering place once again.
This week I’m purchasing a $25 gift card to Bliss/Tori Mason and another a pristine, clear vinyl LP copy of R.B. Morris’ latest album “Going Back to the Sky. It’s the first time R.B. has had a record pressed on vinyl and there are only 200 copies. It also comes with a digital download card. To enter send an email to KnoxvilleUrbanGuy@gmail.com with the subject header “Bliss/Tori Mason Gift Card Giveaway” or “R.B. Morris Album Giveaway,” depending on which you want to enter.
Same rules as before: “like” Knoxville Page on Facebook to help us help local businesses and donate at least $10 to something supporting COVID efforts or to someone impacted by the pandemic. Confirm in the email that you’ve done both and tell me how much and to whom you donated. Each entry requires its own donation. If you cannot donate at this time, enter anyway and just say so. It’s all good. The contest runs until midnight Friday night.