With many people forced to work from home or even laid off, financial concerns are in the minds of many area residents. The shut down of bars and restaurants stay wide, which went into effect on March 16 at 9 p.m., has certainly effected both owners and employees.
Joel Conner, owner and operator of Verona Coffee in Collinsville is doing his part by shedding some relief during this problematic pandemic with an implementation of “Pay what you can” for his customers.
Growing up In the restaurant business with his father owning Bert’s Chuckwagon, Conner knows the hardships people both in the food industry and others who have temporarily lost their job are going through.
“Obviously, losing your ability to work is not only financially challenging, but almost emotionally difficult and that is especially true right now with things being so uncertain,” he said.
Seeing this awful set of circumstance unfold around him Conner wanted to do whatever he could to help out his customers.
“I wanted to do something that could maybe brighten their day so they know they are not alone in all of this,” he stated.
When coming up with the pay what you can offer, Conner knew he did not want to give out free coffee for fear that the shop would be overrun by patrons and that he would not be able to afford to accommodate everyone from a financial standpoint. He did, however want to make sure people could afford his product and be able to keep the doors open at the same time.
“I thought if i encouraged people to “pay what they can” that some might be able to pay at least enough to cover my hard cost, and if iI came into work at the shop, then I would be able to put the money we did bring in towards paying our employees and not worry about myself getting paid.”
So far many small businesses are suffering as many people choose big chains over local sources, that has become an issue for Verona.
“The larger companies have such a massive advantage because people like what is easy and familiar,” Conner said. “I drive by Starbucks and see twelve plus cars in the drive through and know if even one third of those people were coming to us, it would make a massive difference.”
According to Conner many people see spending money as something they have to do to obtain what they need, but don’t necessarily take local businesses in account.
“I’m hoping more and more people realize that where you spend your money has a massive impact on the small locally owned businesses.”
As more and more businesses are limited to what services than can provide the fear of permanently closing due to this handicap is a serious possibility for some.
“If there is a state-wide lockdown many places will not be able to make it without a plan to help.”
Right now Verona is down about 67-75% of their revenue due to isolation recommendations. In order to combat slow business the shop has cut hours, but it still has dropped significantly.
Conner is optimistic about his business and wants to do whatever he can to better serve the people that patronize his business.
“I think for me, my attitude always tries to be “do what you can for others as much as you can, and where the time comes, others will be there to help you,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen that no one is able to help you when the time comes, at least we went out doing the right thing.”
Conner plans on doing coffee tips for those who want to make the best coffee they can at home, which will be streamed over Facebook during the next few weeks.