It is difficult to start a business but it is arguably even harder to maintain an existing business. With the arrival of the COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, pandemic, small business owners have had to face even more hurdles to keep their doors open with mandatory stay-at-home orders in effect in addition to massive job losses. For one coffee retailer, the pandemic has brought the opposite effect and increased sales tremendously.
Keba Konte, the founder and CEO of Red Bay Coffee, is no stranger to business challenges. He opened his coffee shop as a way to combine his love for photojournalism to be displayed. When COVID-19 came to San Francisco, the news of the shop’s temporary shutdown brought a huge drop in sales. Forbes reported that the coffee retailer has seen an 85% decline in overall sales forcing Konte to drastically reduce his workforce.
As of right now, the coffee retailer has reopened some of its retail locations with a 40% decline in customer traffic. However, their flagship location in Oakland has seen a huge spike in sales since its reopening with an astonishing 350% increase in e-commerce sales due to stay-at-home restrictions forcing loyal customers to stay indoors.
“Then there’s another group who were drinking our coffee at our cafés, and we had to close most of them. They too have turned to having their coffee beans shipped,” Konte told Forbes. “We did 250 events last year, all have been forced to close because of social distancing rules due to the pandemic crisis,” Konte said.
Due to the new restrictions brought on by the public health crisis, Konte has begun work on a mobile van for customers to order and stay connected to the brand. “It’s been a lifeline and great brand exposure, we sold it through six-foot distances and cashless transactions on the van,” Konte said. The mobile van sells the brand’s coffee, tea, and oat milk cartons.