With most coffee shops around the world at best running at a limited capacity, these once-ubiquitous meeting points for the community are now either operating with a limited crew focused on to-go and delivery orders, or else closed for the time being. With no real foot traffic to speak of—the lifeblood of many a coffee shop—cafe owners who haven’t closed outright are starting to get creative. How do you best serve your community in a time where community is forbidden?
One such avenue for cafe owners has been to reimagine their coffee shop as a general store of sorts. In Dallas, Davis Street Espresso, the flagship cafe for Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, is leaning heavily on many items they were already offering to supply the neighborhood with much-needed provisions. Operating under the moniker Cliffmade Pantry, Davis Street is selling coffee, breads and granolas from in-house bakery Candor, homemade jams, milk, eggs, chocolates from sister company 5 Mile, and a host of other kitchen staples. Similarly, Ritual Coffee in San Francisco has turned their Valencia Street location into Ritual Coffee + General Store, selling milk, bread, juices, granola, soap, even sustainable seafood, all from local small businesses.
Another company doing this, but on a larger scale, is Go Get Em Tiger in Los Angeles. Even while having to temporarily shutter four cafes, GGET has transformed their five remaining cafes in pantries, including the brand’s original Larchmont location that offers ordering via app. Along with their regular drink menu as well as components from their once in-store food menu like eggs, bacon, and granola, the GGET Pantry has expanded their offerings to include lentils, pasta, rolled oats, yeast, rice, stocks, flour, and dried beans.
To learn more, we sat down for a quick social-distanced approved chat (via email) with co-owner Kyle Glanville, where he explains how the Pantry came to be and gives some helpful advice for any other cafes looking to open up a general store of their own.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Hey Kyle, thanks for talking to us. Can you tell us a little bit about how the GGET Pantry came to be?
Actually, we’ve had this idea for some time, to make some of the really great ingredients we prepare or purchase available to our customers. We’ve already sold Bub and Grandma’s bread for a while. COVID-19 pushed us to accelerate the idea into action, and we added in high-demand items that were running out at grocery stores, like rice, beans, and flour.
Our big motivations here are supporting our team and adding value for our community. We’ve made it 100% optional for our cafe team if they want to pause their work with us or continue to get hours, and our focus has been on making sure the stores are safe and hygienic.
The offering list seems to change regularly. What’s the general criteria you use when looking for things to stock?
Demand is the main criteria. It hasn’t been fluid as much as we’ve continued to add items and have 86’s just a small handful that weren’t selling.
How was the response to the GGET Pantry been thus far?
Overwhelmingly positive. Our company exists to serve our community and this is exactly the thing people need. It’s more pleasant, sanitary, and delightful than going to a grocery store right now by an order of magnitude, and our community has responded positively. Our sales are still down in the aggregate (inevitable when closing four stores), but the shops that are open are not slow by any stretch.
What advice can you give other cafes considering selling pantry goods during the pandemic?
Pull on your existing vendor relationships and make sure you have a solid way to express live inventory. Once we moved the majority of the ordering to our app, the operations got a lot smoother for us. The supply chain is less consistent than ever, so overselling your inventory is a real danger.
Illustration in top image by Marilei Denila