At the Main Street Now conference, I sat in on a session about coffee shops. I wrote down bunches of ideas that the audience shared. I thought you might know a coffee shop person, or you might think of ways to use these with other types of small town businesses.
- Hold trivia nights or allow groups to meet in your space to drive more business
- Start a book club in your place
- Tell your story online. How were you founded? What is your history?
- Leverage your relationships with other businesses to put together a tour of businesses, or an experience that includes more than just your business
- Host readings, where customers can come in and share their writings
- Host adult coloring groups or game nights to bring in more evening customers
- Find out more about the people who work from your space, the people who bring in their laptops and work. What is their business? Is there potential to connect with them?
- Display coffee mugs from all the different businesses in town
- Provide vegetarian and vegan choices on the menu
- Support local causes and share about them
- Promote the chance to make friends, especially for new residents
- Reach out to new residents to make them aware of your place (You can find them through real estate agents.)
- Promote how people can connect with people not necessarily like them, how you play a role in strengthening community ties across groups in town.
Do you have any small town coffee shop ideas to add? When I asked in my newsletter, here are some ideas that readers shared.
“Whenever you get a new coffee, take an air pot around to all the business near you and give samples out.”
George M. Wurtzel
“Invite a well known Barista to run a Barista course at your coffee shop. Funding could be obtained from employment groups etc. Following on from that conduct a series of classes teaching people how to make simple things like vanilla slice and lamingtons. [an Australian cake specialty] This will follow on to your clients asking you to run classes on what they want to learn.”
“Our trail organization co-hosts a #coffeeoutside gathering in a park each Thursday morning with a local bike shop. It is an opportunity to walk, bike or drive to share a relaxed social hour together. It is a great way to meet neighbors and solve the world’s problems. It could just as easily be set up outside a coffee shop. The point is: get outside, drink coffee, meet neighbors. We always have one type of coffee already made up, but invite roasters, shops and individuals to roast a pot on a camping set-up.”
Here’s the Coffee Outside website.
“We are test driving a coffee shop here in downtown Paulding, Ohio as a result of Deb Brown’s visit here a couple of weeks ago. The test is Tuesday and Thursday mornings through the month of May. First two days this week have been phenomenally successful. Using volunteer ‘baristas,’ the community support has been exceptional.
“Thank you Becky & Deb for all the idea sharing and leadership that you provide to our many small communities!
“All these ideas about coffee shops can be modified and apply to wineries. I say ‘modified’ because of the alcohol restrictions. We have been doing many of these practices at our winery in Knoxville, IA. Tonight I am hosting a fashion show with 5 women business owners in my community. It’s the first time doing this and I hope it works well. I reached out to our business owners that had fashions or a tangent business. I know a jewelry designer that will match her product with the clothes from the boutiques. A local photographer will take photos of the models and the event. A fabric designer that makes her own jackets will model her creations. I charged $5 advance tickets (available online or at the shops) and $10 at the door. The first beverage is free, so there is very little ‘risk’ to the guests, but allows me to gauge interest and attendance. You can see our story on our website NearWoodWinery.com. I think I have a pretty good origin story on the About Us page.”
Of course, I asked how the fashion show went, and Joann shared more:
“I think the fashion show went well. We had 15 models (includes kids) and friends/relatives were in the audience. I am focused on ‘gathering my tribe’ strategy and catering to established groups of people that have their own tribe. I loved working with the women business owners and promoting their products.
“Thank you for your great advice to help small towns. I think you and Deb fill a real need for our rural communities as mentors, strategists and cheer leaders!”
What other ideas do you have for coffee shops and other community gathering businesses?
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.