Shutdowns, health hazards and drastic drops in business are just some of the tough breaks faced by coffee companies trying to grow in the COVID-19 era. Yet in the face of these, The Breaks Coffee Roasting Co. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has managed to knuckle down in opening its first retail cafe last month.
Doors opened roughly two weeks ago to the approximately 1,000-square-foot downtown shop after some fairly extensive demolition and remodeling transformed a previous skateboard shop. True to those roots as well as the personal interests of owner Corey Gerlach, the refreshed interior maintains a sense of skate culture within a warehousey aesthetic that gives the space added life.
“We wanted sort of a ‘grimey’ vibe congruent with our roots in the skateboarding and independent music scene, but with a kitchen space that you weren’t sketched out to order from,” Gerlach told Daily Coffee News. “The spot was essentially a garage, so there was no disguising that fact. If you can’t fix it, feature it.”
A partially exposed ceiling, raw concrete floors and cinder block walls surround the black quartz countertops of the coffee bar with clean white tiling behind. After roasting for four years in a separate 150-square-foot space north of downtown Sioux Falls, the company’s 3-kilo Mill City roaster now lives at the new location.
“We rolled [the roaster] up a ramp and into a borrowed truck and drove it one mile down the road to our new cafe storefront a few months ago,” said Gerlach. “We had to rip up the concrete floor, move the main plumbing stack and tear down some ceiling and walls to make the space more functional. There were beautiful East-facing steel windows that were boarded up completely, and we refurbished those ourselves — so much chiseling and sanding.”
Green coffees sourced with help from Cafe Imports and Royal Coffee are now browned on site to form the basis of drinks served alongside a selection of locally-baked pastries and other light bites. While the original plan was for a more substantial food program to emerge from the shop’s own kitchen, some outsourcing and other adjustments were made to adapt to COVID-related complications.
“We eventually determined that we could move forward with a pared-down model,” said Gerlach. “The move for someone in our position is generally to have a grand opening, pack the house, and celebrate with your friends and community, but we just kind of quietly unlocked the doors one Friday. We wanted to open with a big block party with the neighbors [a record store that holds all-ages rock shows] our first month, but all that’s on hold.”
The greater airflow and indoor/outdoor feel created by a retractable garage-bay door helps diminish the likelihood of transmitting disease in pandemic times, Gerlach said, while the shop also keeps a bunch of foldable tray tables available for patrons to take outside and arrange in accordance with social distancing protocol.
“We want to be a place that is smart, safe and responsible, but allows for people to get quality product and still retain some sense of community as a gathering space, which we feel is so important in this time,” said Gerlach. “We can be patient — we have to be right now — and hope to just forge ahead with our original plans, or maybe even better ones, once the coast is clear to do so.”
The Breaks Coffee Roasting is open now at 311 E. 12th St in Sioux Falls.
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.
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