The Coffee Corner: Trey Sharpe

January 3, 2023

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local coffee shops have taken a heavy hit. Because of reduced capacity and restrictions regarding dining-in, many of these coffee shops have lost business, money and their communities.

Hear it from an expert: Trey Sharpe

I sat down with Trey Sharpe, owner of Segue Coffee in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Segue is a small, local coffee shop in the heart of downtown Minneapolis (adjacent to North Central University). There is a large variety of people that live and work in the area Segue sits. College students, business professionals, pastors, professors, and other people in the diverse community all come together here to share a great cup of coffee and a conversation.

After COVID-19 hit, things changed.

The Struggles

Sadly, many small, local businesses have faced difficult challenges to remain open over this past year. In our conversation, Sharpe mentioned that COVID-19 has made negative financial, relational and emotional impacts on him and his business. 

In reference to the challenges Segue faced, he said, I had to just make a decision… We’re closed. And I just laid off the whole staff. And, from that point, it was like, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Luckily, Segue did end up re-opening later in 2020, but many restrictions had to be put in place for the health and safety of both the baristas and customers.

Many coffee shops had to fully close their doors because of these challenges. Sharpe said, “I know some businesses shut down, and maybe they made the right choice… but I don’t really know yet, but I’m happy we survived.”

Sharpe shared about the impact of the pandemic on his business: “Financially… it’s not good. We were losing money and business and… momentum.” He said his projections for future years have all tanked, so they “do not matter as much anymore”.

Adapting to Restrictions

Something small business owners have had to take away from their experience with this pandemic is that it didn’t end in 2020. The pandemic has set local coffee shops back in their plans and projections. Sharpe thinks it may take several years for him to figure out the full impact of COVID on his shop. Because COVID has not (and definitely will not) disappear anytime soon, adaptation is key.

Coffee shops large and small have needed to change their ways in order to stay open amid the pandemic. Coffee shop owners like Sharpe have been willing to listen to the restrictions Minnesota has put in place regarding dining in and food service. 

At Segue Coffee, Sharpe was “totally on board with just… being safe with everything instead of just trying to make a buck.”  Segue implemented mobile ordering and, for a while, did not allow any dine-in until restrictions let up. Even now that restrictions have been loosened a bit, Sharpe is still cautious and maintains his efforts toward social distancing in lines and in sitting areas.

What are some ways coffee shops can adapt to restrictions?

  • Mobile Ordering
  • Spot markers so customers remain socially distanced in lines
  • Cards to flip over once one group is finished sitting at a table to make sure it is disinfected before another group sits there
  • Capacity Restrictions

An inside look into the struggles of owning a coffee shop during a pandemic.