Anyone run a coffee shop in a town of less than 20,000


New member
Nov 15, 2007
Visit site

We are in the process of acquiring a business that includes a very small coffee shop/area. We are planning to expand that part and offer more food. The space is about 6,000 square feet so it has plenty of space. The current owners are not really focused on the coffee part.

My main concern being that this a rural town with about 15,000 people. There is another town about 9 miles away with about the same population and then a larger town 20 miles away. It has a population of about 30,000. There are no chain coffee shops and the closest direct competition is in the town 9 miles away. From the coffee shop''s website, they have been open since 2001 but it is a much smaller space.

The nice thing is that the purchase includes a downtown building with a massive loft/apartment above the shop. We would not have living expenses on top of the business expense.

Anyhoo, this is my question. Is anyone on here successful in this type of market? There is a small two year college in town and a small 4 year college in the town 9 miles away.

We have lots of ideas for getting people through the door.

Comfy Place

New member
Jul 15, 2006
Bloomer, Wisconsin
Visit site
Small Towns

We have been operating for about 20 months so far in a town of approximately 3,500 people, and have been doing so with a competitor coffee shop in town for most of that time. Can it be done in a small town? Yes, but there are things to keep in mind.

With a small town, it will be a longer ramping-up to profitability than in a larger town/city. There could be exceptions to this, but I would hazard to guess that I'm right on this. We started from scratch, unlike your situation in which there is history for the coffee shop portion of what you are buying, but that does not mean it will be easier. In fact, it might be that it makes things more difficult for you because you may have to overcome people's attitudes that they now have for that location and its offerings.

Many, many other aspects need to be addressed, which we don't need to go into here. Yes, I believe that it is possible to be successful in a smaller town. Just do the basics right, and it will give you a solid platform from which to grow.


New member
Mar 18, 2008
Lamoni, Iowa
Visit site
Sure it can be done ... and done well!

Our coffee house has been operating for almost seven years in a town of 1400 (add 1000 to that number when the local university is in session). Things to consider: (1) Make sure you're meeting the needs of both the local community AND the college community - think about hours of operation, food selections, etc.; (2) Make sure your products complement - not compete - with those offered by other merchants in town; (3) Work with other merchants on cross-marketing - coupons for a pizza/movie/after-movie-coffee, for example; (4) Be involved in the community and the college - they'll reward you for your genuine interest in their success. There are lots of other ideas I could share. Feel free to email me.