connect with shops in towns under 10K

gloriakal

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Jun 18, 2006
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I opened a coffee shop in a town of 8,000 about 3 months ago. We are the only game in town. We have a drive thru. Limited seating. Lunch menu includes wraps, panini and salads. The response and comments have been very positive.
However, it is a very blue collar town on a major US Hwy. with all the chains (McDonalds, KFC, Perkins, etc)- manufacturing town with a WalMart pretty much describes the town. Super WalMart coming soon.
I would like to connect with other independents in small towns.
I believe we have several issues that are unique to us.
Brainstorm strategies, etc.
It would be great to have a seperate forum or chat room for the small guys.
 

rcond4

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Aug 7, 2006
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I am in the process of purchasing property and setting up a similar store in a town of about 10.000 as well and would also love any info! Thanks Rick
 

Comfy Place

New member
Jul 15, 2006
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Bloomer, Wisconsin
Shops In Towns With Under 10K In Population

This is an interesting thread for me as well, since we are in a town of approximately 3,500. And, believe it or not, we have competition in the form of another independant shop in the same town! I think that it would be great to share ideas with other small-town shop owners/managers. So in the spirit of sharing, here goes:

We opened about 4 months ago, with our competition opening 3 weeks after we did. One thing that I noticed is that they had their Grand Opening celebration on their first day of business, whereas we held our Grand Opening about 3 weeks after we first opened. This was one area where my and my wife's retail background served us well: do a soft opening and then have your Grand Opening a few weeks later. This allows you to work out the "kinks" that you will encounter when you first open. Another idea that we just wrapped up yesterday was to have a booth at our local community fair. It lasted for 4 days, and we cleaned up! We easily did over $1,500 in sales just at the fair, and it was also a great way to get our name out in the public's eye. Many people stopped by to purchase a blended drink or a fruit smoothie, but had never been to our shop. We had our menu brochure along, and gave out nearly 100 of those over the course of the fair. This was a great double-shot (pun intended!) for us: short-term sales to help us out while we get established, and hopefully gain some new long-term customers as well.

One other thing that crossed my mind is a statement that my wife read in a trade publication recently. I think that it is something that, while difficult, is important to adhere to. The message was that if there is one thing that a new coffee shop should not skimp on, its advertising/marketing. We have almost continuously been advertising in our local paper, which our competition has not been doing. Additionally, we recently started a new program of giving away our used coffee grounds, and we successfully sent out press releases to 5 local area newspapers, at least 2 of which have now published the press release. That's virtually free advertising as well, just the cost of the stamp! Look into how press releases can help keep your name in the public's view.

Well, that's all for now. Let's all combine our ideas and see if we can't all prosper together in this great industry!
 
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gloriakal

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Jun 18, 2006
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Baked Goods

One thing that is driving me crazy is the baked goods. There is a bakery in town that does the typical stuff - bismarcks, donuts, etc. I don't want to buy from them and offer the same-old-same old. They also have an Espresso machine, but I hear they do a poor job. Also our large grocery store has a bakery and cafe.
People expect baked goods in a coffee shop. Since I have only been in business for 3 months and am trying to get the morning coffee business going stronger. I sell about 1 dozen baked items per day. Sometimes more.
I asked about this topic earlier, and the reply was to just buy the stuff from someone else - don't bake off your own. Problem is, in a small town, you will just get the ordinary stuff.
How do the other smaller guys handle this?
 
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gloriakal

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Jun 18, 2006
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Promotions

I just started radio advertising. Have only been doing newspaper (comes out weekly) since I opened.
I do wraps and panini at lunch. I started offering breakfast wraps.
We use Mission 12" wraps, spinach, garden herb or whole wheat for the lunch wraps.
I cut them in half for the breakfast wrap. Sramble 2 eggs for a little over a minute in the microwave. Add a slice of ham and cheese, roll it up in the wrap.
I do a give away for a breakfast wrap and a cup of coffee every day on the radio.
People are coming in wanting to try them.
 

Comfy Place

New member
Jul 15, 2006
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Bloomer, Wisconsin
Small Town Baked Goods

As far as the baked goods, we are selling about the same amount each day, a dozen or so. We had initially looked at having some from a local bakery, but opted to bake things ourselves. So far, we don't have too many complaints about this decision. In our case, one of the differentiating aspects is our scones; they are not a common bakery item, and ours seem to sell well. We have also had discussions about going with flash-frozen items that thaw fairly quickly, but at this point the one potential supplier does not have comparable items in flash-frozen that we can compare against our fresh-baked items.

Something that I learned from attending a recent coffee show and seminar is positioning. Where is your baked goods area positioned in relation to your ordering spot? It should be close by so that people ordering a drink are almost forced to stare at the baked goods, and that in turn helps to sell the products. Also, we have started doing a discount in the later afternoon on our baked goods so that we can help to maintain freshness. Its early, so we can't tell if its helping, but we'll keep an eye on things and make a decision in the next month or so as to if we'll keep doing it. Also, try varying what you have in your bakery area; have "morning" items and "afternoon" items to keep things interesting. This is something that we're looking at doing, but we'll need to pick up our overall bakery sales to help make this work well.

I'm certainly not against having bakery items that are from a local bakery, because its what they do, and most of them do it well. What they don't do well is coffee drinks, which is what we do well. Sometimes it is best to team up with them so that your customers can get quality coffee and quality baked goods in one spot. The bakery may lose some customers to you because of your coffee drinks, but they would end up making that up with what you buy from them to sell. In the end, you may have to try a combination of both to see what works the best for your situation.
 

morrisn

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Mar 27, 2006
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We are in a town of 3500 and are just starting year 4. We bring in frozen unbaked cinnamon buns & cookies and bake them off as required. We buy some thaw and serve desserts but we make our own wraps and sandwich's. We find that the food is very important in a small town. We get an average of 100 people in a day for lunch. We also bring in frozen soups.
 

OMO Sapien

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Aug 15, 2006
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Collingswood, NJ
Hi Gloriakal & co.

If you brew any Organic & Fair Trade coffee, we'd love to help promote you.

If you don't, we'd love to help you start!

Demonstrating a conscientious attention to sustainability issues is a great way to help distinguish you from the corporate chains. And you can do it for surprisingly little extra cost in most cases.

Let me know if you are interested in this angle....and good luck! Any indy shop is an improvement over "Four Bucks" in our view.
 

jellyfish

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Aug 26, 2006
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Good job on creating your own shop.

Do you offer any muffins or simple bagel type of stuff for the morning crowd? I think even though that is pretty standard, people like those I think.

Have you tried coupons or something like that to bring people in? Maybe distribute them at local shops or businesses? Or better yet, you could try to draw people from a nearby town with such a coupon.
 
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