As the coronavirus lockdowns continue, and we enter what is beginning to feel like Day Infinity of Quaratine, most bars, restaurants and cafes in Illinois have shut their doors until the shelter-in-place is lifted.
Yet, one Mt. Zion coffee shop is finding that business is better than ever despite its closed doors.
Black Iron coffee has continued to serve drinks and food from their drive-thru window. Co-owner, Dani Feller, commented that the support from the community has been phenomenal during this unprecedented time period.
“At first, of course like everybody else, I was really nervous. I thought it would slow down so much that I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was really nerve wracking.”
Dani has been pleasantly surpsied that Black Iron has actually seen an uptick of customers.
“It turned out that we are even more busy now. We’ve gotten a lot of new customers because Starbucks has temporarily closed their doors too. So, we’ve actually been getting a lot of new faces coming by, and it’s fun to see that,” Dani said. “People have been so supportive. Just so kind and so sweet, and we are truly grateful for it.”
One challenge Black Iron has faced during the lockdowns is how quickly the drive thru can become overwhelmed because the cafe is positioned on the side of a miniature strip mall. While customers have always been able to use the drive-thru, the small size of the parking lot has now proved somewhat problematic as demand for the drive-thru has increased.
Dani and her husband have gotten more innovative to keep up with the drive-thru’s increased demand. This “actually forced us to quickly throw together a website, so people can order online and they can do curbside pick-up,” Dani stated.The curbside ordering has allowed the drive-thru to run more smoothly since customers never need to join the drive-thru line and the Black Iron staff can have orders ready before customers arrive. Due to positive response from the curbside pick-up, Dani said they’ll continue the service even after normal business resumes. “It’s just worked out great, and it’s a lot more smooth than I thought. So this has actually made us expand in other areas where we normally would have taken our time or given a second thought.”
Another area where Black Iron has expanded technologically is through the use of a tablet to collect orders. Dani said that when the drive-thru line begins to lengthen, her son-in-law will go from car to car to gather people’s orders, and then the orders are sent inside to be made. Dani said this ability has maintained a shorter waiting time for customers in the drive thru, and her son-in-law has been able to direct waiting patrons while he’s been collecting the orders.
Although business is busier now than it was before the lockdowns, Dani stated she misses the atmosphere of having her customers in the cafe where they had the ability to visit and talk at length. She said it feels like a piece of her family is missing.
Yet, Dani isn’t overly eager to reopen her doors even when Illinois first lifts its shelter-in-place order.
“I’m not going to rush. I’d rather take precautions and keep everyone safe, including my employees. You know, I think that should be top priority- taking care of everybody around us. So, I would ease into it, really, to be honest. The system we have now, we’ve gotten it down pat. We’re quick, we’re efficient, and we’re continuing to see our numbers grow every week,” Dani stated. “Eventually, we’ll open back up when it’s allowed.”
Visit Black Iron Coffee at 2890 Mt. Zion Rd, Decatur IL.