Business During COVID-19:
Thunder Coffee

Oct 26, 2020

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What is Thunder Coffee?

Thunder Coffee is a specialty coffee shop founded by brothers, Skyler and Dexter Dutton, and Skyler’s wife, Nicole. The trio had joked about opening their own coffee shop for quite some time and, eventually, transformed that dream into a reality in 2018. Focused on “community-driven coffee”, Thunder Coffee seeks to bring people together and build relationships.

“Thunder Coffee didn’t start out big. It began with an idea, a coffee cart, some pour-over equipment, the money in our pockets, and many pop-ups at Farmer’s Markets. As we picked up more followers and continued to grow, we remained focused on the goals we had set from the very beginning: how we can serve people and how we can provide a community founded on this common thing – coffee – that so many people drink.”

COVID-19 Challenges:

While Thunder Coffee tried their hardest to continue to operate normally, challenges during a time like this are inevitable. Thunder Coffee had to immediately suspend all events, making it difficult for their team to maintain their community-driven focus and compensate for the loss in revenue stream from these events.  Some of their employees also did not feel comfortable working in a service role throughout these unknown times, so Skyler and Dexter worked the shop every day and put in long hours to get everything done for their customers.

“When COVID-19 first hit, we tried as hard we could to continue operating normally. However, it was really tough. It was disheartening to have to cancel our events because they are a large part of who we are, and we had to work long hours to keep everything running smoothly. It was especially lonely not having others in the shop. They provide a fun atmosphere for our coffee shop that was definitely missed.”

Thunder Coffee's Creative Solutions:

Despite everything that was going on, Thunder Coffee was determined to get creative and keep moving forward. They did so in four ways:

  1. Drive-Through Window – Thunder Coffee utilized their drive-through as much as possible, which turned out to be a lifesaver throughout these unprecedented times.
  2. Online Presence – the coffee shop increased their online presence dramatically when COVID-19 hit so they could continue to serve their customers while their lobby was closed.
  3. New Revenue Streams – Dexter has been learning how to roast coffee in 2019, but officially began producing micro-batches for their customers to purchase once COVID-19 was in full swing.
  4. Partnerships – The team at Thunder Coffee has some great relationships with local artists, so they teamed up to create labels and packaging for their roasted coffee, as well as sold crafting kits created by Unglued and Tinker that their customers could purchase in lieu of their events they typically host.

Community Support:

Thunder Coffee has received incredible support throughout this time, which has played a large part in their ability to stay positive and keep moving forward.

“We have been blown away by the support we have received from our customer base. A lot of them travel relatively long distances to visit and support us, and they have been particularly encouraging during this tough time. Just being able to see them and hear them say ‘Thanks for the coffee. We are glad you are open,” makes the world of a difference.”

Advice for Other Small Business Owners:

The Thunder Coffee trio encourages small businesses owners to face challenges by getting creative and trying as many new things as possible to accommodate and adapt. By doing that, you confront these tough times in a way that is productive to your growth and success.  

“Whatever we could to do be creative, different, or unique, that’s what we did. We did what we could and got determined that we were not going to let something like COVID-19 ruin us."

For more information on Thunder Coffee, visit their website.