LANSING, Mich. — Once a coffee-bike, Blue Owl Coffee Co. now has three brick-and-mortar locations across Lansing, including one in Reo Town, one in East Lansing and one in Old Town. The first location in Reo Town opened just six months after the coffee-bike first came to the area. Owner Nicholas Berry admits that Blue Owl Coffee, just 4 years old in April, gained momentum and grew quite rapidly. Once the pandemic hit, however, he was able to really slow down and think.
One may say that Berry has been innovative since COVID-19 came to Michigan. Berry, however, laughs, "Innovative? That's not the word I would choose. We actually backtracked quite a bit, looking at how we expanded and things like that...and we realized as we grew that fast that we had some holes in our ship that needed to be plugged and so we spent a lot of this time really honing in on, 'Where are those at? How do we plug those leaks and actually do our work better and more efficiently?'"
While patching holes, Berry was able to delve deeper into a second stage of thinking, where he reexamined the coffee company's original mission statement. He started to question, 'Why did we start this whole thing? What was the whole point?" Berry then came to a conclusion.
"Let's step outside of our moment, our loss, our struggles and go, 'How do we engage our community again in this time that we're not allowed to actually engage?'" Berry reflects.
He started researching ways to give back, how to reach out and, "build bridges where there aren't any anymore."
Below are Berry's Bridges:
Community Coffee Spotlight (CCS) is, "a way for local businesses to give back to the community through providing free coffee cards to those who have worked towards a better and safe Lansing," the website reads. Each week is sponsored by a local business, and that business gets coffee cards donated on their behalf to front-line workers, teachers, veterans and "things of that nature," Berry says. The CCS sponsor packages start at $1,000.
Berry has partnered with the Lansing Board of Water and Light (LBWL) to raise money to keep families warm throughout the winter. According to the LBWL website, its "Pennies for Power" initiative is a "convenient way for BWL customers to help families in need in the Lansing area pay their utility bills." Berry says that 10 percent of all Blue Owl Coffee Co.'s bean and merchandise sales through December will be donated to that program. Additionally, for every 10 lbs. of beans sold, companies such as LBWL will match that with another $20 donation. Berry says this is what they affectionately call their, "Coffee-a-ton."
If one searches, "Blue Owl Coffee" in the app store, there will be a mobile app, compatible with both Apple and Android devices, where one can place an order for pick-up. Berry says ordering through their mobile app ahead of time is the safest and most efficient way for customers to get their drinks.
Berry created these bridges to continue to engage with his community now that his shops could no longer have their outbound events, or people coming in to see shows or to share their art. Though Berry's goal of 10 cities in 10 years may need to be scaled back a bit, he says that he believes Blue Owl Coffee Co. will come out the other side of this better than when it went in.
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