Celebrating International Women’s Day at work
My store manager and her assistant took a vacation to Mexico last month . The vacation was well-deserved. No one had taken any time off during the pandemic. After all where would you go? You couldn’t leave the country for fear you wouldn’t get back. Flying across Canada was haphazard at best with more flights cancelled than departing.
And if you can’t go on vacation, you just get up and go to work. It’s Groundhog Day everyday.
A message arrived in my inbox to say she was interviewing for a new job. In a flash, my heart pounded in my chest. Rachel had been at Coffee Tree Roastery for five years in a variety of leadership roles.
We’d travelled to San Isidros, a coffee farm in Honduras, just prior to lockdown and met Katia Duke and forged a direct trade coffee relationship as women together in business. We brainstormed in the fall of 2021 and came up with this crazy idea to shrink the line ups at the store by offering to let our customers buy their coffee beans online and pick them up free in store. Little did we know what the crystal ball had in store for the world.
I like to imagine she was sitting at the swim up pool bar when she sent the message but I know that’s not true. Or lounging by the ocean with her feet drawing circles in the hot white sand but that’s not true either.
What is true is that for the last two years our coffee business has undergone a tremendous metamorphosis. It may look the same when you walk in and maybe that’s a good thing. We all need some reassurance these days that something we love and care for is still there when we go to get it.
You may recall in the early days of the pandemic, a decision was taken to allow the LCBO stores to remain open. If you are told to stay home and not leave the house for weeks at a stretch, this decision makes some sense. But what about coffee? One morning I overheard a customer mentioning through her mask through the plexi barrier to Rachel that, forced to choose, she would choose coffee over wine.
Was coffee a necessity? Were we really going to have to choose?
In March 2020, we locked our front door for 10 weeks and sold our beans online for curb side pick up. The pick up hours were ridiculously restricted and I worked alone. I never imagined that so much would need to be done and so I never kept a journal of all the details that required daily and weekly decisions. There wasn’t time anyway.
One day I delivered an online coffee bean order to one of my former employees. Robin was sequestered at home, bored after a few weeks of eat, sleep repeat, and she volunteered to pack online orders with me on Sunday evenings. I was elated! The orders kept increasing and then Rachel offered to come in an help. We extended our hours. We updated our website. We unlocked the front door and started to make pots of coffee and cappuccinos again.
Rachel helped power through the many changes, regularly updating the new website, penning a monthly newsletter, establishing an online partner for deliveries, bringing more employees into the fold as business increased, keeping it safe at work, keeping it positive. Her to-do list was longer than Santa’s. Together we twirled and danced and tripped through Covid.
Robin, as her right hand assistant, created her own extra job as our social media manager. Through zoom webinars we learned in earnest to recreate this connection with our customers through Facebook and Instagram. Today Robin spearheads many of our fundraising ideas that support women’s causes.
Olivia stepped into the spotlight and redesigned our branding, the sprouted coffee plant image. With her professional background in graphics, Olivia’s skill is evident in all our packaging and labels.
Pam has been at Coffee Tree Roastery for 10 years now. Her face is well-known in Bloor West because of her legendary poise and grace. No one can organize and clean and make lists like Pam. Her customer service is exemplary.
We also recognize Gwen, our tech go-to and Juliana, a former business owner herself, who understands the bigger picture at all times.
Every day I am humbled by these people who started as baristas and have proven how resourceful and passionate they are. I feel very fortunate to be part of this tight knit group who are so supportive and cooperative.
On international women’s day, the men at Coffee Tree Roastery brought us gifts of flowers. Jeremy and Misha are truly thoughtful and grateful people who work alongside us too and together we are family.