Jackie Larkins is the owner of Café Phix Midtown, 6815 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. Ms. Larkins has been in the coffee business and a small business owner for just shy of eight years.
The early years were a struggle: a few starts and stops. Business owners understand that this isn’t unusual when starting a new business. Most businesses like hers fail within the first year. In fact, it wasn’t until surpassing five years that she truly felt a chance of success.
In 2018, Larkins moved her little coffee shop to Midtown, and from the moment the doors opened, she began to see successes that far exceeded her experience in other locations. “Indeed, I did better in sales on my first day open in Midtown than I did on my last day in the previous location. Being surrounded by many other businesses gave us access to customers we just could not connect to in a residential neighborhood.” The community welcomed Café Phix with their patronage; they were thrilled to have an independent coffee shop in the area. And Larkins was extremely excited for the café; the future looked bright.
In March 2020, the unthinkable happened: a pandemic. The world as we knew it changed. Like many other businesses in Northeast Ohio, Café Phix Midtown was forced to shut down due to Covid-19. Closed for an excruciating 11 weeks, not returning until June 1.
After returning she began the struggle of trying to survive amidst a world pandemic. Adding a new business model that included curbside pickup and even launching a new website hoping to stand out. After the first week, it became clear the café was losing that battle. Ninety percent of previous customers were working from home. How in the world would they survive? A small grant was helpful. She also, like most businesses, availed herself to a PPP Loan. However, she knew that an average of 2 to 3 customers per day was not going to be enough. In desperation, Larkins reached out to local news to see if they were aware of any programs available to small businesses. To their credit, Channel 5 News came out and did a feature story on the café.
As a result of the local news coverage and some very enthusiastic followers on social media platforms, business started to pick up. Those who came out to support the café, particularly those who wanted to show support for a local black-owned business, helped move them from “hoping to survive” to “surviving.”
In recent weeks, the Café needed to shut down again, temporarily, due to Covid-19 contact among their employees. Ms. Larkins is happy to say “all is well.” However, she still needed to close the café to institute a deep cleaning. Though it was difficult to shut down a second time, she knew these measures had to be taken to ensure the safety of the staff and the safety of their customers. “We have reopened the café, and the fight continues.”
“God Bless our Community!”
To help other small businesses, please visit Support Local Ohio at https://ohio.org/supportlocalohio/ to find links to local restaurants and retailers you can support by ordering delivery or carryout, making online purchases, or buying gift cards.