DE PERE – It’s no surprise that the coronavirus has been hard on small businesses, and De Pere’s new cafe, Java Cream, is no exception. Since opening, said shop owner Mohammad Abughaush, the business hasn’t been making a profit.
Java Cream opened its doors in late August despite Abughaush’s reservations. The original plan for the cafe was to open in April, but Abughaush decided not to move forward with Java Cream as he began to understand the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses. Unfortunately, he was unable to get out of the five-year lease he signed in January.
With no out available, he had to move forward and Java Cream opened in De Pere, next to Edible Arrangements on Swan Road. The location was chosen because of the proximity to schools and clinics. Abughaush was hoping he could rely on foot traffic to bring people into his store.
“When I decided to (open the cafe), it was a wonderful location, but COVID-19 changed things for everyone,” said Abughaush.
Java Cream, as the name suggests, offers a large variety of coffee and espresso drinks, along with javaccinos — indulgent variations of typical espresso drinks offered in flavors like White Chocolate Caramel Oreo and Mocha Coconut.
The cafe goes beyond coffee, and also offers 12 flavors of gelato, many of which are highly recommended on the shop’s Facebook page. The page has 41 reviews, all positive, praising everything from the friendly and attentive service to the authentic gelato.
Various flavors of gelato on display at the recently opened Java Cream coffee shop and gelato bar on Sept. 29, 2020, in De Pere, Wis. (Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
Abughaush spent the last 11 years managing Gloria Jean’s Coffee in Bay Park Square Mall before deciding to open his own place in March 2019. To try and build traffic to the cafe, Abughaush uses Facebook and Google Ads.
“When I started this process, the economy was booming, everything was wonderful,” said Abughaush before speaking about the changes the coronavirus brought to the area. “I have hope that by next year, things will change.”
During the cafe’s first week in business, foot traffic averaged between 40 and 60 customers per day. However, since that first week, the numbers have dropped to between 10 and 25 customers. Understandably, Abughaush is concerned. To make a profit, he explained, he needs at least 60 customers a day. Java Cream’s products range from S1.75 to $5.75 meaning each purchase is only a fraction of the money the shop needs.
The cafe offers both indoor and outdoor seating and requires that masks be worn inside the store, unless customers are actively eating or drinking. Additionally, Java Cream offers delivery of all its products through DoorDash. Abughaush said that they have had very few online orders and that most of their sales come from customers walking in the front door.
When Java Cream first opened, they had a handful of employees whom Abughaush paid out of his own pocket. He has since let them go and is running the cafe alone in an attempt to save money. He added that his employees were all high school students and he couldn’t risk allowing students to come to work during the pandemic for their safety and the safety of his customers.
Abughaush did not apply for any pandemic relief funding because he believed he did not qualify as a new business. According to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation website, the “We’re All In Small Business Grant” (a grant funded by the CARES act to provide $2,500 in grants to 30,000 small Wisconsin businesses) doesn’t apply to businesses that hadn’t started operating prior to Jan. 1, 2020. That said, the site does offer a “We’re Here to Help” form where businesses can ask for assistance for anything related to COVID-19 and be connected to resources to help with relief.
Java Cream’s website boasts that it is all about spreading happiness, “Brewing a cup of joy. Serving a scoop of serendipity.” The colorful interior of the store certainly stays on brand.
Hopefully, Abughaush is able to keep Java Cream afloat through the year and continue spreading joy to the area. Java Cream is like most of us, desperately hoping, “next year, things will change.”
Alexandria Bursiek Kloehn is a business reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. You can reach her at [email protected] or view her Twitter profile at @bursiekkloehn.
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