Two local entrepreneurs forced to get creative during a time of major challenge for their businesses have aligned on the perfect partnership: coffee and donuts.
It’s a match made in heaven – Rogers and Astaire, spaghetti and meatballs, rum and coke …
There may be no other food combination that elicits smiles and satisfaction than a great cup of coffee with a fresh, homemade donut.
So it was only natural that Drip Café’s Greg Vogeley teamed up with Sweet Lucy’s Meg Hurst to bring Homer Simpson’s favorite treats to their customers for take-out, but also to hundreds of frontline healthcare workers.
Sweet Lucy’s Ice Cream and Treats, a summer favorite on 202, now sells Drip Café’s roasted coffee beans and ground coffee to its customers. And every Tuesday morning Hurst drops off dozens of her homemade Apple Cider Donuts at Vogeley’s Lantana Square restaurant in Hockessin.
“Honestly, the pandemic has really forced all of us to think about ways we can leverage the work we are already doing. It’s all about trying to scale up so we can make a small profit and survive until we can finally reopen,” says Sweet Lucy’s owner Hurst.
Like any restaurant owner who has chosen to remain open for take-out during the pandemic, Vogeley and Hurst will tell you that they have probably never worked hard, longer hours in their lives.
They are pushing through each day with volumes that are way off from their norms while trying to satisfy the loyal mask-wearing customers who show up for takeout.
All the while, they’re packing up boxes of donuts and packaged meals and delivering them to healthcare workers in the area on a near-daily basis.
“I’ve had different people and businesses reach out and say, ‘hey Meg I want to donate $20, $50 or $100 worth of doughnuts or ice cream. It started out as ice cream, and then the donuts have become more popular,” she says. One of her sponsors is Roof Maxx of Kennett Square.
TSD can attest to the fact that Hursts’ donuts are just as fresh on Day 2 as they are right out of the oven. But when she delivers to hospitals and EMTs, her tasty creations don’t sit out for long. “When I deliver them, they’re still warm,” she says.
“A friend of a friend of mine reached out to me about in early April and asked me if he could purchase 250 meals for healthcare workers and how we could do that, and he wanted to pay for that. And it was an amazing gesture,” says Vogeley.
Vogeley, owns three coffee shops, including an espresso bar in Wilmington and a full eatery in Newark. But his flagship store in Hockessin is the only one that’s currently open. His total business is down 70%.
“Think about having 27,000 college students down in Newark and the hundreds we could serve down there on a daily basis and then suddenly they’re all gone,” he says.
He’s gone from 50 employees to nine – an agonizing decision for someone used to growing his business.
“I never thought in my life that I would lay off employees like this. I take my job as a job creator very seriously, I want to support the family that I create around here,” he said.
Vogeley had just celebrated his seventh anniversary at his Hockessin location when COVID-19 forced him to think about his community coffee shop in an entirely new way.
“Really this whole piece has brought out a creativity and entrepreneurship in me. Our focus had to shift quickly in order to reach people while they’re home. Fortunately, I purchased a roaster at the beginning of March. So, we began roasting our own coffee right as this was all happening, which then forced our hand to open an online shop,” says Vogeley.
Vogeley’s friend who ordered the 250 meals for ChristianaCare then suggested to another friend that he could order meals for healthcare workers from Drip Café. And that started a lifeline of business for the coffee shop owner who greatly appreciates the business.
“So on the website we added a ‘donate a meal to healthcare workers’ function. And we’ve been able to raise funds for nearly 2000 meals at this point for health care workers that we’re delivering to a number of locations,” says Vogeley.
Hurst has also made her own deliveries of Apple Cider donuts and pints of Sweet Lucy’s ice cream to healthcare workers – yes there is a way to deliver frozen ice cream to people on the job.
Some of the locations Drip Café has fed include nursing homes like the Little Sisters of the Poor, Parkview, Manor Care, Summit Senior Living and the Ministry of Caring as well as first responders including Delaware State Police and the Newark, Hockessin and Mill Creek Fire Departments.
That’s in addition to feeding hundreds of workers at Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington Hospital and at ChristianaCare in Middletown and Newark – delivering meals to departments including ICU, Emergency, Orthopedics, Spine/Joint, lab techs, patient transport, Public Safety and the textiles division.
“You want to know who to thank the most? The textile workers – the people cleaning the sheets at these hospitals,” says Vogeley. “It’s been an amazing showing of the community and support for everybody around us. So it’s really a win-win,” says Vogeley.
You may click here to contribute to Drip Cafe’s efforts to share meals to workers on the pandemic’s front line.
Vogeley and Hurst can’t wait to welcome customers back inside their stores. But until then, they are proud to play a small role in lifting the souls of those who face the unrelenting call to serve on the pandemic’s front line.
“My dad said to me, ‘you get more marketing off the back of a T-ball shirt than you would in any magazine. And I think that’s always been true. We always try to be a part of that in the Hockessin and Newark communities. So, this is just a great way for us to be able to do it, so we’ll see what happens next.”