Business & economy

Vale coffee spot pours last brew, says adieu

VALE – A Vale coffee shop closed Friday, March 31, after nearly five years in business. 

Heather Bixby, owner of Bixby’s Stopitoff Coffee at 289 A St. E., announced the decision Wednesday, March 29, on the business’s Facebook page, saying with “great regret” that Friday would be the coffee shop’s last day. 

Bixby’s Stopitoff Coffee, which opened in late 2018, had before then been known as Flicks and Java and was owned by Linda Graves. 

Bixby said supply chain issues, rising costs brought on by run-away inflation and the business never fully recovering after the pandemic prompted the decision. 

She said items that once cost $3 jumped to as high as $18. According to Bixby, her aim was always to keep prices affordable for the customers, with the idea that in doing so, she would see a higher volume of customers to offset the costs of doing business.

She said the business model worked before the pandemic, but it has not worked since then.

“We went through Covid,” she said, “and that was hard on everybody.”

Bixby said getting supplies has been a daunting process. One week, she said, it would be hard to get eggs. Then, she said, turkey would be hard to come by the following week. 

“You just can’t run a business if you can’t get what’s on your menu,” Bixby said. 

Heading into winter, Bixby said she always anticipates business to drop off, but she thought the business could hang on until the spring, and by then, business would pick up. 

But, in the back of her mind, Bixby said she knew if things did not change, there would not be a good outcome. Finally, she said, the conditions were no longer sustainable. 

Bixby said breaking the news to her six employees hours before announcing the closure on social media was difficult and emotional. 

“There’s no easy way about it,” Bixby said. “I mean, you’re affecting people’s lives.”  

She said there were “a lot of tears.” 

Another difficult aspect for Bixby’s employees, she said, is saying goodbye to the regular customers the staff has built relationships with over the years. Bixby’s, she said, has been the “go-to place” for many to gather every morning for coffee. 

Saying goodbye, Bixby said, has been hard because those regulars supported the staff over the years. Over the years, the coffee shop became the headquarters for a group of locals who dubbed themselves the “retired and extremely dangerous” team, or the red team for short. For groups like the red team, the closure is not about losing a coffee shop.  Instead, it’s about the community losing a gathering place for people to connect. 

“We’re kind of taking that away from them,” she said, “and that breaks my heart.”

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