Business & economy, In the community

Thunderegg Coffee marks anniversary, continues to innovate its food menu

NYSSA – Chris Haun doesn’t care about adversity.

The owner of Thunderegg Coffee Company just celebrated his 15th year of business in a town and county where poverty lingers and small businesses often open and then close quickly.

Haun opened his Nyssa business in the middle of one of the nation’s most acute economic downturns in 2008. The economic recession didn’t scare Haun.

He wanted to open a coffee shop and didn’t focus on why it might not be a good idea. Instead, he concentrated on how to succeed.

When Covid hit in 2020, Haun realized his business faced a new challenge.

“We wouldn’t have survived closing,” he said.

So, he innovated.

“We clawed and scrapped,” he said.

Because of Covid restrictions, Haun decided to leverage one arm of his business – breakfast burritos – to survive.

“We had to make everything grab and go. We honed in on how quick we could make our food,” he said.

That speed reaped dividends, he said.

“It focused people on what they could get here. Everybody likes the quickness of a good home meal,” he said.

Now, he said, the breakfast burritos remain popular, especially during harvest time.

“We’ll sell 100 burritos a day,” he said.

Haun also believes the very nature of his business helped him survive.

“Even when times are rough, you will get a cup of coffee and not hurt your bank account so bad. Our breakfast burritos won’t break the bank,” he said.

Thunderegg Coffee also provides video gambling, which Haun said was key.

“Whether things are up or down, people go for that,” he said.

Haun said he never doubted a coffeeshop in Nyssa would be a success.

“I thought it was a good fit ­- a coffee shop where you could meet friends,” he said.

The little things, he said, can lead to subtle triumphs.

“Three years ago, I got a pellet grill. I needed to upgrade the menu a little bit so on Wednesday I do something a little different on the pellet grill,” he said.

Those “little different” items evolve around special beef and chicken dishes that proved popular, he said.

He attributes community support as crucial to success.

“I’ve had regulars coming in since day one,” he said.

Thunderegg Coffee isn’t just a coffee shop. The business offers a deli, beer and specials every day.

Last week, the shop tendered specials such as tri-tip steak, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken street tacos, barbecue rips and chili dogs.

The ability to diversify and expand from just coffee also proved key, said Huan.

“We are a good old-fashioned hometown coffee shop, but you can come and try different foods that are always going to be good and there is something here for everyone,” he said.

Haun grew up in a small business family. His father owned a hardware store in Paul, Idaho, before he moved to Nyssa and opened Steve’s DO-it Best Hardware. Now Steve’s DO-it Best Hardware is Nyssa Mercantile, owned by Huan’s sister, Liz.

Haun said he faced some unexpected challenges when he opened.

“I had to learn the restaurant business. It is a totally different animal then anything I’d ever been into,” he said.

Haun learned fast.

“You know, like food expiration dates. I’d done mostly hardware before and you can leave nuts and bolts on the shelf for years but a head of lettuce won’t last a week,” he said.

Married with four children, Haun veered away from business in college where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Montana Western in Dillon, Mont.

He also played football at the university and, right after he graduated, he drove to Indiana to play in the Arena Football League for the Evansville BlueCats. The BlueCats no longer exist but Haun said his year playing on the offensive line was interesting.

“It was fast and crazy ­– basically eight-man football on quarter of the field,” he said.

Haun returned to Nyssa in 2003, went to work for his dad in at the hardware store and began to contemplate opening a coffee shop.

“It’s kind of funny but I always wanted to open a hardware store and my sister wanted to open a coffee shop,” he said.

Haun said he spends most of his time at the coffee shop.

“I love hanging out and talking to people all day,” he said.

Thunderegg Coffee is open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

He said the shop may expand in the future.

He said he sees himself still “slinging coffee to the masses” in five years.

“I still have my little girls and they love coming in and it is great to see them behind the counter and they are already people persons,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.