Like many coffee shops, Opening Bell Coffee is more than just a place to get your morning caffeine. It's a place to congregate and a place for community, and the pandemic has, for the most part, put a stop to that.
This was doubly true for Opening Bell, largely because live music seven nights a week was part of its DNA. Hosting Dallas' longest-running open mic night helped build a customer base and, in turn, helped many local musicians build their careers.
Then came the pandemic, and the shop had to cancel 89 shows. A large part of its customer base — musicians — are now out of work, too. To stay afloat, the coffee shop changed course.
“When we had to remove all the couches, tables and chairs, replacing that space with merchandise, it just sort of worked in a quirky way,” owner Pascale Hall says.
The change was a saving grace in more ways than one.
“This part was fun and kept my mind focused on being creative and not so much on the pandemic,” Hall says. “I’ve always enjoyed wanting to offer something new and different. I found a company that works with smaller companies ... and allows small minimum orders, so it’s been fun being able to support one another and find cool offerings.”
The shop now offers free delivery within the South Side Lofts building. Many residents purchase milk, eggs and weekly staples along with a bottle of wine or a six-pack of local craft beer.
And yes, the store had a run on toilet paper in the beginning, but other items are getting attention now.
“Willie’s Remedy CBD Coffee is wildly popular, as is Pan’s mushroom jerky,” Hall says.
The jerky may be hard to come by soon, since the company’s deal with Mark Cuban on a Shark Tank episode aired recently.
The online shop offers more than just food and coffee. Opening Bell’s first customer, artist Rolando Diaz, sells his art prints there with a portion of each sale going to the coffee shop. He also donated prints to give away with large purchases.
The store’s long-time customers have been supportive; one even started a GoFundMe to support the shop. And Hall has worked to keep the cycle of support going by offering local vendors and artists a place to sell their work.
Even with the store open for daytime business and the weekly open mic night moved back from virtual to live again, things look a little bleak sometimes.
“There have been really hard moments, and some days I’m not sure if the sales are going to be enough to keep the doors open,” Hall says.
Despite her worries, Hall, like many small business owners, tries to focus on positive visions for the future.
“This spot was such a romantic dating spot with a bottle of wine and some live music. We’ve had so many couples propose and get engaged here. I can’t imagine that going away,” she says. “We all have to just stay positive and, of course, drink coffee.”
Opening Bell Coffee, 1409 S. Lamar St. (the Cedars). 214-565-0383. Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
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