Iron River Coffee & Espresso is a coffee shop tucked inside the Walmart in Crescent City. This Veteran-owned business, led by Melissa Royal, offers more than caffeine to the community—they’re a community-minded business with a passion for delicious goodies and the connection that comes from a good ol’ cup of joe. We got the opportunity to speak with Melissa, and here’s what she had to say.
Tell me a little about when and how the business started.
Our family has always had a love for coffee. Coffee has been making people happy for centuries. It warms your soul, jumpstarts your day, and there is no smell I love better than to a freshly brewed pot in the morning. When we heard that a local shop was selling their business, we sat down as a family and made the decision to try and buy it.
Is there a story behind the name of "Iron River Coffee"?
Iron River is a name that has been in our family for generations. Kenny’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, Samuel Clifton, grew up in Montague, Texas, near a red river bed that he & friends nicknamed The Iron River. Later in life, when Samuel started a small cattle ranch adjacent to that river, he named the property, Iron River Ranch. The day the sale of the coffee shop was finalized, Kenny’s parents happened to gift us the branding iron used on that very same ranch. Even though the cattle ranch is long gone, the name Iron River has great meaning to us. It represents hard work, obligation, and family.
How has COVID impacted your business?
COVID has greatly affected our business. With revenue loss at 41%, there were times we wondered if we would be able to remain open. We were financially fragile, and knowing that everyone in our community was feeling the same financial impact of this virus, increasing prices was not an option. So, when Jayne from AEDC called offering to help with a PPP loan, and then later assist with turning that into a grant, it was nothing short of a blessing.
COVID has changed the way we do business. We installed a secondary hand-washing station to promote frequent hand-washing of our baristas, implemented mask-wearing early on, laid down floor markers to promote social distancing, made hand sanitizer and masks available to customers, and put procedures into place to ensure our daily habits would help prevent the spread of infection. Constant cleaning and disinfecting with EPA-approved products became part of our routine.
It's clear that you are very community-oriented. How do you find ways to stay connected with the community?
We love our community and want every business not only to succeed but to thrive. It breaks my heart to drive downtown and see all of the empty buildings. Our family puts aside a set amount each month, to be able to support our local youth groups, veterans, and other local charities & events. In addition, we showcase local bakers to sell & promote their products from our shop.
How did you utilize the funds from the microloan you received from AEDC?
We used the funds from the microloan to purchase a new espresso machine and other equipment & goods, as our long-term goal includes opening a second location.
What was it like working with AEDC?
AEDC went above and beyond our expectations. They were able to pick up our file and process it in a matter of days, and during a critical time. Then, just a year later, guided us through the Paycheck Protection Program process. I didn’t even have to initiate the call. Jayne, from the AEDC office, anticipated our needs and didn’t hesitate to help us.
Are there any upcoming promotions or announcements you'd like us to share with our audience?
As a veteran-owned business, we offer a 10% discount to other veterans and other on-duty law enforcement personnel. We are grateful to those who served in the armed forces and to those who protect our community.