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Saints Rest is open, but still struggling

Despite the struggles of the past year, Saints Rest owner Sam Cox still loves what she does and the community it provides. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

Walking into Saints Rest coffee shop brings a unique mix of sound, sight, and smell. The chatter of customers — families with children, elderly people meeting for book club, college students studying or just grabbing a quick caffeine fix — and the sounds behind the counter, of tamping espresso, the smell of fresh coffee. In the morning, sunlight gleams through the large, glass windows that carry the shop logo, catching on old wooden chairs and comfortable sofas. In 2020, Saints Rest closed its doors as a result of challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the once-lively space fell quiet and dark.

However, in April of 2021, Saints Rest was once again open to the public.

According to owner Sam Cox, re-opening the coffee shop posed several challenges. For one, she says, the entire building had to be deep cleaned, organized, and reset for upcoming business. A bigger problem, however, was the issue of making money. According to Cox, Saints Rest closed in 2020 because the shop was losing money, and when they reopened, it was a struggle to not continue the pattern.

“I believe we broke even in April and May, and then we went back to losing money [in] June and July,” Cox said, noting that the majority of business Saints Rest sees is in the fall, when Grinnell College students come back to the town. However, since more students are on-campus this year, there’s been another decrease in business.

“College students make up our weekend business,” Cox said. “When the students lived downtown more, we got a lot of off-campus students, but now that everyone’s really migrated farther north, we don’t get very many students on a daily basis during the week.”

Finances also pose a problem, according to Cox, in regard to hiring new staff. She said that both Saints Rest and Lucky Cat Café, which Cox also owns, hired several new employees, and that training is expensive and something that she’s had to “sink money into.”

However, Cox says she has hopes to continue growing Saints Rest this year, even through these financial struggles.

“For me, it’s still about growing the business, it’s about getting it back on track, because we lost a great deal of money last year and we will lose a great deal of money this year,” said Cox. “So it’s ‘How do I get back to pre-pandemic sales?’ And then on top of that, what can I do to grow the business even further.”

For Cox, that expansion includes developing new products, such as new food items and flavored lattes, which she says are always the most popular items at Saints Rest.

College students make up our weekend business. When the students lived downtown more, we got a lot of off-campus students, but now that everyone’s really migrated farther north, we don’t get very many students on a daily basis during the week. -Sam Cox, owner of Saints Rest and Lucky Cat Cafe

“In any city that I’m in I always try to find another small coffee shop and see what they do that I like,” Cox said. She also said she is always open to hearing ideas for new foods, such as early morning breakfast items.

With her goals for growth and current struggles, Cox says it’s hard being a small business owner, especially in a pandemic.

Since more Grinnell students are on-campus this year, there’s been another decrease in business at Saints Rest. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

“It’s been such a stressful year and a half, and continues to be for different reasons,” Cox said.  “We all work every day and every night, so that love we used to have for the business has transformed itself into, maybe, ‘like.’”

However, Cox says that above all, her favorite part of owning Saints Rest is the community.

“I love doing what I do,” Cox said. “I love seeing you guys and meeting you guys and … growing relationships with each individual student that becomes a regular for me. I love visiting with your families. I love seeing our community … Just being able to be conversational all day long over coffee is a win.”

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About the Contributor
Ellianna Cierpiot
Ellianna Cierpiot, News Editor
Ellianna Cierpiot is a second-year English major & Film and Media Studies concentrator hailing from Kansas City, KS. Their interests include poetry, horror movies, and, recently, giraffes, but their journalistic interests lie in investigative explorations of how policy affects lives. They probably want to watch a movie together sometime.
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