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Thank you from our founder

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Dear Customers of Bridgeport Coffee,

Bridgeport Coffee was off to a very good start in 2020.

Sales were up. We were preparing our staffing plan for the St. Patrick’s Day parade at our Jackson Blvd. location. The parade has always been the unofficial launch of Spring in the Chicago restaurant business. As always, it had been a long winter and we were all looking forward to the Spring and Summer.

What happened next was sudden and shocking.

In hindsight it seems like a blur, but I remember how different each day felt. On Monday, the week before the parade, I began to hear that big Chicago conventions were canceling. Tuesday classes at downtown campuses were shuttered and by Friday the Mayor had called off the parade. By Saturday, downtown was completely deserted. By 1pm on Sunday, the day after the parade was scheduled, our downtown location had done a total of $17 in sales.

Within days, our local and state leadership announced the order to close all non-essential businesses. In the short interval of a week and a half I had gone from enthusiasm and optimism about what was ahead in 2020, to serious concern about the future survival of Bridgeport Coffee. I was deeply worried.

I always bring the mail home. My wife, Cassi, puts the stamps on and drops them in the mail. She bought the Thank You cards for me and recognized the envelope. She asked me, “During these uncertain times, with the shops closed, why would someone buy a gift card?” People who know me would say I am not quick to tears, but I had to leave the room and sit alone for a moment. This act of kindness hit me hard. After I had collected myself, I pointed out to Cassi what our customer had done — showed faith that we would return by investing in our future. I now had a mandate to do just that.

Over these last six weeks, I have roasted and packed coffee, often alone, for the online orders from our Bridgeport Coffee customers. Online sales have been up 1000% percent since the Stay at Home orders began. This is not an exaggeration or a typo — one thousand percent, ten times normal. (Personal shout out to my best friend and business partner, Tom, who has learned to roast coffee over the last several weeks.) This has been a tough time, but it has also been a rewarding experience for me as the founder of the company — I have been connecting personally with every single order since the lockdown began.

Tomorrow — Monday, May 4 — Bridgeport Coffee re-opens our original location (with both staff and customers masks required, and a proper social distancing plan). We are planning to re-open our Hyde Park location on June 1, with other announcement to follow. Keep your fingers crossed.

There is no question our company will look different than it did just 6 weeks ago, but it is looking like we will survive this. I am convinced the outcome would have been much different without the faith, the support, and the thoughtful kindness of our customers.

To all our customers who stuck with us during this time, I simply say:

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You saved Bridgeport Coffee.

Mike Pilkington
Founder and President, Bridgeport Coffee Company

Our founder Mike Pilkington, eight years ago on one of the many El Salvador farms that supply our outstanding Relationship Coffees.
Our founder Mike Pilkington, eight years ago
on one of the many El Salvador farms
that supply our outstanding Relationship Coffees.
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