After spending most of last summer closed, Archives Coffee House is gearing up for a more normal fall, with art and open mic events.
As with many businesses, 2020 was a lean year for the coffee shop, located just off University Avenue and Harvard Street. Owner Kyle Thorson had to reduce staff and cut hours to stay afloat. He reopened his shop in August last year, and made it through with the help of a paycheck Protection Program loan, and a low-interest business loan from the Bank of North Dakota. They almost weren’t enough, but things are starting to turn around.
“There were a couple months truly, that I almost thought we weren't going to exist anymore,” said Thorson.
Thorson had to reduce his staff from 15 employees to six through the worst of the pandemic, when UND students transitioned to online learning. Then there were the months he had to close. But he’s feeling a renewed sense of optimism now. He’s hiring more staff and will soon add to his food offerings, which he had to pare down when students weren’t on campus.
“Literally it was from ‘we might be going bankrupt’ to ‘there's a little bit of hope at the end of the tunnel,’” said Thorson.
Part of the renewal is a beer and wine license, which Thorson secured earlier in July. Coffee, he said, doesn’t sell terribly well in the evenings and he wants to be open until 11 p.m. again, to offer students a place to study or socialize. The new beverage selections will add to the atmosphere of the shop, as it hosts open mic events, like live music and poetry readings. They usually draw between 30 to 40 people, and he’s hoping the chance to have a drink will boost the numbers.
“I think that'll just help us push into profitability again, and hopefully offer some unique service for students, faculty and staff here,” Thorson said.
Archives Coffee House will begin hosting art events as well.. Local artists Adam Kemp and Sheila Dalgliesh have put together a gallery of their works around the shop, which customers can buy. He’s also hoping to have live music at the event.
Staff have started to show excitement again, and are coming up with new ideas for events and activities. An evening of desserts and wine could make for a nice date night, Thorson said, and he’s bringing back Sunday brunch. He can tell the air has changed in the community, some of it due to widespread access to vaccines, and some due to people feeling ready to be back together with others.
“I feel some of the life coming back into Archives, and that's what’s exciting to me,” Thorson said. “You get that passion back.”