Mt. Airy neighbors aid comeback from $200,000 loss

by Len Lear
Posted 5/26/21

A funny thing happened on the way to disaster. First of all, a GoFundMe campaign raised more than $10,000 for now-out of work staffers, and donations are still coming in. Even more remarkable was all the other assistance offered by Mt. Airy customers that helped keep the business afloat.

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Mt. Airy neighbors aid comeback from $200,000 loss

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Mt. Airy native Meg Hagele has attended professional seminars over the years for small business owners through institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania, so she definitely knows her numbers. Thus, you can't help but be moved when Meg, who opened her original High Point Cafe at 602 Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy in 2005 and later expanded to include a second High Point Cafe in the Allens Lane Train Station and wholesale bakery at 6700 Germantown Ave., says the pandemic caused “more than $200,000 in losses last year.”

But a funny thing happened on the way to disaster. First of all, a GoFundMe campaign raised more than $10,000 for now-out of work staffers, and donations are still coming in. Even more remarkable was all the other assistance offered by Mt. Airy customers that helped keep the business afloat.

“We owe a sincere debt of gratitude first to our Mt. Airy community for showing up for us day after day, week after week and month after month!” Meg insisted last week. “They helped us tremendously by adding money to the High Point Cafe phone App to give us working capital now. They then draw down on those funds one visit at a time.

“The PPP loans have turned into grants that gave us the ability to absorb more than $200,000 in losses. They also gave us the ability to make the modifications necessary to operate safely and helped with the increase in labor costs due to the additional work needed to provide service under the current conditions.

“It has been a long series of modifications, adjustments and tweaks. Figuring out how to stay open has been more than a full-time job … Like making modifications inside for faster/more efficient service, like taking out the glass in the pastry case so it could be accessed by the person going to and from the door. When we realized this was not going to be a short-lived shutdown, we designed and installed pick-up windows with our neighbor and amazing carpenter friend, Ken Marini.”

One year ago Meg told us that business was one-third of normal. “Those first few months of the pandemic were particularly terrible and terrifying,” she said last week. “Overall, in 2020, we lost an average of $17,500 every month! In 2021, after an abysmal February, we have started seeing our numbers edge closer to pre-pandemic numbers.

“I'd say we were within 5% of our pre-pandemic revenues for April, and things are looking good for May so far! April and May are two of our busiest months traditionally, not including 2020. It is encouraging to see that trend returning. Good weather is key, and spring and fall generally are great times of year for us.”

Remarkably, all former staff members who have wanted to come back thus far have returned to work. A couple are waiting for their vaccines to fully "steep" before they come back on the schedule. A few who were offered their jobs back have gone elsewhere and chose not to return.

By the time you read this, High Point may have reopened indoor service, and they are offering free Doorstep DropOff of bulk coffee purchases in zip codes 19118, 19119 and 19144. Their OrderAhead website allows customers to order and pay before coming to the Pick Up window.
“I am optimistic for the future,” Meg insisted. “This pandemic has been harrowing, terrifying, tragic and hard. But I think it has narrowed our focus as a whole on what's important, and community is the top of my list. We have gone through something extraordinary together and not in a good way, but we've been there for each other. We've shown up and stood up and persevered. I can't wait to see everyone's face again inside and across the counter. I get teary just thinking about it, actually.”
This summer, June through September, High Point will be re-launching its High Point Sunday Market at the Allens Lane Station. Mostly a crafters market featuring local artisans, there will also be live music, food trucks and a flea market section from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday. Anyone interested in having a booth or performing should email HPSundayMarket@gmail.com on how to apply.

More information at highpointphilly.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com       

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