As family-owned businesses across the country are closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one Santa Clara company has done the unthinkable: expanded.
Sameer Shah and Lauren Burns, owners of the popular Voyager Craft Coffee shops off Stevens Creek and at San Pedro Square Market, recently took on the task of opening a third location at 2221 The Alameda in the midst of a global crisis — and with the knowledge their San Jose spot would remain closed indefinitely.
“We got approved and passed every last inspection the day before the shelter in place was announced,” said Shah. “When the shelter in place was announced, we were heartbroken. We couldn’t open and we also had to take care of our team of over 30 people, including grappling with the closure of the San Pedro location. It was a crazy few days.”
Although there was a heavy list of cons that came with opening and Shah admits it would have been a wiser decision to hold off, he and Burns ultimately decided to push forward and begin operations at The Alameda location on April 13.
“We have so much on our plate right now, taking on a new store is like having a new baby,” he said. “It is an indescribable amount of work, and a constant barrage of new challenges for years to come. But, we risk losing our fire and passion with waiting. Our company culture is built upon going for it all.
“Plus, what of our team?” asked Shah. “Sure, they’d get unemployment, but then they’d also be unemployable for a long awhile. I mean, the cost-benefit analysis on this is crazy. You can spin the argument any way, but the reality is we have a greater purpose beyond Lauren’s and my comfort and stability, and we’ve always operated with running our business to serve the greatest good.”
Overall, Shah said his staffing needs are down approximately 10-15 percent and there has been some drop in revenue at the Stevens Creek store, but business has been “fairly well.” Three days after shelter in place was enacted, Burns and Shah introduced online ordering to better serve customers and has since started offering coffee growlers, allowing customers to fill up on their favorite drinks once a week. These changes, said Shah, have made it possible for Voyager to survive.
As for the new location on The Alameda, Shah said it’s Voyager’s most ambitious project due to the addition of a bakery in the back which will serve as a place for he and Burns to develop innovative pastries to serve alongside their coffee creations and sell with their house-roasted coffee beans. The current goals, however, are to achieve three things with opening: giving staff much needed hours, taking on the challenge of doing something positive in the midst of a global pandemic and serving as a hub to prepare food and drinks for frontline workers through a GoFundMe campaign — www.gofundme.com/f/voyager-craft-coffee-helping-our-community.
“We want to desperately be part of a better solution,” said Shah. “I told my team that we want our collective humanity to shine through during these difficult times. So many of our customers are healthcare workers, and they are stressed and anxious on a daily basis. These daily drop offs offer much more than just food and coffee. They represent connection, empathy, and genuine care. We could all use more of these in our lives.”
Voyager Craft Coffee is at 3985 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara and open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voyager’s new location at 2221 The Alameda, Santa Clara is currently open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with plans to expand hours in the coming weeks.