Pandemic doesn't stop the launch of new coffee shop in Illinois


MARYVILLE, IL (KMOX) - Many businesses -- especially restaurants -- are struggling to navigate during the coronavirus outbreak.  Some have already closed their doors for good.  

KMOX met one team of entrepreneurs who thinks they've brewed up the right business plan to launch a new brand during the pandemic.

Inside The Coffee Box in Maryville, IL, baristas call out to one another as they gather ingredients inside the Coffee Box, "Over! Behind!", so they don't collide while grinding beans or steaming milk.  

Owners and business partners Neal Polk and Erik Bowman both have a military background.  Neal, who is retired Navy, says "Erik and I have actually been working on this for three years."  Neal says they spent hours making sure they had the right processes in place.  Erik is active duty Air Force. 

They've had coffee all over the world, both good and bad.  And for their venture, they say they wanted a premium product, not the type of brew that comes out of automatic machines. 

"So those automatic machines are nice," says Erik, "but when the barista has more control we can customize your drink for you a little better."

They hired a barista manager and invested in training for all their baristas.  Plus they have an in-house chef and an in-house baker creating unique menu items. 

They are sourcing some items locally, such as their dairy products.  And their roast is created in nearby Edwardsville by Minas Espresso.  Minas owner Bruno Nobre was even on site to help during the soft opening last week.  

Location helps too.  The Coffee Box is located on North Center Street in Maryville.  Known as Route 159 -- it links two major interstates and several other communities.  Polk believes they're well situated to launch during a pandemic.  "Having a coffee shop in an area where there's honestly not this type of option within 5 miles," explains Neal.

When they opened their drive-thru windows last week, the signs outside hadn't even been delivered, but Polk and Bowman says they're already gratified with the volume of cars pulling up.

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