Do you shut your doors and give everyone a day off or stay open for the stragglers and neighborhood caffeine fiends?
It’s almost Christmas. No matter if you celebrate or if you care, you’ve probably made a decision about whether or not to stay open for business on December 25th. There are pros and cons for both: coffee is a drink people consume everyday, so it can be cruel to leave your regulars with no option but to attempt to make some less-than version of coffee at home. Then again, who’s going to work that day? Who would want to?
For some companies, Christmas is a non-negotiable day off for staff, no matter what. Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters in San Francisco closes its stores on Christmas and Thanksgiving, and when I asked Nick Cho, co-founder of the cafe and roastery, if he would ever be open on the holidays, his answer was short and direct: “Never.”
The reasons make sense: you don’t want to make anyone on your staff work on a nationally-recognized holiday, no matter if or how they intend on celebrating. And for a roastery/retail business like Wrecking Ball, it might seem disingenuous for some of the staff to receive a day off (the roastery) and others to have to show up to work (the retail staff). If you oversee a number of shops, it’s also a day where you have nothing to worry about, a rarity when you work for a business with multiple shops. “It’s like the two days out of the year when the managers and I don’t have to be ‘on call’,” shares Liz Dean, Director of Retail for Irving Farm in New York. All Irving Farm locations are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Regardless, Liz isn’t opposed to some of the stores being open. “If staff wanted to work, I wouldn’t mind staying open, especially at our busy stores. But we never have enough people to constitute a full staff.” Maciej Kasperowicz, Director of Coffee for Gregory’s Coffee, a retailer with over a dozen cafes in New York, agrees that if there are enough staff, some of the stores should be open. “We do [stay open] for a few shops, basically just the ones that we’d expect would be busy. And we’ve definitely reached out to employees of our closed shops if not enough of the employees of the open ones want to work,” he shares.
For those who consider staying open, working on the holidays is generally done on a volunteer basis. “We ask the management team if anyone wants to work,” Leticia Ramos Pollock shares about her three Panther Coffee locations in Miami, Florida.
“BARISTA is open on all holidays but only on a volunteer basis,” reports Becky Reeves of her place of employment, BARISTA in Portland, Ore. “So if no one wants to work, we aren’t open. This year, all the shops are open on Christmas because we had enough volunteers.”
Cafe owners note that if customers want to see more shops open, they should show their baristas their appreciation in the tip jars. “Last year, we opened limited hours on Christmas day, since some of us wanted to work,” Leticia notes. She says the perks of working were immediate: “Tips are great on the 25th.”
Regardless of what you decide for your shop, there is something infectiously fun about working on the holidays. As a veteran of the Thanksgiving and New Years Day shifts, I can tell you that you’ll never meet people as grateful and excited to see you than you do when you’re behind the bar on a holiday—and most shop owners agree. “I’m open on holidays. And my entire staff wants to work it because business is slow and easy, but tips are great,” says Adam Saucy, owner of Propellor Coffee in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Patrons are grateful, sure, but staying open also shows that you care about the neighborhood, and want to be there for folks who need a warm cup on a chilly—and for some, lonely—day.
Don’t forget: being open on a day most stores are closed is sometimes some of the best marketing you can get. “I think it’s nice to be open, not because you do good business (you don’t), but because people who don’t know you discover you when you are the only place open,” Adam says.
Please share with us if you intend on being open or closed on Christmas, New Years Eve/Day, or any other special days of the year! As for me, I’ll be on bar all day New Years Day at Cro Café in Oakland if anyone wants to stop by and say hi.