Cedar Rapids coffee and lunch shop Blue Strawberry Coffee will close its store Aug. 10 and transition to an online-only business model.
“Closing the inside part of the store is like letting the customers down,” owner Wesley Bryant told The Gazette on Tuesday. “It’s really sad.”
Blue Strawberry, a longtime staple in downtown Cedar Rapids, has seen a decrease in walk-in customers with many downtown companies working remotely, Bryant said.
Business has improved since May, but the shop still is operating with about 75 percent fewer customers than usual.
“We depend on foot traffic. We depend on local businesses to survive,” Bryant said. “I can’t afford to have the doors open even though we do have loyal customers. It’s just not enough right now.”
He knew it was going to be tough during the pandemic.
“I figured people would start coming back as restrictions loosened up, but they didn’t,” Bryant said. “Financially it’s the easy decision, but emotionally it’s a very difficult decision.”
Bryant has heard many stories about people meeting their future spouses at Blue Strawberry. One of Bryant’s first dates with his wife was at Blue Strawberry.
“There’s a lot of nostalgia and a lot of history here,” Bryant said.
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It has been a frequent stop for political candidates during the campaign cycle. In 2004, singer-songwriter Carole King stopped at Blue Strawberry while campaigning for then-Democratric presidential candidate John Kerry.
Bryant bought the eatery in 2018 from Mike Monahan, who opened it in 2003, when Monahan decided to semi-retire in northwest Iowa.
The shop has operated from the same building, 118 Second St. SE, since it started. For now, Blue Strawberry will keep that location for coffee roasting.
Blue Strawberry will have new online options, Bryant said, including the Blue Strawberry Coffee Club. Customers can pay a subscription to get their favorite Blue Strawberry coffee beans regularly.
If downtown activity picks up again, Bryant’s “ultimate goal” is to reopen the physical store. He can’t wait around for that, though, without changing his business plan.
“Who knows what downtown looks like ... in four months, six months, a year,” Bryant said. “I can’t hold out and hope that something will change.”
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