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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Local coffeeshop saved by community members

Inside Black Drop’s new location on Magnolia Street. The coffee shop moved to a newer location to accommodate COVID-19 precautions. // Photo by Stephanie Oppelaar
Inside Black Drop’s new location on Magnolia Street. The coffee shop moved to a newer location to accommodate COVID-19 precautions. // Photo by Stephanie Oppelaar

Black Drop Coffeehouse’s GoFundMe goal raised $17,000 in less than 24 hours.

By Mallory Kruml

Stephanie Oppelaar, co-owner of the Black Drop Coffeehouse, cried for hours on Sept. 29. 

The 18-year-old downtown coffee shop had been struggling since first closing on March 9. Six months later, it became clear that customers were not going to let it close without a fight, and poured nearly $20,000 into the shop’s future. 

“We didn’t expect much, but our community and friends came through in spades,” Oppelaar said. 

Oppelaar shared a link to a GoFundMe on social media with a goal of $15,000 in a last-ditch effort to save her business after the  COVID-19 pandemic began. 

Oppelaar and her husband and co-owner John Oppelaar closed the Black Drop Coffeehouse from March 9 to June 8.  

“During those weeks, we came to terms with the fact that there was really no way to safely open our lobby,” Oppelaar said. 

The original location lacked proper ventilation, space for socially distanced guests and had a single exit. 

“My husband and I had a conversation and made the decision to move to a larger location that would allow us to safely serve our customers,” Oppelar said. 

Sales had decreased 80% during the pandemic, a more dramatic loss than Oppelaar had expected. 

Oppelaar had applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the Small Business Association in June. 

They got the loan but received only $30,000 of the $88,000 requested that month. 

“The $30,000 just wasn’t enough to pay payroll, cover our liabilities or get into the new space,” Oppelaar said. 

The couple was told that the remaining balance would not come until 2021. 

“A few days later, after we closed again for the wildfire smoke, my employee, Riley, wanted to meet with us and share a proposal,” Oppelaar said. “She said there was no reason for Black Drop to be a part of the COVID-19 body count, and no reason for us not to ask our community to help us out.” 

The next day, Sept. 29, Oppelaar set up the GoFundMe page asking for $15,000 and hoped for $9,000. 

Western student Grace Lamonte gave to their cause. 

“I have so many great memories there,” Lamonte said. “It’s like its own little community.” 

Before the pandemic, Lamonte enjoyed studying and sipping on a dark chocolate mocha with soy milk. 

“When I saw the GoFundMe, I just thought that I would be really sad, if after COVID-19 is over, that I wouldn’t be able to visit my favorite coffee shop,” Lamonte said. 

Lamonte helps run the university’s community aid Instagram.

“We can’t always rely on our institutions to help our communities,” Lamonte said. “Once people saw the GoFundMe on Instagram, they realized that it was up to us to help them out.” 

Oppelaar’s GoFundMe surpassed its goal on the first day. 

“It hit $17,000 for hundreds of donors within 21 hours,” Oppelaar said.

Black Drop Coffeehouses’ employees spent the day checking their phones and shouting out when donations poured in, Oppelar said. 

“It was super gratifying to see this community that we love and support, turn their support toward us, “ Oppelar said. “The whole staff got really energized and we all felt the love.” 

Christie Scollon, a Western psychology professor who researches happiness, says donating is correlated with an increased sense of satisfaction for the giver. 

Scollon cited a study conducted by Elizabeth Dunn, a University of British Columbia psychology professor, in which half of the subjects were told to spend a provided amount of money on themselves, and the other half were to spend the money on someone else or donate it to charity.

“After comparing mood charts before and after the tasks, the subjects that gave money away were happier at the end of the day than the people that spent it on themselves,” Scollon said. 

Spending on other people caused an increase in happiness, Scollon said, and mutual aid organizers say it holds true beyond the psychology lab.

“I have donated to many of Western’s mutual aid projects, and it always cheers me up,” Lamonte said. “During COVID especially, I think people are trying to help out wherever they can.” 

Oppelaar and her employees were overwhelmed after seeing the outpouring of love.

“We just want to say thank you so much to our community for believing in and supporting us,” Oppelaar said. 

Black Drop Coffeehouse employees look forward to being able to safely serve customers in their new location at 206 W Magnolia St. 

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