A year ago, VirginHill, the local coffee roaster, broke ground on its most ambitious project yet: to build and operate a coffee drive-through. How has this worked out? The short answer is, very well.
Before COVID-19, Virgin Hill relied mainly on its large wholesale business, supplying coffee to regional cafes and restaurants. In addition, Virgin Hill supplied local supermarkets with coffee and used its website to sell directly. Before 2021, the store in front of the plant was in effect an advertisement. It became the success story. As we all know, COVID-19 meant the closure, or limitation, of cafes and restaurants. These closures were a significant blow to Virgin Hill’s wholesale business. But the direct sales business to supermarkets grew. The direct web business also flourished.
In May 2020, Matt Greer and Tara Moar, the owners, set up a tent in front of the store to see who would come. A surprising number of people, desperate to get out of the house, made the journey. People travelling to Knowlton also stopped on their way into town. By August 2020, it was clear that a drive-through was satisfying a new habit that might extend beyond the lock-down.
Matt and Tara hired local architect Patrick Turner. Ground was broken in November 2020. The old Airstream that Virgin Hill used to support festivals was brought out of retirement during the construction period, and was used as the service centre. In December 2020, the new site opened.
“People tell us that they like the idea of buying quality coffee roasted metres away from the cup,” says Tara Moar. We are a local business, not part of a giant and anonymous corporation. People want to support us. They know where their money is going.”
Matt and Tara are now thinking about another location.