From the very beginning, Harrodsburg Harvest Coffee has been unlike any other small business I have ever known or worked for, in the best possible way. I have had a passion for small business for a few years now, and I made a conscious decision not to work for “big” business some time ago. For me personally, small businesses are more inviting. There is more room for personality and growth, more space for faith and enthusiasm.

                  Our opening story is also not like any other I have ever known. It took a bit longer, but that was because the owner had a vision in mind, and a determination not to open our doors until that vision had come to fruition to her satisfaction. It was her drive to get things “just right” that I admired immediately, but as we began our work together, I soon learned that our vision of the world around us and what we wanted to put out into that world was similar as well. The both of us had a vision that small business could benefit its community in ways other than simply being a new place to eat or shop. We agreed that through this business we would find ways to better our community and serve the people who live here in whatever small way we could.

                  Finally, our hard work and anticipation paid off and we were ready to open. Since then, our staff has gotten smaller and many things have changed, but one thing that hasn’t changed is our desire to serve our community. We believe that small business empowers us to not only sell quality food and drinks alongside unique retail items, but also to achieve personal satisfaction through fellowship. In the three years we have been in operation, we have started a “giving tree” which encourages customers to do a kind deed for a stranger through purchasing a coffee or baked good and leaving a coupon for someone to redeem, a blanket drive which has been pretty successful in giving blankets to newborn and premature babies at a hospital nearby, and this year we plan to collect personal care items to donate to a homeless shelter that will soon be in our community. We believe that these are the things that matter. Of course, money is necessary to keep the business open, but we believe that all types of success, including financial success, are more satisfying if they are gained by spreading positivity and love. Instead of focusing only on the number of items sold and the number shown on the bank statement at the end of the month, we choose to focus first on the relationships we have created, and the people we have served, and it is our belief that by focusing on those things and placing our faith in something greater and more powerful than the money alone, success, personal and financial, will eventually find its way to us. We know, of course, that choosing to serve our fellow human instead of our wallets in todays world means these things might come to us a bit slower, but we believe that hard work and keeping our commitment will make any form of success more fulfilling when it does come.

                We make a choice with each new item we introduce to our menu, to use ingredients that are of the best quality we can find, and that nothing we serve is made by cutting corners or skimping on quality. We believe that in order to serve our customers well, the products we serve must be taken personally, and for that reason many of the recipes we use are actually family recipes which have been handed down to us from our mothers, grandmothers, and other family members. Many people feel that using family recipes puts them at risk somehow, but we feel like using them for our menu not only serves our customers well, but also honors the legacy of those who handed them down to us. When we share these recipes with one another at work, and when we teach each other how to make these things, we are brought back in our minds to times past. Instantly, we remember our mothers and grandmothers teaching us the things we are now teaching to someone else. We believe that those memories, and the feelings they create in us, and hopefully in our customers as well, are what will set us apart from “big” businesses.

               One of my favorite things about our particular business model is that we can get to know our customers in a way that most people who work in restaurant settings cannot. Coffee shops are different from a typical restaurant environment, in that there is no rush. Most servers in restaurants are tasked with keeping customers satisfied while simultaneously attempting to get a table cleared for the next set of customers. For this reason, even when the employees strive to be friendly and personable, almost all restaurant guests would agree that at times they feel at least slightly rushed. In a coffee shop, there is no real rush. In fact, we know many of our customers on a first name basis, along with the names of their children, and in some cases, grandchildren. We are fortunate in the workplace, in that time can move a little slower when dealing with our customers, so many of them actually become friends with our staff as time passes. In today’s world, everything and everyone seems to be moving incredibly fast. Everyone is in a rush to get to the next place, and people are looking down at their phones or ahead to their plans so much that no one seems to have the time to just enjoy “right now”. We make a priority to create an environment where our customers can be taken care of in a timely manner, but not feel rushed, and be encouraged to stay for a while if they choose to do so. Some of the most profound and thought-provoking conversations I have ever had, happened here in this coffee shop while I was on the clock, speaking with a customer. For that, I am unbelievably grateful.

               We believe that we are different. That’s not to say that anything is “wrong” with any other business model in our area, just that the best way to properly serve a community is for each business to do their own thing, so people can have more diverse choices when considering where they would like to spend their time. Utilizing our staff experience, home made quality items, and our inviting atmosphere, we work to create an entire experience, that we believe is different from other experiences to be had here. We have a tremendous respect for the other restaurants and diners in our community, and for that reason we make sure our menu is completely different from theirs, so that people do not have to choose which place they like “better”, rather they can eat with us when they crave something from our menu, and someplace else if they are in the mood for their menu instead. It is our belief that friendly competition is what kept “Small town USA” afloat for so long, and in these modern times we need to find a way to bring that back. There is enough business for everyone, so we see no need to undercut anyone else to secure our share.

                 I can truly say that I love my job. Here, I have found a family in many ways, and some of the best friends I have were found here, either through co-workers or in some cases, customers. It is my humble opinion that the products we offer are of an exceptional quality, and the environment here is unique and welcoming in a way that will keep people coming back. Not many people today can or will admit that they are truly happy in their positions at work, or that they truly believe in the vision of their company. I am fortunate enough to share a vision not only with the owner of this business, but with my staff as well, and each of them means something very special to me, as does this business. I believe in our ability as a team, not only to make the business a success personally and financially, but to keep our sights on what we believe and to serve our community well as we do it. Furthermore, I think that the majority of customers we see each day have a shared vision. Some of the younger generations can’t remember a time when they felt truly valued at a place they do business, and I know from conversations I have had that some of the older generation misses that desperately. It is my sincere hope that they have not given up hope, because I know for certain it still exists, right here in our humble little coffee shop, and I will always be grateful that I am fortunate enough to be a part of it. 

Written by Ashley McKnight 11/20/18