After a fire devastated their family-run business almost seven months ago, Mr. Smith's Coffee House owners Trent and Sara Beard are ready to open their doors again Sept. 19. The beloved downtown coffee house, known for its warm ambiance and aromatic brews, has been a fixture in the Sandusky community for the last 15 years.
Before the Beards reopen their doors on Sept.19, they answered questions surrounding the revival of the Columbus Avenue establishment. From the refurbishments to the menu enhancements, we have all the details to satisfy your curiosity about the triumphant return of Mr. Smith's Coffee House.
Mr. Smith's was named a 2021 Firelands Best of the Best Awards winner. (Photo/Courtesy of Trent and Sara Beard)Q: Mr. Smith’s is a family-run business. What has family life been like since the fire? Is there anything you’ve been able to do as a family that you wouldn’t have been able to do with the business being open or, conversely, anything you haven’t been able to do because the business has been closed?
A: Both of our kids are adults and both work at the shop. Our son Alex has worked here since he was 16 and is a full-time employee and shift manager who knows the ins and outs of just about everything here. Our daughter Lydia is a junior this year at Kent State and works over her breaks. Lydia missed her entire summer break's worth of working because of the fire. Family life basically got twisted around, with our routines being thrown out the window, and we have had little to no control over when and how things were going to be put back together (until very recently).
We went to Cedar Point more in one summer than we ever have before. We also had many more family dinners than usual, which is always nice. We all slept in more than any of us can remember doing for quite some time.
Our daily focus shifted from maintaining an ongoing business (ordering inventory, making work schedules, working shifts) to trying to solve a complex puzzle that involved insurance adjusters, accountants, contractors, inspectors, and so on. And now, after so many weeks (months), we are finally getting ready to re-open.
New sofas are in place at Mr. Smith's Coffee House.Q: Your customers are like family. How have you kept in touch with them and what has the response been from them and the community?
A: We have primarily tried to put updates about what is happening (or sometimes what isn't happening) on our Facebook page
. Sara usually puts together a description of what work has been done or what progress has been made with the shop, and we include any photos we think people would find interesting. We get a lot of responses from those posts. People comment very positive things; usually that they are happy to hear good news and that they can't wait until we open again. The comments mostly come from customers we know by name and face, and they absolutely mean the world to us. There have been many low points for us emotionally during this process, but everyone's positive vibes and remarks have really been motivational for us.
We have also run into many of our regulars out and about this summer, at the grocery store or a few downtown events. It's been nice to see their faces and share news first-hand with some of them. We really do miss so many of them, as over the years they've come to feel like family.
We were also thankful to have two downtown businesses arrange fundraisers to help us financially. Bake Erie
hosted an auction with gift items from other local businesses as well as individuals, and Small City Taphouse
used some of our coffee beans to create a coffee infused dark beer that they sold at their location. They all donated the proceeds to us, which we were able to use to help our employees during this time. And an extra bonus was that they were such feel-good events for us, being able to see some of our supporters in person.
Q: Since you are in the remodeling phase, are you reimagining the space? Will customers notice any changes to the menu and/or interior?
Guests are welcome to read a book from the coffee house library while they enjoy their beverages.
A: There are differences in the shop. There is an entirely new drop ceiling with new lighting fixtures. The tile floor behind the counter as well as in the kitchen is all new. The dining area has been painted and the colors are much lighter and neutral so that the art we have from local artists on the walls stands out much more. The tile floors in the bathrooms will also be replaced sometime after we open. The mural paintings in the bathrooms and the front seating area were able to be preserved and sealed.
Our menu will be mostly the same, as over the years we've tweaked it to be what it is today based on customer favorites, etc. Of course we always like to serve up different food and drink specials which change seasonally, and we have some ideas for when we reopen.
Q: What is your vision for Mr. Smith’s for the next five years?
A: Our vision is pretty much to maintain and continue to run our shop to be welcoming to all. Sara and Trent have been doing this for nearly 30 years, 15 of those here at Mr. Smith's. Our original business plan stated that our basic goal with this business was to have a place that would provide a living for ourselves and our employees and serve as a community hub of sorts. We think we've managed to do that by providing delicious food and drink items and by creating a comfortable space for people apart from work and home. We love being people's "third place” - not home and not work, but another place they feel comfortable and welcome, where they can relax (or even get some work done).
Q: Is there anything else you would like your customers and the community to know about the business and the future reopening?
We are super excited about re-opening! Although we missed the summer, which is busy for everyone, autumn is our favorite time of year and we are ready for it. We will be reopening with all the fall goodies, like our fan-favorite Pumpkin Pie Latte. We truly can't wait to be back behind the counter brewing up all that goodness and seeing everyone's smiling faces!