Semley’s 918 Coffee Company is rewarding local delivery drivers with hot drinks. They’ve opened an outdoor ‘honesty-box’ for people who don’t want to queue in supermarkets and who can’t afford to pay the full price for tea and coffee supplies.
“You’ll find it’s just outside the door. There are a couple of stickers on the front explaining what it is and hopefully it’s pretty evident,” said managing director Justin Cornelius. “Open the door, have a look inside, take what you need to take. All we ask is that you close the door and keep it secure.”
Justin launched this outdoor pick-up service after he became aware that customers are trying to limit interaction with others and didn’t want to enter his shop. “It is available 24/7 so people can come in during the night if they don’t want to risk bumping into others. It is on camera but it’s not something that we are strictly monitoring,” he said.
Justin is still unsure what to call the wooden cupboard. “It was called the ‘Humanitarian Cabinet’ yesterday,” he laughed, but he’s serious about not needing to pay if the COVID-19 measures have taken away your source of income or livelihood. “We put together a suggested donations list, but for what it is costing, it is better say that if you’re taking more than a single supply then make a donation for what you think it’s worth. It is not worth charging for the tiny amounts that we are expecting people to be taking. If it’s the odd bag of coffee or tea bag. we can’t put a value on that at the moment. It’s more important that people know it’s available,” said Justin.
“If you can afford a donation, fantastic. If not, just help yourself but be considerate of others. We stocked it with bare essentials, dried milk, sugar sachets and instant coffee, fresh coffee and tea bags. Help yourself if you don’t want to stand in the queue somewhere,” he added.
Justin believes that local businesses have a role to play in supporting our community through this crisis. “We all need to come together and do our bit. Small businesses like ours are dependent on customers. If we can keep people going through these times, I’d like to think they would come back and this will pay us dividends in the future,” he said.
He’s also set up a separate hot drinks machine where delivery drivers can grab a cuppa. He says he respects those key workers without whom he would not have a business. “We have banned delivery drivers from coming into the factory to protect the members of staff. That’s happened across most businesses in the area now. I was talking to a few delivery drivers last week and they felt a bit isolated because they were being told to stay outside. I understand the logic, but we don’t want to alienate them. If we can help by offering some hot drinks outside, and it makes their day a little better, so be it.”
Justin is Semley’s biggest employer. Many of the customers he supplies – cafés and restaurants – will have had to close. This will potentially impact on his operation. “Our staff are acutely aware of the situation. They are all well and fit which is great news. We are doing our very best to keep everything going so we can look after those guys. We are a big family effectively. I feel very responsible for them. None of them can afford to not be in work,” he said.
Justin’s business, the 918 Coffee Company, takes its name from his and his wife’s lucky numbers. Justin says they have served him well over the year with ‘serendipity’. If you get back what you give in life, let’s hope good karma, rather than luck, will see this business through this crisis.
The 918 Coffee Company is on Semley Business Park, Station Rd. The postcode is SP7 9AN.