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Aurora coffee roaster thinking outside the box, scrambling to keep business afloat during pandemic

Jubilee Roasting Company on roller coaster ride
Posted at 12:39 AM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 19:31:15-04

AURORA, Colo. — Small businesses all across Colorado are struggling to find new revenue streams in the face of forced shutdowns wrought by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Peter Wanberg, owner of Jubilee Roasting Company, said they're just scraping by.

Wanberg started Jubilee four years ago, selling pastries and sandwiches made by allied businesses, and roasting coffee, and selling it to other restaurants and businesses in the Denver metro area.

He has a cafe at 1452 Kenton St. in Aurora, and another at 1075 Park Ave. in Denver.

"Running a small business is a lot of work," Wanberg said. "But it's also really rewarding. You get a lot of amazing customers, a lot of regulars, a lot of community building and then in the midst of that, there's a lot of challenges."

The toughest challenges by far stem from the March 17 order by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to ban on-site eating and dining, and the governor's state-wide stay-at-home order.

Those actions aren't just limiting Jubilee's walk-in customers. They're also affecting businesses that purchased roasted coffee beans from Wanberg's company.

"Wholesale is about 60 percent of our business," he said. "That's down about 90 percent right now."

To replace wholesale, the Jubilee owner has had to think outside the box.

He said he's on the phone with other small business owners daily.

Last week, they came up with a plan to help hospital workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wanberg posted a message on his company's Facebook page encouraging customers to purchase some coffee, pastry or sandwiches for local hospital workers, and then he and his staff would deliver it.

"It was a win-win," he said. "Each week brings new challenges, and each week brings new solutions that we have to implement."

Wanberg said Jubilee is now doing much more e-commerce, encouraging customers to order online. His staff then hand-delivers the order to the customer once they pull up alongside the curb.

One of those customers, Scott Barrett, said he wants small businesses, like Jubilee, to have a revenue stream during these difficult times.

"We can do this in a way that I think is safe, and make sure that these businesses stay viable and can continue paying their employees," he said.

While one of the baristas delivered Barrett's order outside the cafe in Aurora, Head Roaster John Robert was busy roasting a batch of beans inside.

Robert said was trying to not think about these uncertain times, but instead was focused on cooling down a batch of perfectly roasted coffee beans.

"If they don't cool down fast enough — because they come out of there at like 400 degrees — they'll over-bake and they won't taste good," he said.

After the coffee beans had cooled, Barista Adam Thibodeau began packaging them up for sale. He weighs them and seals them in a bag.

Wanberg told Denver7 he's hustling to keep his staff employed and his business afloat.

"Right now, we're doing that, but we can only do that by completely changing the way we do business," he said.