The text below has been translated from the article: http://cldbm.qc.ca/le-cafe-virgin-hill-source-de-reconfort/

Virgin Hill Coffee, a source of comfort
08 June 2020 

For many, good coffee is a ritual. For the Brûlerie Virgin Hill Coffee in Lac-Brome, coffee has been its raison d'être since 2005.

Text by Étienne Gosselin

We went to their Atelier Café to smell the aromas and savor the carefully roasted mixes in the Foster sector. But the first action that Tara Moar and her partner Matthew Greer took with the pandemic, was to remove tables and chairs from their place to facilitate physical distancing. Shortly after, they closed their doors altogether... to open a drive-thru service!

Crisis drives innovation - but no need to reinvent the wheel. Virgin Hill has reviewed everything: marketing, promotion, business model. "Initially, we lost 70% of our income, because a large part of our turnover involved restaurants, cafés and hotels, calculates Tara. We therefore concentrated on delimiting the areas that we control: the Atelier, the website, and stocking the grocery stores. We are committed to making the most of these sales channels. Today, our turnover remains about 40% lower than that of pre-COVID. We had to resolve to lay off three people. "

The company has therefore moved from a B2B model to a B2C business, offering specialty, decaffeinated, espresso, organic or flavored coffees, all in smaller formats. "We have increased our online sales by 10 times, directly to customers," says Tara. The virginhillcoffee.com site had already been using the Shopify transaction platform for five years. This drives the majority of sales, whose delivery is free for orders of $ 49 and more. The company has also registered on the Maturin digital market (maturin.ca), the Vitrine québécoise (francoislambert.one), the electronic platform of the Eastern Townships (etownships.com) and La Bouchère ready-to-simmer lunch bags (labouchere.ca). The key word: diversification.

Virgin Hill's Facebook site was also used with videos and contests, the two things that drive interest on social media, according to Tara. The result: a 10% increase in subscribers in the past two months, without paying for the services of the Californian multinational. On the contrary, Virgin Hill has invested in the local economy by sponsoring the morning show of the Granby M105 cooperative radio station. The company's email database has also more than doubled since mid-March. As for the car (or bicycle!) service that was tested for two days at the end of April, it is so popular that they want to expand on it further: after all, the company is not two kilometers away from highway 10, exit 90.

What will be left of Virgin Hill after the pandemic is over? Our employees have been fantastic at adapting. We explained to them that we would try to do everything to keep as much work as possible, but that this meant that they changed their roles. It was a real moment of "pulling together" for all of us. Who would be surprised? Good coffee, what better way to get together - physically or virtually!