The aroma of black coffee seeped through the cracks of the doorway of The Sandhill Coffee House, piercing the early morning with the smooth, rich scent of roasted beans, and … hints of vanilla, spice, nuts, and Fall.
It was an important day in York, Georgia – the day that the Sandhill Coffee House presented its seasonal line-up of new coffee blends.
And people around the small town looked forward to the day – even the non-coffee drinkers. Not only did the coffee house launch its fall flavors of coffee … they launched new autumnal flavored hot teas, baked goods, and homemade soups.
The invigorating odors coming from the 35-year, two-generation, family-owned business bridged the gap between the non-coffee, coffee, and tea drinkers. It just drew everyone into the cafe.
Well, it wasn’t just the products that drew the folks in – it was the family that ran the place that played a big part in its popularity – Simon Jones, his wife, Teresa, their two youngest children, Sadie and Scott, and Simon’s brother, Matthew and his wife, Leigh Ann.
Simon had loved coffee for a long time, and while building houses, he learned how to ‘build the perfect coffee blend.’ He sold his contracting business and opened the coffee house within two years. Simon became a certified roaster and master coffee blender.
Sadie went to college overseas and studied coffee making and roasting. Scott went to business management school and became a certified accountant. Matthew handles the marketing. Leigh Ann bakes, and Teresa handles the homemade soups they serve.
So, today was a special day.
The sign outside the door said Closed. It was early – it was 6 am. They would be opening their doors in 30 minutes. There were fall decorations inside the windows. Over the outside speakers, the sounds of old Motown tempted, if you will pardon the pun, all who passed by into smiles.
Matthew yawned as he walked outside with the signs to put on the sidewalk advertising the new flavors. He had on the uniform of the store – the colors matched the season – orange, browns, and black. Someone in a truck honked as they passed. “Hey, Matthew!” A voice called through an open window.
He turned around, and waved, “Hey!”
Sadie Jones walked across the street, carrying her backpack, and dressed in a similar uniform to her uncle, with her long, chocolate brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. “Good Morning, Unc.”
“Hey, Tiny Dancer! You ready for the unveiling?” Matthew asked as he worked on the sign.
Sadie stopped, “You want me to get, Daddy?” She reached for the door.
“Yeah, holler for them to come up. You got your phone? I want to do a live.” Matthew started looking for his phone in his pockets. “I think I left mine in the office.”
Sadie reached into her pocket and handed her phone to him. “Here you go. I will be right back. DADDY!” Sadie called as she walked into the coffee house.
Scott was standing behind one of the three cash registers. “Lord, you are loud this morning.” He was putting money in the register.
Sadie smiled, “Good morning to you too, Grumpy. By the way, you left this on the kitchen table.” She tossed him his wallet as she passed by. “Unc says we are going to do the unveiling.”
Scott caught his wallet and shut the register. “Will you grab my phone off my desk, please?”
She nodded, as she passed through the cafe, greeting a few employees who were sauntering about, and walked through the kitchen, where her aunt and mom were working on soups and baked goods with the kitchen staff. “Hey, Mom. Auntie. Unc wants everyone upfront for the unveiling.”
“’ Morning, wild child. Thank you. Go tell your dad, he is in the office.” Teresa said. Sadie kept walking.
“Morning, sweetness,” Leigh Ann called as she stuck a pan full of baked goods in the oven.
Sadie went back through a hallway where the employee lounge was located, as well as offices – Matthew and her dad’s office, her and Scott’s office, and a conference meeting room.
She threw her bag in her and Scott’s office, grabbed her apron, and a hat, pulling her ponytail through the back. Her brother’s phone was sitting in the middle of his desk. As she went to grab it, someone poked her from behind.
“You ready, daughter?” Simon stood behind her – dressed in uniform, sans the apron, and hat.
Sadie nodded. “Unc said it is time to do the unveiling.”
“So, this is all you today, baby girl, and I wanted you to know I think you did a good job with the flavorings and the roastings.” Simon fixed the front of her hat and turned to walk out the door with her.
Sadie sighed, “I am nervous, can you believe it?” They walked back up the hall.
“You shouldn’t be. You have done a lot of research and I think we made some good choices,” He held open the swinging door to the kitchen. No one was in the kitchen.
Sadie nodded, “Maybe. Hopefully.”
When they got outside, they joined the rest of the employees around the front of the store. Sadie handed Scott his phone, and Matthew took his phone from Simon, giving Sadie her phone back.
“So, big brother, want to say a few words before we do this?” Matthew handed his phone to his assistant who would be filming. Scott and Sadie stood against the window, behind their dad and uncle, and the sign. Teresa and Leigh Ann were on the other side.
“Well, guys, this will be our 35th launch of autumnal season drinks … And what a ride it has been to get this together. I have to say, I couldn’t be prouder of these blends, especially since, of the six, I only did two, and Sadie took over the reins on the other, and all of you had something to do with these. It is a team effort and all that. Let’s hope everyone else likes them.” Simon said and looked at Matthew.
Then he added, “And we appreciate you all wearing your masks, and remembering the protocols. Staying six feet apart, and sanitizing and cleaning. We are small-staffed, and today everyone is here, but I see what we are all. Teresa and Leigh Ann will be taking temps all throughout the day, and if you feel sick at any point, don’t come to work or go home. We will take care of you, and you won’t lose your jobs. If you see a customer come in that is not wearing a mask or following the protocols, they will be asked to leave. Not going to put any of you in the line of fire, find me or Matthew or Scott or Sadie. Your health and our customers’ health is the most important.”
Sadie piped in, “And we have as you all know, marked off the areas, and changed the tables around and marked the lines off to keep everyone as safe as we can. Everyone was given five masks with filters and without, and your gloves and own personal hand sanitizer. These pockets on these aprons will hold them all.”
Matthew nodded, “COVID-19 is still out there … we all know that … several of us have had to deal with it personally and with members of our family. Everyone as of today as a clean bill of health.”
There were about a dozen employees besides the family members. Everyone was standing a good distance from each other as they could and they all had on masks, though some hadn’t pulled them over their noses yet.
“Sadie, Scott, Teresa, Leigh Ann, need you guys up here.” Everyone gathered around the sign, and Matthew motioned everyone else around. “Um, wait. We need someone to take a photo as she does the picture.” Matthew said.
“I’ve got you.” Malik Anderson, owner of the bookstore across the street, and Sadie’s fiance came jogging up. Sadie grinned and passed him her phone. He stood next to Matthew’s assistant.
Malik is a former college basketball star – a power forward – who came back home after he was injured, and his career came to a stop. His grandmother had owned the bookstore, and Malik took it over. “Wait to come up with the save, Malik,” Simon said. Malik nodded and pulled his own mask over his face.
“Everyone, pull up your masks,” Simon said, and he turned to his kids, “Even if we are talking in this thing … just talk loud. We want to be proactive here.”
“OK, we are on Facebook Live people.” Matthew’s assistant said. “Just like we rehearsed.”
Simon looked at Matthew, who nodded. Simon stood out from the sign and the group. “Hey. We are here at the Sandhill Coffee House at 172 N. Maxwell Street, in downtown York. The aromas of freshly baked goods, pots of homemade soup and, of course, our blends of special coffees have us all excited, and hungry.”
Matthew said, “I am Matthew Jones, and this is my brother, Master Roaster Simon Jones, and our Sandhill Coffee House family. We are about to do our big reveal of the new autumnal blends we have for the Fall and wanted you our Facebook family to get the first look.”
Scott stepped up, “Our coffees, teas, soups, and delicious baked goods are all homemade, and recipes that come from years of experience.” He pointed to his dad, mom, aunt, and uncle, “and a little of bit of newness.” Scott walked over to Sadie and gestured to himself and his sister.
Sadie had her hand on the sheet covering the sign. “This season’s blends combine the comfort of tradition and the boldness of the new day. So, here we go.” She slowly took the covering off, and added, “We have our traditional Autumn Blend, the Genuine Pumpkin and Caramel Spice coffee blends.”
“And now, we are adding a Cinnamon Graham Coffee – with a mix of cinnamon-brown sugar simple syrup blended with a graham cracker – sure to be your favorite as a coffee or a latte,” Scott said.
“We also have our new Maple coffee – which combines fresh maple, clove, and other spices,” Matthew said.
“Lastly, we are introducing, my personal favorite, a Mexican Spice blend with cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, and other spices,” Simon said.
The sign was revealed.
“For our teas, we have our original Vanilla Chai, Pumpkin and Cinnamon and Autumn Blend, as well as a Maple and Brown Sugar and Spicy Apple. We have four soups for the fall – our famous Grandma Nannie’s Potato Soup, Chicken and Rice Soup, and Auntie Ella’s Vegetable Soup with two new – Sandhill Sweet Potato and Garlic Soup and Sandhill Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.” Matthew said.
“And last but not least, our bakery is smelling oh so good with fresh batches of our Fall cookies and cupcakes – like Spicy Pecan Shortbread cookies, apple pie cupcakes, and pumpkin cheesecake cookies. So, we open in about 20 minutes, come on over.” Scott said.
The camera zoomed in on Simon. “COVID-19 hit everyone hard. A lot of lives have been lost, businesses have closed and people have gotten sick, and are still getting sick. Here at the Sandhill Coffee House, we take this very seriously, even now, months later. We wear masks. We wear our gloves. We clean a lot, and we social distance. We have done curbside and delivery, and today’s our first day to open our seating area. You will notice we have spread out, and there will be special markings for customers to follow. We ask that you respect that and respect us, and each other. We are requiring masks when you order, and requiring social distancing. To get sugar or milk or special things for your drinks, ask for it, and we will give you individual wrappings and cups. We ask that all trash goes in trash cans and that there be no grouping of more than four people if possible. It is the only way, we will beat this thing. Thank you.”
Malik took one last picture and looked at Matthew’s assistant who was turning off Facebook live. He said, “And that’s done.”
“OK, let’s hit it, people. Hit your stations.” Matthew said taking his phone back from his assistant, and he wiped it down with a cloth.
Malik handed Sadie hers. “Hey, can I talk to you a minute over her?” He asked nodding to a spot near the outdoor dining area. Sadie nods and follows him over.
“Nervous?” He asked her as they leaned against a brick outer wall, facing each other.
She shook her head. “Maybe? I think I will finally be able to sleep once this launch is over.”
“Well, I wanted to wish you luck and to give you this. It was in the mailbox this morning – since we didn’t get it yesterday ...” It was a large manila envelope.
She read the return address. “The Specialty Coffee Association of America.” Sadie looked at him. “Oh my.”
Sadie tore into it. As she pulled it out, she hollered, “DADDY!” Malik smiled behind his mask. “Open it.” He had his phone out taking pictures of her.
Simon walked over, “What trouble are you two starting over her?” Simon asked, and then he saw it. “Is that what I think it is?”
“Yes.” Sadie pulled it out – her master coffee roaster designation.
Simon held out his hand in a fist, and Malik's fist-bumped him. “You did it, squirt. Malik, get her picture. We need to post this.”
“After all those months and all those roastings, finally.” Sadie stepped away from the wall and held up her certificate. “Wait, Dad, you get in the picture.” Simon walked over, and they both held it.
Malik asked, “With the masks on?”
Simon said, “Do one with them on, and without them on.” After the pictures were taken, Simon took the certificate, “I have the frame ready.” He walked off.
Sadie laughed, “My father.”
“It’s launch day, you know, and he’s proud of you, his little roaster,” Malik said, and leaned down, “And I am proud of you too.” He pulled his mask to his chin, and kissed her forehead.
He quickly pulled his mask back on, and started across the street, “See you in a bit.”
She nodded. “You know, you just can’t do that, kiss my forehead, and leave me hanging like that … that is the spot,” Sadie said.
“Bring some of the Spicy Mexican Coffee home tonight and we will continue this then.” He waved as he trotted back to his store.
Sadie walked around to the front door. Scott was standing there, texting. “Master Roaster, huh? Congrats, sis.”
“Thank you, Master CPA,” Sadie said.
Scott put his phone back in his pocket. Sadie took in a deep breath, and smiled, “I smell cinnamon, maple, vanilla, and nutmeg.”
“Her brother grinned, “I smell money.” They walked inside, and Scott flipped the sign to open.
And launch day at the Sandhill Coffee House began.