In Articles, Entrepreneurship, Small Business Owner

Old Pueblo stood their ground. I couldn’t be prouder of Dean Drawbaugh.

A Revealing Moment at Sabino Canyon

a man in a black shirt serving coffee out of a pink food truckIn the heart of Tucson, amidst the natural splendor of Sabino Canyon, a routine visit to Old Pueblo Coffee’s iconic Boler Camper Coffee Truck transformed into a moment laden with deeper meaning. There, as I stood in line, I witnessed an interaction that became a window into the complex world of small business ownership.

A customer ahead of me, with an air of casualness, posed an unusual request to Dean Drawbaugh, the owner of Old Pueblo Coffee. He inquired if there was a discount for paying in cash, suggesting a 20% reduction in price.

Dean’s response was a blend of surprise and curiosity. He engaged with the customer, asking what kind of discount was expected for a cash transaction. The customer, confident in his proposition, reiterated his expectation of a significant 20% discount for paying in cash. This request, however, was not just about the price of a cup of coffee. It was emblematic of the often unseen pressures faced by small business owners – pressures of maintaining profitability, managing operational costs, and upholding the value of their products and services.

Dean’s polite but firm refusal highlighted his stance. He made it clear that as a small business owner, cash discounts were not feasible. His response was not just about the economics of running a small coffee truck but also about the principle of fair value exchange. The customer, also identifying as a small business owner, seemed to miss the irony of his request, failing to recognize the mutual struggles and the need for solidarity among small business owners.

This exchange, though brief, was packed with layers of meaning. It shed light on the often-overlooked intricacies of running a small business – the thin margins, the constant juggle between affordability and quality, and the challenge of meeting customer expectations while staying afloat. It was a stark reminder of the ethical considerations and the tough decisions that small business owners like Dean face daily in their quest to balance sustainability with customer satisfaction.

The Underlying Challenges for Small Businesses

This incident at Old Pueblo Coffee not only highlights the immediate challenges faced by small businesses but also illuminates the broader, often precarious landscape they navigate. In a time marked by economic upheaval and inflation, these enterprises confront a multitude of pressures.

According to a recent survey, a staggering 62% of independent coffee shops, similar to Old Pueblo Coffee, fail within their first five years, with 17% closing within just the first 12 months. These statistics underscore the fragile financial realities that small businesses like Dean’s must endure.

“Every time a customer asks for a discount, it’s not just a minor dent in a small business’s revenue; it’s a blow to the very heart of their entrepreneurial spirit. These requests, often seen as harmless, actually undermine the countless hours, the risks taken, and the personal sacrifices made by small business owners. We must remember that what might seem like a small saving for a customer can translate into a significant setback for a business already navigating the tightrope of financial viability.” ~ Joseph Kenney

The request for a discount, though it might seem harmless, reflects a deeper lack of awareness about these realities. It’s not merely about cutting costs for the consumer; it’s a matter of survival for the business. Each seemingly minor concession on prices can have a cumulative, significant impact on the viability of a small business. This is particularly true in the context of independent coffee shops, where the margin for error is incredibly thin.

Therefore, such interactions are not just simple transactions but are reflective of the larger economic ecosystem in which these small businesses operate. They are contending not only with the direct challenges of market dynamics but also with the indirect but equally impactful perceptions and expectations of consumers. Understanding and acknowledging these realities is crucial for fostering a more sustainable and supportive environment for small businesses to thrive.

Entrepreneurs United in Understanding

As the conversation between the customer and Dean Drawbaugh, the owner of Old Pueblo Coffee, unfolded, it highlighted a shared understanding among small business owners. Our mutual refusal to undervalue our services or products speaks to a larger ethos of respect and solidarity that is crucial for the survival and growth of small enterprises.

Celebrating Old Pueblo Coffee: More Than Just a Coffee Shop

a picture of the back window of a coffee truck

Old Pueblo Coffee has served the Tucson area for three years. It is emblematic of the entrepreneurial spirit that drives local businesses. Offering more than just locally roasted coffee and delicious bakery items, it stands as a beacon of resilience and commitment in the face of daunting business odds. And no one does it better than Dean Drawbaugh.

A Consumer’s Role in Supporting Local Businesses

This encounter serves as a call to action for consumers. It’s a reminder to appreciate the value of full-priced support in sustaining local businesses. When we choose to pay the full price, we’re not just buying a product; we’re investing in community prosperity and the dreams of local entrepreneurs like Dean.

The Ripple Effect of Our Choices

Our decision to support small businesses like Old Pueblo Coffee has far-reaching impacts. It’s about creating a thriving ecosystem where the success of one contributes to the success of all. Let’s champion these local heroes, for their triumphs are integral to the vibrancy and health of our communities. And remember, don’t ask for cash discounts.

About the Author

Joseph Kenney is the founder of 316 Strategy Group, a company he founded to bring his vision of entrepreneurial support and development to life. As a serial entrepreneur himself, Joseph understands the unique challenges and triumphs of the business world. His journey is marked by a series of successful ventures and a deep-seated passion for innovation and the growth of businesses.

Image Credits: Old Pueblo Coffee

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