Editor’s note: The Aspen Daily News recently introduced this new feature, Roaring Back to Life, to highlight local businesses and organizations that have transformed themselves in the wake of COVID-19. To be spotlighted, email intern Cara Chang at email@example.com for more details.
Victoria Haveman and John Beatty used to draw bars and cafes on napkins together. Today, they own Victoria+co, an espresso and wine bar in Aspen.
From mandatory masks to tables 8 feet apart, their beloved business has evolved dramatically in the wake of COVID-19. As they persevere, Victoria and John urge everyone to support and be respectful of one another.
Aspen Daily News: What need do you fulfill in the community?
Victoria Haveman and John Beatty: We are the destination for proper coffee, European quality pastries, natural healthy foods and a killer wine list, all without the attitude. It was our passion to introduce the community and visitors to beautiful coffee that is about flavor, not just caffeination that caused us to open Victoria’s, and that is still the passion that drives us today.
ADN: What do you love most about operating a business in Aspen?
VH & JB: The amazing people from all over the world who have become real friends — we can travel just about anywhere and be able to catch up with a friend, a customer or former employee.
ADN: How are you reacting to the new business climate?
VH & JB: Doing a lot more to-go items, taking care of our staff and working together as a team to provide quality service with less people. We do health monitoring and tracking on all our employees, and they are doing their best to maintain social distancing even when away from the café — they understand how important it is for them to remain safe and healthy. Getting supplies has become challenging — our suppliers are often out of things we rely on.
VH: We have separated all the tables and chairs. What we’re blessed with is square footage; there’s lots of room for comfortable seating in the cafe, but we also have a large patio under that maple tree where we have space for tables to be 6 or 8 feet apart. Customers are not allowed into the restaurant if they do not have a mask on. A proper mask — not a T-shirt! And the whole team wears gloves. We change gloves all the time. Either you have to wash your hands with antibacterial soap or change the gloves. All of the community water bottles that are on the tables are sanitized after they’re used. The tables: Once they’re used, they’re sanitized. There’s so much more cost and so much more labor in running the business under these circumstances.
ADN: How have your consumers adapted to this new normal?
VH: It has been hard for many of them who are used to hanging at the café and socializing freely. I think many people worry about doing the right thing and aren’t always sure how to do that.
ADN: Have your consumers been respectful of your changes?
JB: Increasingly so, I think. Initially not so much, but I think now, thanks to the city’s publicity, I think people are much more aware.
ADN: Have you sought federal, state or local aid?
VH: The city rent support has been a lifesaver, and I think it was a good concept. [Aspen Parking Director] Mitch Osur [who also serves as a] restaurant liaison, deserves a particular shout out for his support. Alpine Bank also went above and beyond to assist with the PPP process.
ADN: What do you need to make it through the season?
VH & JB: No breakouts of COVID-19 that would cause a shutdown.
VH: We’re not working for someone else. We don’t have someone with deep pockets funding this; we have always funded the business on it’s own right. Our rent is paid with our $5 coffee. Our resilience is unstoppable; it doesn’t matter what the circumstance is. To be there for those customers that we’ve known for 13 years, to thank us for putting our masks on or making our chai from scratch. We were open for every single day with takeaway when COVID-19 was on 100% so that we could pay our long-term employees. Even though there was no business, it was giving them a paycheck and taking care of their kids at home. It’s not an option. Not working and not taking care of the community is not an option.
JB: I think there are a lot of people in the community who are stressed.
VH: Hurting. We are giving more coffee to those friends who don’t have a budget who we know are hurting, giving them lunch. We don’t have a budget either, but if we know they’re hurting we’re taking care of them.
JB: And they take care of us.
ADN: What does the future hold?
VH & JB: We’re worried about the next offseason and what the ski season is going to look like — it is not likely that we will see the international visitors we normally see.
ADN: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not managing your business?
VH: Sit by the Roaring Fork River and share a glass of wine or gin and tonic. Between the two main seasons, we love to work on the family farm back in Australia. John and I love working together and hanging together when we aren’t working.
Name of organization: Victoria+co
Years in business: 12
Address: 510 E. Durant Ave., Aspen
Phone number: 970-920-3001
Number of Employees: 10