It didn’t take long for customers to flock to Shay Bennett’s coffee stand, eventually helping her win the 2020 Best Of contest's Best New Business award.
Bennett, who has been a barista for 14 years, bought the turquoise drive-thru in west Stanwood on Feb. 17 — three days after her 30th birthday.
“I decided on my birthday to branch out on my own,” the Camano Island resident said. “It was a two-day sale.”
The ink on the deal was barely dry when the COVID-19 pandemic ground business to a standstill.
“My sales plummeted after COVID,” she said. “I was crying every day.”
In spite of the bleak economic situation, Bennett said she decided to refocus on trying to spread positivity during a dark time.
So she and her staff, who volunteered their time, made more than 500 lattes since the pandemic started, delivering them to staff at local senior centers, community organizations and long-term care facilities. When word got out, customers started donating toward the cause, too.
“I’ve always believed that you can do good things as well as make money,” Bennett said. “It shouldn’t have to be a choice. Even before COVID, I was on a mission to do everything I could do to help people.”
She also has orchestrated food drives through her coffee stand.
“If I’m approached by a group asking for help my answer is always, ‘yes,’” she said.
In addition to her altruism, she brought in new products, new drinks and locally made pastries.
“I think my passion for the business really shows,” she said. “I live, sleep, breathe coffee drinks. I’m constantly researching and creating crazy drinks that no one is doing. That gets people attention and then when people try them they keep coming back.”
Her efforts are paying off. Her sales have increased four-fold since she took over the business in mid-February. Bennett said customers should expect to see an additional location on Camano Island later this year.
Until then, the west Stanwood drive-thru is open 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends next to the Shell gas station at 10404 Highway 532. For more, visit facebook.com/bestcoffeeon532.
“I’m not going to stop donating to the hard-working people of this town,” Bennett said. “I’m glad I bought the business. People finally get to see my heart. I finally have an outlet to do good.”