With Gratitude

Jen Thoemke (of Golden's Cafe 13) describes her emotional profits and losses over the past 12 months.

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Smiling white woman with long hair in a blue shirt.
Courtesy Jen Thoemke

Let me preface this by saying that I am not an insider. I have only been in the industry since 2018, when I purchased Cafe 13 in Golden. I bought the cafe for three reasons: 1. It neighbored my other business, Connects Workspace, a coworking space. 2. I have always dreamed of owning a coffee shop. 3. I love the idea of feeding people and making them happy. I have the utmost respect and admiration for restaurant owners and what it takes to work in this industry. 

Like most, 2020 hit my businesses hard. But as I look back on the last year, I mostly feel very grateful. I live and operate in a community that genuinely cares for each other. COVID shutdowns brought the creation of BGOLDN, a nonprofit that serves our undernourished community by giving away food from local restaurants that receive a fair price (paid for by donations). Community members have purchased gift cards, bought meals for teachers and frontline workers. I have witnessed the best of the human race. 

They show up because they care. They show up for the customers who are kind, gracious, and giving.

My staff, on the other hand, has seen the worst of the human race. They have been spit at, yelled at, had “heil Hitler” salutes directed at them, been laid off, been brought back to work, asked to reduce hours, and subjected to overtime hours—yet they still show up to their scheduled shifts.

I spent the year working to make sure I could keep Cafe 13 operating and ensuring my team was employed. But I failed to look at the deeper issue of their mental health. Many of my staff have families they cannot visit. Some are supposed to be in school or traveling. They are sad and lonely, and yet they show up. They show up because they care. They show up for the customers who are kind, gracious, and giving. We are now meeting with our team one-on-one and checking in on them. We are sharing resources to support them. We are listening. 

While we are still in the middle of restrictions and taking a hit to the bottom line, I feel stable and resilient. I am proud of myself and my team. As I write this, Cafe 13 is closed for the second day in a row due to a water leak from frigid temperatures. In 2019, this would have rocked me. But I sit here in 2021 thinking, “This is life, and thank God for insurance.” I am a stronger person and I am grateful for my health, my team, and my community. 

Talk to us! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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