Coffee Connection: How one of Oswego’s oldest coffee shops has struggled through COVID & inflation

Oswego, NY — Coffee is part of the majority’s morning routine. Many have the pleasure of purchasing their drink from their favorite coffee shop in order to start the morning off on the right foot. COVID unexpectedly impacted local shops like Coffee Connection with inflation and supply shortage which made it hard to sustain small businesses. 

“Inflation right now is worse than it was. It was harder to get items and the cost of shipping went up but now everything is insanely priced. Eggs are $4 now. They used to be 70 cents,” Tara Hoyt, the owner of Coffee Connection, said. 

Coffee Connection is one of the oldest coffee shops in Oswego with over 27 years of service. Hoyt is the current owner of the establishment and purchased it after the initial owner couldn’t afford keeping the business afloat because of the financial crisis that many small business owners faced throughout the pandemic. 

Elizabeth Schmitt is an economics professor and faculty assembly chair at SUNY Oswego. She defined inflation as “an overall increase in overall price levels.” 

Hoyt detailed the importance of dairy products for her business and how she didn’t realize the impact of the increase in prices and decrease in supply until the holidays rolled around this year. 

“I usually do an eggnog latte and now I might just do it with syrup and say ‘apologies.’ They want for cheap eggnog, not even a decent one, $6 for a half a gallon. I don’t know how that happened, that doubled in price,” said Hoyt.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food-at-home consumer price index or CPI, which consists of grocery store and supermarket prices, are predicted to rise from 11 to 12%  in 2022 and 2.5% to 3.5% in 2023. This affects the prices and demand of basic grocery items that are staples in thousands of American households.

Schmitt said inflation prior to the pandemic was steady.

“Inflation in the United States has been headline news. Inflation has actually hovered around 2% for almost 2 decades, in a certain success of price stability and then after the pandemic it explodes. We peaked about 8.2 % and last week we got news that suggests it’s running around 7.7%,” said Schmitt. 

Based on information from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, milk, coffee and eggs have experienced an increase in prices from 2020 to 2022. To put into perspective the impact of price changes for coffee alone, the average price per pound in 2020 was $4.43 but increased to $4.71 in 2021. As of Oct.10, the average price for coffee is $6.41. 

Average price of goods 2020-2022 according to information from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics

Hoyt said some of the supplies she needs in order to run the shop have either increased in price significantly, are back-ordered without explanation or have high shipping costs. This has forced her to search for new vendors and distributors and even to stop selling products she has sold for years and have become customer favorites. In particular, coffee.

“Coffee was affected big time. Certain climates in certain places caused shipping to stop so I had to discontinue certain coffees that people have had for years because I can’t get them,” said Hoyt.

The pandemic and economic fluctuations that came with it have not only affected the inventory for small businesses but also their clientele. Hoyt said despite the world going back to what it was like before COVID, she lost clients that can’t afford her products anymore even when her drink prices are cheaper than large corporations. 

“The community has adjusted. Not everyone. You know you’ve lost a portion of your customers that just can not afford the luxury, which I understand. I still have decent lower costs than I feel a lot of people do. I try to keep it within the average of what it costs me but also what other people sell it for and not just base it off of one direction,” said Hoyt.