Iowa coffee shop’s community coat rack keeps residents warm
CLINTON, Iowa (AP) — Jay Sanders wasn’t too worried on a recent late morning, when only four coats hung on the coat rack just outside his coffee shop in Clinton, Iowa.
“It’ll probably fill up later today,” Sanders, who owns 392 Caffe with his wife, Jenna Sanders, said as he held the door open for a customer with whom he was on a first-name-basis.
His prediction soon seemed to be proving true.
Within the few minutes it took for Sanders to make a “That Spice Tho” seasonal latte, a fifth coat had appeared on the rack.
“We don’t always see who drops them off or takes them,” he told the Quad-City Times . “Those we do see are everyday people who just need a little help.”
This winter marks the fourth consecutive year that 392 Caffe has offered an outdoor community coat rack for area residents to leave a coat or, as needed, take one.
One of the coffee shop’s regulars sent Sanders a message on Facebook suggesting what she called a “crazy idea.” He quickly responded, “Let’s do it.”
The idea took off.
So many coats, hats, scarves and gloves were dropped off and so swiftly that, within two weeks of its debut, the first store-bought coat rack crumbled from the weight and amount of donations. That wasn’t the only coat rack that fell apart. Others, on especially windy days, had to be chased as they rolled down 2nd Street.
Before winter was over that first year, the plastic rack was replaced with a heavy-duty metal rack built by Sanders’ father-in-law. It is accompanied by a sign that reads: “Have a coat, leave a coat. Need a coat, take a coat. Help keep Clinton warm this holiday season. Be a blessing. Be blessed.”
“The beautiful part was people were dropping off coats as quickly as people were taking them,” Sanders said. “It really shows you the spirit of our community.”
Because of the response, the coat rack has returned each year. Sanders said he set it out in mid-November and plans to keep it outside 24/7, weather permitting, until the end of January.
And he said, based on how many coats come and go, it’s serving a need.
Since opening 392 Caffe in 2011, Jay and Jenna Sanders have focused on bringing better coffee and a “better coffee shop experience” to the area.
“We’ll always be community-oriented,” Jay Sanders said. “At the end of the day, the reason you spend $5 on a coffee is for the communal feel. It’s worth it because it is an experience.”
Soon, the full-scale 392 “experience” won’t be as far away for local residents.
Another 392 Caffe is expected to open by the end of the year on West 2nd Street in downtown Davenport.
“If we’re being successful in a city with a population of 20,000, then realistically it’s a no-brainer to go to a bigger market,” Sanders said. “We already have people driving here from the Quad-Cities for our craft coffee experience, so we think we have that reputation to make it work there.”
The 392 team, Sanders hinted, plans to open at least three more shops in the Quad-Cities by 2020. Meanwhile, a pop-up shop version of the coffee shop will continue to serve a limited menu at Baked Beer & Bread Company in the Village of East Davenport
And, Sanders said each stand-alone shop he opens will have its own community coat rack.
“It’s a really simple way for the community to give or receive,” he said. “For the givers, it’s a really simple way to do something that’s not for yourself.”
Information from: Quad-City Times, http://www.qctimes.com