The leaders of Gillies Coffee on responsibility, resilience and revitalizing a 180-year-old small business
As America emerges from 14 months of uncertainty, lockdowns and business closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gillies Coffee is living proof of the power of resilience. After 180 years, America’s oldest coffee merchants were facing unprecedented challenges due to the sudden closure of the hotels, restaurants and other merchants that make up much of its customer base. But as President Donald Schoenholt stated, “We’re a business that never, ever gives up”.
Schoenholt—along with David Chabbott, VP Sales and Marketing—credits the business’s longevity to the mutually-beneficial support between small, family-run enterprises like Gillies, and a fiercely loyal local community in Brooklyn, NY. “Gillies has always been a business that serves the down-the-street customer,” says Chabbott. Furthermore, the HSCBC value of “We Take Responsibility” has been core for small businesses like Gillies as well. “As business operators, we have responsibilities to our community, our neighbours, our employees, [and] our institutions.”
You can change the world one cup at a time.
From surviving to thriving with the support of HSBC
When Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans first became available to small businesses, Gillies worked closely with HSBC throughout the application process, and ultimately secured two rounds of PPP funding. “It allowed us to keep every single one of our employees on payroll,” says Chabbott. “It allowed us to pivot our focus from just survival, to transition, [and] growth.”
Looking to the future, Schoenholt and Chabbott shared their optimism, and emphasized the importance of supporting one’s local businesses and community. “It is very important that New Yorkers support small businesses, particularly those that support communities of color and blue-collar workers”. After 180 years of change and a particularly challenging 14 months, it’s a belief that has never wavered for Gillies.