ST. LOUIS — Olivia Ridgel has relied on faith and family to get through life.
When it comes to major milestones in her life — like navigating her small business, Oliver’s Coffee + Flower Bar, through the COVID-19 pandemic and even how she met her future husband — it certainly seems like divine intervention has played a role.
Coffee, too, has been a tenet for Ridgel. Growing up with Black and Mexican parents, coffee played a big role in family dynamics and is why she is so passionate about the drink.
The 30-year-old also has a business acumen that’s gone a long way to help engender the Maplewood community to her coffee and flower cafe, which first opened at 7401 Hazel Ave. in September 2019. A striking floral wall has become a destination for the local Instagram crowd that’s also helped sales, something Ridgel counted on when she created her business plan.
In addition to the flower wall, the cafe also sold flowers, sourced from Florist Row near downtown St. Louis, which Ridgel has temporary halted until business bounces back from the 75% decline experienced in 2020.
How did you get into the coffee business? I always wanted a coffee shop. It started when kids from my church needed help with tutoring. I opened Oliver's at my church. We would meet there Monday through Friday. It helped me see the vision more thoroughly. And then I had a really bad breakup with this guy. I was like, "what am I waiting for? I'm gonna do this, I'm not gonna wait for a guy. I'm not gonna wait for another relationship."
Sales declined 75% during the pandemic. What has that been like? We were hurt badly and it was scary. But, you know, I'm strong with my faith, and I just believed that it was just gonna turn around. I knew that God had it in His hands. And then, the St. Louis community is amazing. When everyone was starting to support Black-owned businesses, and I posted on my windows that we were Black-owned, the amount of support that picked up was just insane. The second dine-in ban came, and (sales) went back down again. But we were able to stay open and we were making just enough to pay our four employees.
What's it like operating the cafe now versus when you first opened? It was a lot easier before. But my thought process with my cafe has always been that when people come in to the cafe, I want them to feel like this is home. With the pandemic, I wanted to keep that same energy. So we did whatever we had to do to make people feel safe.
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