by Len Lear
Mt. Airy native Meg Hagele opened the original High Point Café at 602 Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy Village in 2005, quickly earning a reputation for delicious baked goods, high quality espresso and top-shelf customer service. She has since expanded her operations to include a second High Point Café location in the Allens Lane Train Station and a wholesale bakery at 6700 Germantown Ave. for the baked goods, supplying restaurants all around the city.
“What is success to me is not necessarily what is success to someone with an MBA from Penn,” Haegle said. “For me it’s a priority to do what is right. I make a living.”
Hagele has attended professional seminars for small business owners through institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania for years.
“In any business, the labor is the most expensive part,” she told us in an earlier interview. “It’s definitely something we struggle with. My staff members are a huge asset. They are my ambassadors. Without them I would not be here at all. For me, it’s more about making sure I am taking care of my staff, as best as I can, and keeping my doors open. I have always been very committed to providing as much salary wage support as I can to my staff. I wish that it could be more.
“As a community, we must recognize that the person who is making your coffee has as much right to a quality of life as the lawyer, who is going to work and can pay $5 for his cup of coffee. We are all raised up by all of us having a good quality of life. For me, having long-term permanent staff who choose to make a career out of their work with me is much more valuable than flipping through a bunch of low-wage uninterested, unengaged people who are not going to come to work with that sense of engagement. I want my staff to stay with me forever.”
Hagele is struggling with the effects of the current pandemic. These days High Point Café is still open for pick-up orders, and they have been dropping off pounds of coffee to Mt Airy, Chestnut Hill and Germantown residents as well as shipping coffee all over the country. But it is far from enough.
“Our sales are down to about one-third of our usual revenue,” Hagele said last week. “April and May are usually our two busiest months, and we count on them to cover the losses we experience every winter and summer. The current revenues cannot cover the costs of even the skeleton staff we have working, but we are applying for all the aid we can and hoping that more will come so that we don’t become one of the thousands of businesses that will simply not make it through this crisis.
“Every customer counts. Every sale matters. Every tip to our staff is greatly appreciated. We have had to change our entire business model in the last couple weeks. Instead of being a social hub, community gathering place and daily ritual stop, we have launched online stores for pick-up at the shops and to deliver pounds of coffee around the country.
“Because we bake a finite number of pastries each day, the biggest challenge is that pastries sell out throughout the day, but we have no way of indicating that … We are asking folks to call in before placing their OrderAhead order to make sure we have the pastry they will be pre-paying for … We are trying to be creative, find ways to continue to serve our amazing community AND keep our doors open.”
Like so many business owners, Hagele has reluctantly and painfully had to lay off about two-thirds of her staff. Some have chosen not to work for safety reasons; some have been told by their doctors not to work because of personal risk factors, and the rest have had hours and shifts cut.
“For lower wage workers, like those in food service,” Hagele said, “missing even a shift can be really hard financially. For those of my staff who rely on tips, even when we pay out their 15 days of sick pay and before unemployment pays half of that, it doesn’t include the tips that are as much as half their income.”
Hagele is putting together a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money for High Point staffers who are not able to work and are in serious financial trouble. As soon as it is up and running, there will be a link on their website, and they will post it through their social media.
For more details, visit highpointphilly.com or call:
602 Carpenter Lane location – 215-849-5153
Allens Lane Station location – 215-248-1900
Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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