Almost exactly a year ago I started a series of letters to our customers in response to everything that was happening with COVID. It was supposed to be a single letter but ended up being a series of 6 emails over a 3-month period. I had been receiving emails from every business I subscribed to and it was obvious that coronavirus was on a lot of people’s minds. I knew I needed to say something, but I didn’t want to say the usual, “we are aware of the virus and increasing our safety protocols” email. So, I wrote what was on my mind and heart at the time. I just reread that letter and a few things stood out to me. First off, I was so naïve about how long this would last. Second, people were very scared of the unknown in those early days. There was this underlying fear and legitimate concern from people in the ‘hot spots’ at that time. I made a statement in the 2nd email, “I am sure there are times when people are allowing their fear to create anger and impatience, but I didn't see it at Costco yesterday, and I was encouraged. This is a terrifying time, and fear can turn into a lot of emotions which are not helpful. It was an excellent reminder to me to shepherd my heart & thought life in a way that brings out the positive responses to this time.” It seems that things changed after that. I see much more impatience and anger in the last 6 months. It saddens me that although this country has suffered a great loss in many lives in the last year, we also have lost something else, a genuine love of our neighbors. I hope and pray as vaccines are more readily available and we get closer to herd immunity, the anger and disunity in the country starts to subside as well.
Well, that wasn’t where I was planning on going with this email. The real purpose is to give you, our customers, an update on where Hackberry & the Kellso family is 1 year after COVID. This last year has seen some of my favorite businesses disappear. It has also seen some pretty significant growth for others, and many are just hanging on for dear life. For Hackberry, we probably fall on the positive side of that spectrum. We have seen growth in the last 12 months, but most of that was a huge spike in April through June of last year. First, let me back up a little.
This 1-year anniversary isn’t just a COVID anniversary. I’m not sure how many of you know, because I haven’t been very vocal about this, but I started managing Hackberry as my full-time job on April 1st of last year. Everything I had read and all of the counsel I had received was that the longer I could protect the business from needing to support me and my family, the better off the business would be. So, for 7.5 years, I worked for this business for free. Jenna and I poured every waking hour into it while I was also an IT & Marketing director elsewhere. It was a significant leap of faith to finally walk away from a great job so that I could focus on this business and that leap came at the same time so many other businesses were shutting down due to the virus. In fact, at that time the replacement I hired at my old job asked me if I was sure I really wanted to leave the stability of an essential established business. I was. I couldn’t work that many hours anymore and it was time. I had no idea that the next 3 months would see a tremendous spike in sales that would’ve been unsustainable if I had stayed in the old job. With everyone going home and local coffee & tea shops closing, we were well-positioned to handle a spike in sales. April and May of last year were crazy. We eventually leveled back off, but I’m not sure how Sarah and Sydney were able to keep up with that volume in the smaller location we were in at that time.
With that growth, we decided it was time to get a larger facility and find ways to expand our production capacity. I’ve written quite a bit about that move and continue to with our shop updates, so I won’t detail it here. However, I will say that now that we’re in this place and creeping much closer to opening a coffee & tea shop, I’m so glad we did. This space makes everything easier and it has been a true blessing.
But 2020 was not entirely full of blessings. Like many of you, we have had to deal with difficulties that we didn’t expect. We have had memorial services canceled. Schooling has been a challenge with both Jenna and the kids. I would’ve loved to have Jonathan be able to attend the final quarter of his senior year or the first year of college. But online has freed him up to pour himself into the business as well and that has been great. The other two have been in class for most of this year and I am very grateful. No one in our immediate family has tested positive for COVID, but we’ve had many around us deal with the virus. By God’s grace, we have not had a friend or family member die from it. I know we’re in the minority and am thankful for that. Many of you read about and were so gracious as we suffered the tragic loss in the accidental death of my brother’s 5-year-old son Caleb. I often get questions about how Josh is doing and it is a hard question to answer. On the 21st he started a 3 part sermon series at our church titled The Divine Provisions of a Good God. In that series, he describes the loss and answers that question. He’s only 2 sermons into the 3 part series, but if you happen to have the time, the sermons are worth it.
So here we stand nearing the completion of the first quarter of 2021 and are very excited for the future. I hate the phrase ‘new normal', so I won’t use it. But we are looking at a very different business than we had pre-COVID. When I started my transition over to Hackberry in early 2020, I don’t think I could’ve possibly anticipated these last 12 months. And honestly, I don’t think I would’ve asked for them. But I am confident that this last year was the best it could’ve been and this next year will be an exciting one.
In those first emails, I wrote to ask you all how you were doing and how I could pray for you. The responses were overwhelming. There were many prayer requests and updates all over the country. At this point, I’d love to send the same request out. It may not be the same circumstances as before, but I’d love to hear from you how you’ve survived this year. If you need prayer, I’m happy to pray for you. If you just want to let me know that you’re doing well or struggling, I’d love to hear that too. Being an online business, many times our interactions are not very personal. I’m using this email, to help us connect a little bit better.