How long has Sleepy Monk existed?
Rachel Conyers: “The business began in 1989.”
How long have you had the business?
Conyers: “We’ve had the business since 2011. We were serving Sleepy Monk coffee in this location for many years before, but we bought the business in 2011.”
How did you become involved?
Rebecca Parker: “We’ve been in the area many years and we’ve both been involved in the hospitality business at different establishments. The previous owners knew of us and invited us to come help out.”
What appealed to you most about the opportunity to work in the coffee industry?
Conyers: “It’s not corporate.”
Parker: “We worked in corporate for many, many years. It was something that we looked forward to doing when we came to live at the beach, to get away from that corporate structure.”
Did you ever envision that you would one day run a coffee business?
Conyers: “We knew we would have a business. We always worked in food and beverage. I don’t think we thought it would be a coffee business per se, but we knew that we would have a business.”
Coffee seems to have its own culture in the Pacific Northwest. Why do you feel it’s as ingrained as it is?
Parker: “Number one it’s the weather — who doesn’t want a nice cup of joe on a rainy, windy afternoon? I think when times were rough people gave up a lot of things but I don’t think coffee was one of them. It’s their vice, their treat. It’s their enjoyment.”
With numerous roadside stands and nationally-known brands in your backyard, it seems to be a crowded coffee market, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. How do you stay successful year after year?
Conyers: “We’re about customer service, that’s where we pride ourselves. We take care of customers and coworkers. If they’re happy, we’re able to take care of our customers and provide spectacular service. Working in corporate taught us that.”
How many employees do you have?
Conyers: “There are 11 of us.”
What do you feel distinguishes Sleepy Monk?
Conyers: “Our coffee is organic, fair-trade and roasted right here in Cannon Beach. All of our pastries — well 80 percent —are made here. We get our donuts from Dundees, our bagels from Bagels by the Sea and some pastries from Dough Dough Bakery. But again it’s our customer service. People will come to Cannon Beach maybe once or a couple times a year and we’ve built relationship with their families and kids. Just remembering them, their drinks and making everyone feel special is what it’s all about.”
Parker: “Our following on Facebook is unheard of, just the fans this place has. People will tell us that they plan their vacations around when we’re here and not and that the first place they come to is Sleepy Monk when they arrive in town. They may come for a week or two and they will come in every day and we establish that closeness with them. It’s sad when we have to say goodbye but the next thing we know it’s been a year and they’re back again.”
You said today (Sunday, Dec. 30) was a busy day, how much coffee do you go through on a day like today?
Conyers: “We sold 151 one-pound bags of coffee and we probably made about 800 drinks today. We served about 1,000 people.”
Winter is typically the slow season for local commerce. Is there a seasonality to your business?
Conyers: “We used to be as Cannon Beach used to — very seasonal. But now I feel like our business is busy all the way through. We’re lucky that we get to shut down for 30 days. We always close the month of January so we can vacation and recharge. One roaster will stay and keep roasting in January to supply restaurants and our online business.”
How long have you been selling your coffee online and at what volume?
Conyers: “About eight or nine years. That business has grown from 30 or 40 pounds to hundreds of pounds a week. We ship coffee all over the world. We have one gentleman named Eric and who handles all of our online services.”
How has the volume grown overall over the years?
Conyers: “The previous owners traveled a lot, so they were only open three days a week. By being open six days a week and extending our hours, we’ve been able to grow the business that way.”
What percentage of your business comes through coffee beans sales compared to the drinks?
Conyers: “Usually it goes hand in hand. You order a drink and then you get a pound of coffee. What often happens is people will roll into town Friday afternoon and they come in and get a cup of coffee. Then they come back on Saturday. Then they come back on Sunday, get their drink and a pound or three to go. It’s normal for us to sell 10 to 15 pounds of coffee at a time.”
Have you noticed any new coffee trends or tastes emerging?
Conyers: “People are all about the oat milk right now. That’s one of the trends. Like soy or almond, oat is the new milk that people are crazy about. Our menu isn’t huge. The previous owners taught us that less is more. There are 500 syrups you can offer people from blueberry to cotton candy, but we are very limited. When you give people too many choices they can’t make a decision. Less is more. We do what we do and we do it very well. We use the highest top-quality products that you could possibly use. We use real caramel, make our own chocolate sauce and whipping cream and use organic coffee. We do it well and we’re consistent. We make it the exact same way every time.”
What’s are some of the unique challenges?
Parker: “The biggest challenge is living in small community. For instance, right now our espresso machine is barely hanging on. It needs to be repaired, but sometimes you have to wait for someone to come from the city. A lot of our customers come from the city where they’re used to it being immediate, but we might see 1500 people in a summer day and the line is long all day long, sometimes that can be a challenge.”
Conyers: “We get people from all over the world, but we can tell when someone’s here from the East Coast like New York (Ha-ha). They know exactly what they want.
What’s the best seller?
Conyers: “Probably the Druid’s Delight. It’s a caramel and vanilla espresso with steamed milk and homemade chocolate whipped cream.”
Are there any misconceptions you encounter about coffee?
Conyers: “One thing is people always think is that there’s more caffeine in darker roasts. In reality the lighter the roast the more caffeine that’s in that bean.”
What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since being in business?
Conyers: “Surround yourself with amazing people and treat your coworkers like gold because if you’re loyal to them they’ll feel that loyalty back.”