Azalea Coffee Bar asks for help on Instagram, sees business boost



Like many small businesses, January has been a slow month for Azalea Coffee Bar. After the owner asked the community for help, customers came pouring in.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Small businesses continue to be negatively impacted by the pandemic. Add in slow winter months, and the lack of sales can be detrimental. One Columbia coffee shop hopes to make it through by brewing up local support.

“Hey guys welcome in,” Brittany Koester said cheerfully while she frothed milk at the espresso machine.

Koester owns Azalea Coffee Bar. She opened shop in Spring 2021, fighting against the odds of the pandemic.

“Yea, it’s been a little wild,” Koester told News19 while letting out a laugh.

Azalea’s unique lattes, like the “First Lady”, have become popular, but Koester said business had lost steam this winter.

RELATED: Winter weather slows business for Columbia restaurants

“A lot of restaurants and small businesses struggle during that time but then you couple it with, you know, COVID is ramping up right now again,” explained Koester.

The ups and downs of COVID-19 are especially tough on the hospitality industry, according to the president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Frank Knapp.

“Things are going well, it’s not going well,” Knapp said while making a rollercoaster motion with his hands. “There’s no control over that. Add to that the labor shortage, and it’s extremely hard for someone in the hospitality industry to plan.”

When she noticed business lulling in January, Koester called on the community for help via Instagram. 

The day after she posted her thoughts, customers came pouring in. 

“It was amazing honestly,” Koester said about the support. “I don’t know if I’ve really digested it yet because we’ve been slammed.” 

Koester was grateful for the renewed support and hopes it’ll give Azalea a jolt during slow times. 

Knapp suggested small businesses also look into getting a boost from federal tax credits. 

“There’s still something called the Employee Retention Tax Credit [ERTC] that’s available to small businesses, and we’re encouraging businesses to talk to professionals to see if they qualify,” Knapp said.

RELATED: South Carolina governor considering plastic recycling bill

For those at home looking to help, Knapp urges people to “please visit a small business.”

The Small Business Chamber can help local businesses apply for the tax credits. To learn more, visit their page on ERTCs or call 803-252-5733.

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