10192021 Ben Hills Flying Crow

In this August 2019 photo, Ben Hills stands inside the newly-opened Flying Crow Coffee Co. café located on Main Street in Springfield, Vt. While Ben and fellow co-owner Samantha Hill recently decided to close the doors on the café citing a number of factors, the couple does intends to keep roasting and brewing coffee.

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Local coffee roastery Flying Crow Coffee Co. will close its downtown coffee house at the end of the month due to a combination of financial burdens, owners announced.

While the young company will continue to roast, deliver, and ship its popular coffee, Flying Crow Coffee Co. owners Ben and Samantha Hills said it is “with a heavy heart and much disappointment” that they will be closing their downtown café, located at 3 Main St.

“Maybe someday we will get to reopen our doors and start anew, but for now, the financial burden has become too great and our resources are tapped out,” the couple wrote on their company’s Facebook page. “We need to focus on roasting, for now anyway.”

Samantha Hills, in correspondence with the Eagle Times, attributed the hardship to a combination of impacts, including declining café sales amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic and an unanticipated change to the family’s situation.

Both New England natives, the Hillses moved to Springfield in 2017 and opened Flying Crow Coffee Co. café in the spring of 2019. The café’s opening seemed perfectly timed with the downtown’s surrounding economic activity, which in the last two years has seen the relocation of the Springfield Food Coop to 6 Main St; the opening of new apartments and commercial storefronts via the Woolson Block project; and the completion of Comtu Cascade Park, a riverfront gathering space overlooking the Black River.

The Hillses initially hoped to purchase the home that they have continued to rent, but that plan fell through in 2019, Samantha Hills told the Eagle Times. In fall 2020, the Hillses instead bought a parcel of land for a five-year plan to build a home. The couple broke ground on the construction in June.

Days later the Hillses’ landlord sent the couple a No Cause eviction, indicating the landlord intended to sell the rental home. The Hillses tried to find another home to rent and are still on a waitlist for apartments, but are currently without an alternative.

According to Samantha Hills, when the couple informed the landlord of their lack of a current housing option, the landlord responded by raising the rent by an additional $650 per month.

The Hillses have three young children, so ensuring a place to live has taken precedent, Samantha Hills said.

The business was also heavily impacted by the pandemic, according to Samantha Hills.

According to an August 2019 article by the Eagle Times, the Flying Crow Coffee Co. café’s business seemed to flourish during its first year of operation. Just six months after opening the Flying Crow Coffee Co. café had expanded its employees from one person to four people and was seeing about a 15-20 percent increase in sales each month.

But the pandemic in 2020 put a halt to the café’s business, Samantha Hills said. The café was closed during Vermont’s shutdown and after reopening business did not return to its pre-pandemic level. The Hillses kept the business open primarily to allow employees to earn wages and provide a safe place for community socialization, though the Hillses themselves were not collecting a paycheck.

“If it was just COVID, just an eviction, just the Flying Crow or [just] personal [matters], I think we could have weathered it for longer,” Samantha Hills said. “But everything [that] piled up was just too much.”

Samantha Hills said the couple will continue to roast coffee at their downtown studio, located below the café, and will hopefully move the roasting operation to their residential property once the home is complete.

In the meantime, consumers clamoring for a freshly brewed cup of Flying Crow coffee or espresso will have to travel to one of the company’s clientele establishments, such as Chester’s Southern Pie Cafe or Bellows Falls’ Moon Dog Cafe.

To learn more about the Flying Crow Coffee Co. roastery, its coffees, and how to purchase, visit flyingcrowcoffee.com.

The café will remain open until Halloween on Sunday, Oct. 31.

reporter @eagletimes.com

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