What lies beyond the pandemic? MassForward is MassLive’s series examining the journey of Massachusetts’ businesses through and beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
Masks couldn’t cover the joy within The Queen’s Cups on Wednesday morning. Carrying bags of cupcakes, three women thanked owner Renee Diaz after a four-month hiatus when the bakery was closed due to COVID-19.
“These are some of my longest customers, it’s crazy, ever since Millbury,” Diaz said, harkening back to the business’ hometown.
Minutes later, another familiar face with two children walked in.
“We have some vanilla in the back,” Diaz said to one of the boys, knowing his favorite flavor of cupcakes.
The faces, albeit covered with masks, were a welcomed sight within the renovated walls of the Water Street cupcakery.
The Queen’s Cups closed four months ago amid the coronavirus pandemic offering only online orders. It reopened Tuesday for the first time, but with a new layout and outlook.
“The four months was a huge learning experience,” Diaz said. “Some days were great. Some days were awful. But I feel like I definitely created a better atmosphere. It was like The Queen’s Cups grew up.”
To reopen, Diaz scrapped nearly everything about The Queen’s Cups from its previous eight years. Some changes were easier than others, like changing the hours of operation. Others entailed more work like redesigning the layout of her space on Water Street.
The front counter which greeted customers prior to the pandemic was moved to the side room on the left. The entrance now welcomes guests into an open sitting room. The kitchen remains on the right.
As patrons walk through the opening in the brick wall, a glass cabinet full of cupcakes and pastries awaits them.
An array of coffee choices sit behind the counter. In opening two hours earlier at 8 a.m., Diaz anticipates coffee sales may increase.
“We sold like 40 coffees [Tuesday],” Diaz said. “We used to not sell 40 coffees in a week.”
The Queen’s Cups is now open Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“I wanted to change the vision,” Diaz said. “For me, this whole thing has taught me so much about values and what I want my life to be. I try to always include my employees in that. We were open six days a week and it was always a grind.”
The new schedule allows employees more time at home to spend with their families. Some of the employees at The Queen’s Cups have young children. Diaz wanted to ensure families had ample time to spend with their loved ones.
“At the end of the day, if you don’t take care of your employees, your business is never going to succeed,” Diaz said.
The pandemic forced Diaz to cut her staff in half from about 25 employees to its current size of 12. The majority of full-time staff has returned, though.
Prior to receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans, Diaz didn’t collect a salary. Instead, she paid her employees. She and her husband worked on Sundays to save on labor costs.
“The PPP loan was so awesome for me,” Diaz said. “The bills will always get paid, but when you’re responsible for people’s livelihood, that’s the most immense type of pressure that you can think of. People have families at home. They’re working on their own goals, they’re buying a house, they have student loans, that’s when it’s [intense].”
About two and a half months ago, Diaz realized to best cater to her employees and customers a redesign of the building on Water Street was needed.
Moving the front counter to the left side of the space allowed customers more space – a key to social distancing – after entering.
The redesign coincided with implementing an online ordering system and a digital inventory log – things lingering on Diaz’s to-do list and finally accomplished amid a pandemic.
“I think this whole Queen’s Cups experience has been like, I’m just going to do it and figure it out,” Diaz said. “People always ask me, ‘What do you think it takes to be successful?’ People will say, ‘Oh you have to work hard.’ And that’s a given. What I’ve learned through this is if you’re going to be successful, you have to adapt to change. No one could have envisioned that this was what life was going to be like.”
Diaz hardly slept the week leading up to Tuesday’s reopening. Her staff told her they experienced the same sleeplessness nights – a sign of the camaraderie shared by the dozen employees.
The doors opened at 8 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, Diaz exhaled and looked at the kitchen staff.
“We did it,” she told them. “We opened. It’s fine.”
Like riding a bike, the staff found its routine again. They saw old faces. They welcomed new people who discovered The Queen’s Cups during the pandemic.
Along with the familiar faces that complimented Diaz on the new-look Queen’s Cups, a customer purchased his first cupcake on Wednesday.
His voice rose with excitement when he described finding The Queen’s Cups on social media. As he exited the new layout, he had envisioned another trip.
“If this is our new normal,” Diaz said. “I’m excited about it.”
Source: Thanks https://www.masslive.com/worcester/2020/07/the-queens-cups-grew-up-canal-district-bakery-debuts-new-layout-philosophy-in-reopening-its-doors-for-first-time-since-closing-due-to-coronavirus.html