Yelm’s Shiplap Shop & Coffee House Continues Strong Despite COVID-19

The Shiplap Shop and Coffee House prides itself on providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere with their coffee bar. Photo courtesy: The Shiplap Shop & Coffee House

You can’t keep a good community down. Thurston County business owners channel their energy and creativity to find ways to continue to support their community and employees, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. One such business is The Shiplap Shop & Coffee House, in Yelm.

A recent Goldman Sachs survey of 1,500 small business owners revealed 50 percent of them expressed they would not be able to stay afloat for more than three months, with the current state of restrictions. Undoubtedly, this pandemic is crushing commerce in ways few were ready to handle. But while sales are plummeting in many industry verticals, many business owners are moving their commerce to an online landscape, in order to weather this storm, keep their business afloat, and support the livelihood of their families and their employees.

A Brief History of The Shop

The Shiplap Shop & Coffee House started with three couples who had a desire to have a greater impact on the Yelm community and an interest in selling modern farmhouse furniture and décor. They decided the perfect pairing for the home décor was a coffee bar. While that may seem like an odd combination, they wanted something that would draw people in and make them feel like they are part of a community, and to also give them exposure to what they are doing with the home décor side of the business.

The Shiplap Shop & Coffee House founding members, from left: Jeff Lemke, Vickie Lemke, Debbie Hilliker, Kristin Rurup, and Gary Rurup. Photo courtesy: The Shiplap Shop & Coffee House

A quaint coffee bar with a homey feel where you can buy the décor was born. That included finding a high quality, local coffee roaster to provide the beans. The landed on Poverty Bay Coffee Co., out of Auburn.

The business quickly became an iconic shop that many Yelm locals have described as “a place that serves as a refuge for people and a lighthouse in the midst of a busy world, a place where people always feel welcome and are wanted,” reflects Gary Rurup, managing partner of The Shiplap Shop and Coffee House.

Right now, they have eight employees, all but two of them are blood related, and so they have been able to maintain the look and feel of a family run business. In the first eight months they were open, they sold over 35,000 drinks. “We have had an outpouring of love and support from both the faith-based community and the broader Yelm community, as a whole,” says Gary.

Brewing a Cup in the New Normal

The Shiplap Shop & Coffee House is an icon of hope for business owners in Thurston County. When the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, Gary and the other owners were quick to adapt. And it has paid off well. “I’ve always tried to think outside the box, and I’m not afraid to try new things,” he shares. “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going, and we were able to find a way to maintain our sales through the Facebook live auctions and the coffee and food we offer to-go. Three weeks ago, we did our first Friday night Shiplap Shop at Home live auction on Facebook, and it was a tremendous success. We ended up with over 10,000 views of our video, between the live video and the replay.”

The Shiplap Shop & Coffee House displays their beautifully modern farmhouse decor. Photo courtesy: The Shiplap Shop & Coffee House

This idea was so successful they ended up making more in sales during the two-hour auction than they had in the entire week leading up to the first Friday night auction event.  It takes them about two days to prep for the auction. Winning bidders can pick up their items cubrside on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

But the creativity didn’t end there for Gary and the other founders. They recognized the need for business owners to band together in support of each other during these difficult times. They partnered with Stacks Handcrafted Burger truck, out of Eatonville, and also Yelm’s Twister Donuts. The Stacks Burger truck is there on Sundays so that when people come pick up their items from the auction, they can pick up a meal too.

They are also seeing huge dividends with their Twister Donuts partnership. “During this difficult time, it’s hard for a lot of small businesses to be able to maintain a storefront, so we moved the donut cases from Twister’s into our shop—and we have been selling out every day,” Gary shares.

It’s amazing what businesses can do when the times call for adaptability and creativity, and the community is showing their support tenfold. “From its very inception, Shiplap Shop has been about family and community,” Carmen Ottley, founder of Yelm’s Truly Motivated Transitional Living, says. “It is hard to miss the personal touches and warmth when one walks into Shiplap. Gary and his crew have truly poured themselves into creating a special place and that is reflected in every part of that they do.

“I have enjoyed their virtual Friday night shopping since we have all been sheltering at home. While this has continued to support them during a really hard time, I believe that providing this service to their faithful following has brought a little bit of a break from the difficult circumstances we all find ourselves in. It feels, well, kind of normal, and hot coffee with a smile and the sense of community we are all longing for right now is really perfect.”

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