‘Timing felt right’ for Tiffany Yates
Although buying a small business in the midst of a global pandemic may be a bold move, for Kind Grinds’ new owner Tiffany Yates it is the fulfillment of a dream.
Yates, who recently purchased the downtown Winthrop coffee shop and café from Bolo Dimodica and Kaarin Starr, said “I have long dreamed of creating my own food establishment, [but] I never knew if that dream would ever be realized. A love of my career [as a paralegal] and the security it provides, as well as fear of the unknown, have kept that dream at bay.”
But with a reduced work schedule and time on her hands due to the pandemic, Yates found herself talking about her dream — “seemingly far off,” she said — with her family. “And the next morning I saw that Kind Grinds was listed for sale, and at a price that I could afford on my own,” she said. “I made up my mind on the spot; the timing felt right!”
“There was no strategic thought given to this decision at all and it does feel crazy,” Yates continued, “especially given the current state of the world. [But] it also feels like perfect timing, like it was meant to be.”
Yates grew up as a regular Methow Valley visitor and moved to the valley full-time in 2013. Two decades ago, she worked in food services for a few years before she began training as a paralegal: a career that placed her in an administrative capacity in the legal department of a Washington state hospital.
But Yates’ family “shares a love of food and the togetherness that it brings,” she said, and “we spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating recipes and memories.” It is these memories and bonding experiences that fueled Yates’ dream.
When Kind Grinds reopens on Friday (June 26), it will be with a history of providing the Methow Valley community with organic, light, and healthy food. Said former co-owner Starr, “We were really conscious about where we sourced our food. We ordered organic products from UNFI (United Natural Foods Inc.), from the Methow Valley Farmers Market, from Thriftway and Hank’s Harvest Foods. We got the best quality products for our customers.”
Yates plans to uphold Kind Grinds’ reputation for quality. “We will continue to partner with Blue Star Coffee Roasters and to source local and organic products when possible,” she said. “When it is not possible to carry local or organic products, great consideration will be given to the quality of the items that we do carry.”
Initially, Yates will be serving a full coffee menu but will “start out slow in terms of the food menu with a limited number of grab-and-go items,” she said. Eventually, she will expand the food menu, and has a goal to “bring back some of the original menu items and to incorporate my own ideas and recipes as I learn the ropes of the foodservice industry and small business ownership in general.”
Yates has never owned a small business before, but is “fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive family and community,” she said, adding, “My mom has owned and operated several small businesses throughout her lifetime and she has been instrumental in getting me through the process and teaching me about being a small business owner.”
Lots of lessons
Previous owners Dimodica and Starr said that they learned their fair share of lessons about small business ownership during the nearly four years they owned and operated Kind Grinds, from September 2016 until just last month. “Neither of us had much barista experience, so we trained up in that realm. The fires were challenging and then there was road construction through town. We also had a new baby three months after we opened Kind Grinds,” said Starr. “We made employment mistakes and learned our lessons. If we knew then what we know now, we could have had an easier start.”
“It’s been quite a journey,” Starr added. “But looking back at our business plan and our commitment to fresh, organic foods and sustainably harvested paper goods, we did that. You never really know if you’re going to stick to your business plan or not, but we really stuck to it.”
Dimodica and Starr, who created Kind Grinds out of the Java Man café they purchased from Kellen Northcott in 2016, said that they are remaining in the valley, where they are raising three children. Starr co-owns Agni Yoga in Twisp, which is currently closed due to the coronavirus, and Dimodica has begun offering a caretaking and landscaping service for vacation homes in the valley. The couple also owns a mobile pizza oven business, which is currently for sale.
Leaving Kind Grinds is bittersweet, they said. “We’ve appreciated the community’s devotion to Kind Grinds,” Starr said. “We’ve had a great local customer base. We’re super grateful.”
In addition to the locally roasted organic coffee and fresh, healthy foods, Yates plans to keep the Kind Grinds name. “The phrase ‘be kind’ is important to me personally,” she said. “Kindness is something I strive for and, now more than ever, we need to extend as much kindness as we can. I cannot wait to welcome the Methow Valley back to Kind Grinds.”