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Karen Johnson, left and Sahraon Vitella plan for online sales of Swell Joe Coffee
Lisa Graff

Lisa Graff

Unexpected gift from the pandemic

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Unexpected gifts from the pandemic

The other day, my friend MK mentioned that there have been some unexpected and positive outcomes from the pandemic. She has five childhood friends, some of whom she’s known since kindergarten, who get together in person twice a year. They’ve turned to Zooming once a week.

“We pick a topic  to discuss each week, like discussing a book we’ve all read, our favorite childhood memory, the most influential person in our life, or our all time favorite movies,” explains MK. “We continue to discover more about each other than ever before. These weekly calls feel like slipping into the most comfortable  old shoe. Who knew that the slowing down of normal activities in our lives would result in extra time to get to know each other better?” Karen Johnson shows off gift bags of Swell Joe Coffee

Long time yoga instructor Andrea Kennedy had to shut the door to her Yoga Studio 24 studio after a career in the business. Instead of giving up on her passion she got busier than ever.

“Science reports that it is important for the health of our brain to learn new things! I have had to learn to teach via the internet, which I had been wanting to do but didn’t seem to ever have the time to do.

What’s wonderful is my son has created a yoga website that gives people access to my classes 24/7, which has reconnected me with students from all over the country and Canada.

“And the third surprise,” shares Andrea, “is that yoga outdoors has brought people in the community together safely in nature.”

Several of us  have practiced yoga with her on the Lewes Historical Society campus. Surrounded by majestic oak trees, looking up at the blue sky, we watch leaves twirl their way onto our blankets.

Recently, at an open house at the Brush Factory, Karen Johnson offered me a sample of Swell Joe coffee and then she shared her unexpected story.

Johnson had been working in marketing for 40 years and had just spent the last 15 years working remotely for an advertising agency based in Denver, CO. In 2014, Jennifer and her husband Drew and Dave and Sharon Vitella launched the business Swell Joe Coffee. 

“All four of us had other jobs and obligations, so Swell Joe coasted along but wasn’t steadily growing. After a spring layoff due to the pandemic,” Jennifer says, “My true entrepreneurial spirit was uncovered! After enjoying a long career helping others launch and grow their own businesses, I realized it had actually prepared me for this exact moment.”

In just seven months, the Vitellas and the Johnsons refreshed their website to include a new online store, nearly doubled the number of wholesale clients, doubled social media followers, and saw significant growth in earned media.

Swell Joe is collaborating with Thompson Island Brewery and Crooked Hammock, plus added a line of coffee-infused all-natural products with Rehoboth Beach Balm (soaps, lip balms, candles). In October, Swell Joe partnered with the Surf Bagel team to launch and manage their new online store. 

“Now I wake up every day with an extra skip in my step, and it’s not just from the extra caffeine in my cup of Joe!” beams Karen.

Reverend Shelley D. McDade accepted the position as pastor to sister churches St. Georges and All Saints just as the virus hit and church doors closed. “It’s been a challenge for me and the congregation to get to know one another, but we need to open up ourselves in a new way. We can remain a community. All you have to do is call someone whom you used to sit next to and ask how they’re doing.”

Go to www.swelljoecoffee.com for info or visit their store at 17382 Coastal Highway, Lewes, De. Grab a cup of Joe and call someone you know!

Write to lgraff1979@gmail.com

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