In the midst of COVID-19, Derek and Mindy Weber, owners of The Washburne Cafe at 326 Main St. in Springfield, have largely been operating on isolated to-go orders and community support. EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLE

As Derek and Mindy Weber eye their fourth year in business, they are busier than ever trying to keep The Washburne Cafe at 326 Main St. afloat through a pandemic. 

Before COVID-19, the cafe’s light interior and abundance of fresh pastries offered an inviting and comfortable space that once operated at max capacity; now, the vast amount of seating goes ignored as masked regulars quickly pick up their takeaway orders from an isolated to-go table and depart. Since COVID-19, the cafe’s nine employees have been reduced to three, leaving the couple to operate five days a week with minimal help. 

Derek starts his morning by baking — a responsibility previously handled by a now laid-off employee — and preps for cooking. Mindy, once a full-time hairdresser, spends her time managing the cafe’s social media. Their business partner, Charlie Hester, puts on a pot of coffee and stands by the door to greet people.

Even by cutting down on payroll, the cafe is still at the mercy of the community. Without so much support, the Washburne Cafe may have closed, Derek said.  

The regulars who stop by on a day-to-day basis have sustained the local business, and the influx of gift card purchases at the beginning of the pandemic showed a generous amount of community support, Derek said. People who buy gift cards from local businesses, even just to give away, helps. 

Local businesses have also grown closer together as they try to support one another during the uncertainty. “I feel like we’re just passing the same $40 back to one another because we all try to help each other out,” Derek said.

By supporting one local business, each customer is supporting a community of local businesses, Mindy said.

Money made from sales at the cafe goes toward buying local products for their menus, Mindy said, keeping ingredients locally sourced and further supporting a network of local businesses. 

Derek said that he hopes that, once the uncertainty is over, people will be more open to think locally when it comes to their food.  

“It’s only going to strengthen the community,” said Derek.

After closing time, Derek and Mindy say they have been enjoying the extra time spent at home, which allows them to spend more time with their 3-year-old son, Evan. Before COVID-19, being a hairdresser, owning a cafe and taking care of a toddler used to be hectic. Mindy said she was pregnant when she and Derek bought the business, and they hadn’t realized how much help they would need from Evan’s grandparents, who also live in Springfield. Now, Mindy has time for gardening and baking, and Derek has been creating new bread recipes.

“Derek and I both love food so much that sometimes it’s exciting when you take the stress out of it,” Mindy said. “What have we always wanted to do? He experiments with recipes, which he’s not able to do as much because of the daily stuff. We don’t have the time otherwise.”

Through proper planning and positive outlook, Derek and Mindy said they are confident that their cafe will make it through the strange reality caused by COVID-19. They have grown alongside the business since day one, and are determined to keep serving the Springfield community by making people happy, Mindy said.  

“We don’t want to lose small businesses through this,” Mindy said. “You want places where people know your name and remember your order.”

In the near future, Derek said, they hope to increase their profits enough to hire back some of their employees.