In a year largely defined by shutdowns, this Madison business grew… and continues to boom

New Yelp data shows nearly 500,000 new businesses opened during the past year

MIDDLETON, Wis.– While there’s no underscoring the impact the pandemic has had on local small business owners, new data from Yelp provides a welcome sign of hope: Nearly half a million businesses (487,577 in total) opened during the past year. That’s down just 14% compared with the period one year earlier. More than 15% of the new establishments were restaurant and food businesses.

While many Madison-based businesses closed for good since March 2020, many others have opened. A relatively new small business owner is behind two of those pandemic launches… and counting.

Nicki Bloomer opened Grace Coffee‘s first location on State Street in the spring of 2019, and after seeing how much college students enjoyed sharing a cup of joe, she decided to expand and open a second store six months later.

“We had a good two months,” Bloomer told News 3 Now. And then, the shutdowns started. “Shoot, we’re a new business. How do we adapt to make it?”

Back at square one with two new businesses, Bloomer quickly decided she needed to bring coffee to her customers. She developed a system for online ordering, launched an app, and overhauled Grace’s entire menu to focus on half-gallon jugs of coffee and take-and-bake pastries.

“We flipped the script very early on and offered our goods in a way people can take them home and enjoy them at home,” Bloomer explained. “We’re always just trying to think of new things to release and ways we can include people outside of the normal.”

Bloomer said it was also important to bring the concept of community to her customers’ couches, using Instagram polls as an interactive way to engage her audience and decide not only what Grace should sell, but where she should open Grace’s next location.

“Some people think we’re growing really fast, but we’re always going to hold ourselves to high standards, from our coffee to our pastries,” she added.

During the pandemic, Bloomer opened two additional Grace Coffee storefronts, in Middleton and Sun Prairie, and she is already planning for at least three more.

“Yes, there are a lot of early mornings, there are a lot of long days and a lot of hard work that goes into it, but the whole reason we’re growing is because the community has circled around us and kept us going.”