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Socializing safely is the name of the game at remodeled N’Cahoots

Courtney Blankenship
A remodeled back room adds to the ambiance at N'Cahoots Coffee and Shoppe in Pratt.

Allowing customers to socialize while safely social distancing is the new goal at N’Cahoots Coffee and Shoppe in Pratt as Kansas begins moving through phases of lessened restrictions in the wake of COVID-19.

George Nusz, owner of N’Cahoots Coffee and Shoppe, said that since opening in 2017, the shop has not only attracted clientele from the Pratt area, but also regional and international customers who pass through Pratt on business.

A unique map inside N’Cahoots gives customers the opportunity to pin mark where they are from. So far, Nusz said pinned locations include Australia, Indonesia, China, India, Russia, and Brazil, as well as all over the United States.

Though the shop was able to stay open during the shutdown for take-out orders and deliveries, people are now starting to come in and sit down as the restrictions on businesses wind down.

“We’ve had great support from the community,” Nusz said. “We were able to do a lot of delivery, a lot of curbside, and we did have our regulars come in everyday but they’d get their coffee and walk right back out, and everybody was very respectful of the 6-feet apart but we did close all the tables down.”

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the shop was able to receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan to keep staff employed, and Nusz said customers have also been very supportive. Many people made donations and N’Cahoots matched some of the donations, which paid for 200 drinks to be donated to the hospital.

“We’ve had orders for whole departments of the hospital for lunches and several businesses in the community have been greatly supportive of us,” Nusz said. “They’d order large lunch orders and drink orders, and we would take that to them or they’d pick it up.”

Even though the shop did not have to fully close, Nusz said they took the opportunity, while people were staying home, to redo the backroom and add a new wall to make it more soundproof so that customers could have a better environment to socialize in once the restrictions were lifted.

Small changes have been implemented to keep customers and employees safe, but for the most part, Nusz said N’Cahoots has always gone ‘way beyond’ the necessary safety regulations, even before the COVID-19 crisis unfolded. Baristas wear gloves in the kitchen, wash their hands after touching money, and wash their hands before making food or drinks.

“The only thing that I can think [of] that we’ve changed is---you cannot touch the iPad to put in your tip or sign it,” Nusz said. “We won’t let the customer touch that during this time, but other than that, our cleanliness and our rules that we’ve had here have been right along with the guidelines with changes, so I felt like we were doing a really good job in the first place.”

Customers are not required to wear masks or gloves at this time, but sitting at the bar is currently off-limits due to being too close in proximity.

“People have been really respectful of each other in this situation, and some wear masks, some do not,” Nusz said. “They always give people space and they’re very---I’ve been very pleased with the respect that has been shown. They’re just very careful with my employees, my employees are respectful of them, and they’re respectful of each other, so that says a lot about our community.”

Customers can continue to call in orders and also utilize curbside service as people begin coming back into the shop to sit down, socialize with friends, and soak in the atmosphere.

“The first several days, we didn’t see people coming in and sitting down,” Nusz said. “Just in the last two days, people are feeling more comfortable and coming in and having a seat---enjoying their coffee and meeting up with friends---but the groups don’t get any bigger than four or five.”

Along with the remodeled backroom, Nusz said there is also a new menu and several new signs. Included on the menu are three themed sandwiches for the community, which have been a hit among customers.

“We have the Angry T-Bird, we have the ‘Dam BLT’ for the [Pratt Community] College,” Nusz said. “And then, we’ve got the ‘Greenback Hopper Popper’ and that has been huge. People love that sandwich, and then we added a couple more fun ones.”

Fans of the hit TV show ‘Friends’ who are in the mood for nostalgia can sit in a booth styled after the show to write their favorite quotes on the provided chalkboard.

“I’m really proud of it,” Nusz said. “It’s just so fun, and we have the best community to share this job with.”

Part of her dream in opening the shop, Nusz said, was to help foster the growth of other small businesses by providing a storefront for people to sell their products. In addition, N’Cahoots Coffee and Shoppe also features a ‘Caffeine and Kindness Store,’ where customers can pay a cup forward and put a card up for other people to use when they come into the shop.

“Right now, there’s one here that says ‘for a mom to have a happy day’ or ‘for a grandparent that’s raising their grandchild,’” Nusz said. “People do this all the time---they come in and they’ll buy ahead for a teacher, and they’ll pay for it, and a teacher can come take one of the coupons off the Caffeine and Kindness store and be able to get a free coffee.”

The shop has transitioned into summer hours which are from 7:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and then from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday.

* Free-lance writer Kathy Koehn contributed information to this article.