The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted small businesses across the country, but Ann Kamphaus took her business’s situation into her own hands.
Kamphaus owns Church Street Social, formerly Books & Brews, which was part of a franchise. In September, after COVID-19 had diminished sales, Kamphaus entered into a negotiation to be released from the franchise contract.
“During COVID, our sales numbers were cut to about 30% of what they used to be,” she said. “So I was really just looking for cost-cutting measures and ways to maintain the store to be alive.”
As of mid-January, the establishment is officially called Church Street Social, but the name is the biggest thing being changed.
The other main change is moving away from the Books & Brews branding. This means that they now have different menus, with more vegetarian and gluten free options, and will focus less on craft beer and more on specialty cocktails and wine.
“The Miami students definitely drink cocktails more than craft beer, and I want to provide what they want,” Kamphaus said.
The inspiration for the name “Church Street Social” actually came from student employees. Oxford is a small town, but many students come from bigger cities, and they bring a lot of ideas with them.
One of these ideas was to emulate the concept of a social club, like the Lincoln Social in Columbus and the Hampton Social in Nashville, Tenn. These social clubs are places to lounge, wine and dine.
Joan Rutherford, who has worked for Kamphaus since May of last year, says the transition was very simple because not a lot really changed.
“Really for us [employees], the things that change were like the beers; we don’t sell [the franchise’s] beers anymore,” Rutherford said. “We get to do more mixed drinks, [and there’s] a better variety of food.”
Kamphaus also wants to shift to hosting more interactive events for customers. She hopes to team up with local vendors for some of these events, such as the “Wine and Design” floral arrangement class held last Wednesday and taught by two local florists. Other events include trivia nights and, eventually, karaoke nights.
Another way Kamphaus plans on increasing customer interaction is by starting a Members Only Club in the future. Perks of the program would include preferred seating as well as special events, discounts and merchandise.
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Above everything else, Kamphaus wants to meet her customers’ needs. Knowing that most of her customer base comes from Miami students, she was able to make the changes to Church Street Social that would appeal most to them.
“I just tried to listen to what the customers that I do have, what do they want and try to provide that,” she said.
Even though the name and menu may be different, much at Church Street Social remains the same with a couple improvements. This is what has been advertised on their social media to get the word out about the transition.
“It’s still the same owners,” Kamphaus said. “So we’re just putting out there, you know, it’s your same friends, same place, different menu, different opportunities to get together.”