Three years after The Coffee Ethic founder Tom Billionis suddenly died at 44 years old, his coffeehouse off Park Central Square is thriving with his wife at the helm.
Michelle Billionis says she didn’t ever envision running the downtown shop. Now, her business is a finalist for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Small Business Award.
Billionis was an art teacher and a marketing and branding consultant before tragedy changed her course in April 2016.
“We just needed it to stay open,” she says. “Throughout the grieving process we just needed something to kind of cling to.
“When you have three little girls looking at you, you don’t have an option.”
But Billionis says she could not have done it alone, crediting Coffee Ethic General Manager Nathan Murphy.
“Everybody stepped up for me,” she says. “Not just within this community, but the coffee community all over the United States, literally. That was because of Tom’s relationships and building of the brand.”
Today, Billionis is reflecting on the shop’s recent progress, including installation of a new water system, a better way to serve single-origin coffee and a refreshed recycling effort.
Billionis’ advice on stepping up
Be willing to learn new things.
“Ask for help and learn. Anyone can learn something new.”
Maintain balance at work and home.
“One [thing] that became increasingly important after the death of Tom was to balance work life with home life to make sure that you don’t forget about your personal life and to not let work take over and become your everything.
“I really wanted to spend the time with my girls.”
Value your people.
“Value the people you’re working with. I really value every single person. And just valuing the people around you also in the community and valuing our customers. If Springfield didn’t walk through those doors every day after tragedy, we would not be here. I so appreciate it and feel the love and felt the love from day one.”
Remain mission focused.
“Cup. People. Earth. That’s what it’s about and it has always been about and will always be about. That doesn’t mean you can’t change some things but still hold true and let that be your guide. You don’t get off doing something that’s super trendy and not going to last, or maybe you just don’t get as distracted if you hold true to your mission.”
Put blinders on.
“Sometimes you have to not care. We know what we wanted to do with this, and who cares if somebody else is doing something similar or who cares if this person says it’s a terrible idea? There is more than one right way to something. Just hold true to your mission.”
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