Unlocked Coffee Roasters: A Pandemic Survival Story

Unlocked Coffee Roasters

Starting a small business is never easy. But opening two months prior to a pandemic? There’s no playbook for that.

“It’s a story that I start right there in March, the second week of March, when everything was shut down,” says co-owner Andres Camargo. “So literally, we’re opening this second week of March when everything started, and we had to rethink and redo everything we could possibly do to keep this a business alive.”

When Camargo and his partner Rocio Salazar opened Unlocked Coffee Roasters in 2020, people were at home — timid to go out, but desperate for human connection and warmth.

“In the middle of that adversity and bad times, we were still here, open, serving coffee and with a happy face,” Camargo says. “It was like the personal touch because the event we, as humanity, were facing. So, the kindness and friendship and smiling faces made the difference from the community.”

During the COVID lockdown, Unlocked handed out free coffee. When the world re-opened, they provided a safe space, to welcome the community back in.

“We are celebrating our second anniversary of the coffee shop itself, surviving from the pandemic. We are celebrating that we are still alive,” says Salazar, founder, business manager and marketer.

Their kindness, happiness, optimism, and amazing coffee have allowed to them to nor only survive but also thrive. In 2023 they are expanding operations. They have a new, larger, more powerful roaster and are diversifying their supply chain.

“Thriving. Yeah, no doubt about it,” Camargo says, “I think people in Greenville are different than any other around the United States. Just thinking about how people are passionate about supporting local, enjoying a local coffee shop, going to a local restaurant. If this happened in a different city or state, I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it, to be honest.”

Salazar and Camargo are staying true to their mission of supporting individual farmers in their home country of Colombia and are changing the world from Greenville.

“We are supporting a farmer that it’s located in the state that we are from so he can improve his coffee facilities, like the drying stations. So better coffee can be produced in his farm. This special farmer, his name is Jason Trujillo,” Salazar says. “We didn’t wait until we were big enough to support others. We started from the beginning,” Camargo added.

Camargo and Salazar say they have been welcomed, supported and encouraged here in Greenville.

“I think it’s a feeling of like being part of the family. I believe that you can summarize it that way because people think as brothers and sisters. So that’s what we have received from Greenville. Yeah, we are part of the family,” Salazar says.

Camargo says despite the cultural differences and their accent, they have always felt like part of the Greenville community. Perhaps, she suggests, it’s the universal language they speak.

“It’s like a language, right? You go Europe, you go to Colombia, you go South America, you go Central America, you come to United States, meetings are around coffee. You know, a lot of things happen around coffee.”


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