Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: May 1, 2024

Small Business Pulse: In Belfast, café owner says there are no good options for space

Photo of business owner in coffee roaster Photo / Courtesy Downshift Coffee For a special series during Small Business Month, Mainebiz checks in with Nathaniel Baer, owner of Downshift Coffee in Belfast.
About Downshift Coffee 
More Information

With U.S. small business confidence at its lowest level since 2012, Mainebiz checked in with a handful of owners across Maine for a special series during Small Business Month. First up is Nathaniel Baer of Downshift Coffee, a café in downtown Belfast that roasts its own coffee and has about a dozen employees.

Mainebiz: How does your business outlook compare to a month ago? 
Nathaniel Baer: It's about the same. We're open year-round and had a busy enough winter. But springtime always brings anticipation of the busier summer months ahead and we're seeing some increased traffic already, as expected. That anticipation probably balances out some of the underlying economic concerns that may be out there, at least for the time being. 

MB: What is your biggest business challenge today and why?
NB: One of the ongoing issues has been availability of commercial property to purchase or lease. We nearly had to relocate our roasting space and really could not find a good option for that anywhere in or near Belfast. Fortunately we haven't needed to move — but it is an ongoing, long-term issue that certainly affects our ability to expand the café or roasting operations. 

MB: How are inflation and high interest rates affecting your business?
NB: Many of my direct input costs actually have not changed much in over a year, such as various milk products and paper goods. But other prices have gone up, notably chocolate and to some extent green coffee beans. Energy price increases also have resulted in higher rents at the café and roasting space. We've largely avoided raising most menu prices in over a year, but we'll see how long we can sustain that. 

MB: Any challenges in terms of staffing?
NB: We've maintained a pretty consistent year-round staffing level with some increase for the summer season. We typically have 10 to 12 employees. The team is great. One issue I hear about a lot from staff and customers — and this is no surprise — is the cost and availability of housing. Very few employees are able to actually live in Belfast where we're located.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF