By Missy Schrott | firstname.lastname@example.org
Nectar Coffee and Wine Bistro, a Del Ray coffee shop located at 106 Hume Ave., is permanently closed, the owners announced via Facebook on Monday.
Nectar could be one of the first local small business casualties of the novel coronavirus, as the decision to close was a result of financial difficulties caused by the pandemic, co-owner Shirley White said.
“It’s a tough business to be in,” White said. “We have ourselves a nice clientele, but we just couldn’t survive on 30 to 40 percent of business. It was just basic economics.”
White and her sister, Susan Baharmast, opened Nectar on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017. Before they took over, the location was home to Emma’s Espresso and Wine Bar. Over the last three years, Nectar has become a neighborhood spot known for its homey atmosphere and menu of breakfast sandwiches, salads and waffles.
“The space was bright and friendly and cheerful, and I think the people will remember that,” White said. “And the good food. I have to say, our food was awesome. We spent a lot of time on recipes, and it was really one of our things that we really, really enjoyed doing, coming up with all the fun ideas.”
White and Baharmast decided to close temporarily on March 20 after cases of COVID-19 began to increase in Alexandria. Like many small business owners, they decided a temporary closure was more feasible than staying open to offer takeout or delivery.
“We were worried for our staff and ourselves honestly,” White said. “It all happened so quickly. We thought, ‘Oh we’ll probably be opening in a couple of months’ but it didn’t happen unfortunately.”
Nectar had about 10 employees when it temporarily closed in March. White and Baharmast did not apply for any local or federal coronavirus relief programs since their employees would benefit more from filing for unemployment, White said.
When local restaurants began to reopen and the sisters realized they’d likely be bringing in only about 30 percent of the business they used to get, they decided to make the closure permanent.
“I think there’s a lot of small businesses that [COVID-19 has] affected, and it’s just a huge decision to reopen or not,” White said. “If I was 10 years younger, I’d probably reconsider, but it’s just so much work, so much work to run a small business.”
Since announcing their plans to close on Facebook, White and Baharmast have gotten an outpouring of messages from regulars and neighbors.
“Nectar was one of our favorite coffee shops and we are really heartbroken to see it close,” resident Dayna Blewis said. “[It was] a great breakfast place on the weekends, and I would often go with my dad. Sundays won’t be the same without them.”
Blewis said one of the things she’d miss the most was Nectar’s strawberry waffles, one of the selections on their well-known waffle menu featuring 14 combinations of homemade waffles and toppings.“The best waffle I have ever had,” Blewis said. “Not too dry, just perfect … and I wasn’t ever really a big waffle person before.”
Another of Nectar’s regulars, Tammy Mannarino, has been going to the coffee shop every Thursday for the past two years to meet with her writers’ group, Kittens with Typewriters.
“We are going to really miss it. I don’t know if we’re ever going to find a place that was that good,” Mannarino said. “It was really just a great productive place, and we could talk if we wanted to and not feel like we were disturbing anybody. And the food was great – oh my gosh, the blue salad. I loved the blue salad.”
Now that Nectar is closed, Baharmast, who owns the building, has not made plans to sell or repurpose the space. White said she’s going to shift to focusing on her cleaning business, Irish Maid Cleaning Service.
“We’re very sorry that our business is closed, but I’m still living [in Del Ray] so I’m going to enjoy that and it’s a great area, it really is,” White said. “I’ll enjoy seeing all our regulars around Del Ray.”