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Mayan Buzz Cafe remains resilient during a second lockdown

Local coffee shop determined to survive despite drastic effects that COVID-19 pandemic has had on businesses in our community

/Brandon Martinez

Mayan Buzz Coffee Bar

Main Location:
208 Grandville Ave SW,
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Mayan Buzz - Grandville
Inside Meijer
3434 Century Center St SW,

Grandville, MI 49418

Mayan Buzz - Okemos
2055 W Grand River Ave,
Okemos, MI 48864

(Pictured: Mother of Marco Bulnes, Owner of Maya Buzz Cafe).

(Pictured: Mother of Marco Bulnes, Owner of Maya Buzz Cafe). /Brandon Martinez

(Mayan Buzz Data provided by Mayan Buzz Cafe Owner: Marco Bulnes)

(Mayan Buzz Data provided by Mayan Buzz Cafe Owner: Marco Bulnes) /Brandon Martinez

As Covid-19 continues to dramatically affect the State of Michigan, it seems possible more lockdowns and restrictions may be on the way. However, further lockdowns might endanger the growth, and even the survival, of many local coffee shops according to Marco Bulnes, owner of Mayan Buzz Cafe.

Bulnes grew up under the poverty line in Honduras. Poor as a child, he learned how to be resourceful by working on farms and plantations to provide for his family, which ultimately led him to utilize those skills and open Mayan Buzz Industries. Additionally, his mother's death in his early teen years inspired him to open up his own business in pursuit of a better life.

Bulnes’ business has grown to include two other stores in addition to the original Mayan Buzz Cafe, including locations in the Grandville Meijer and one in Okemos, Michigan. Bulnes was the first Honduran and the first Latino to run for the State Representative of Grand Rapids Green Party for the 75th District in the State of Michigan. He also serves as one of the only Hispanics on the associate's committee of the chief of police. Because of his success, Bulnes has made two promises to his community: to serve the people of Grand Rapids and to run for the President of Honduras in 2026.

Bulnes recently collaborated with Calvin University Student Senate with his most recent project: the Honduras Hurricane Relief. The Honduras Hurricane Relief was a project that was taken on by the Calvin Student Senate to raise fundraisers to donate to those most affected by the recent and ongoing effects of the ETA hurricane which has impacted millions of Central Americans, including Hondurans.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the success of Mayan Buzz. According to Bulnes, before the first lockdown, daily average sales were about 1,000 dollars per day. That is roughly $7,000 per week and $28,000 per month with just the main location alone. At this rate, Bulnes was projecting to make roughly one million dollars with all three coffee shops combined.

Unfortunately, with the rise of COVID-19 cases in early March, the shop was forced to shut down under the State of Michigan’s lockdown. Mayan Buzz Cafe went from being a successful locally-owned coffee shop to earning nearly zero dollars throughout the lockdown period, from mid-March to the beginning of August (for businesses).

In early August, however, local coffee shops were able to reopen due to lifted restrictions. At the time, Mayan Buzz Cafe began doing carry-out with reduced hours from 7 am to 5 pm. When schools and universities reopened in early September, they decided to reopen for dine-in services.

Mayan Buzz Cafe's average income increased from approximately $25-50 dollars per day in August to $700 per day from September to early November. For the 2020 fiscal year, Mayan Buzz has approximated income at roughly $130,000 for all three stores combined.

Starting October 12th, Mayan Buzz Cafe expanded their operation hours from 5 pm to 9 pm, adding an extra four hours. Expanded hours, however, did not change the total amount of sales for the company.

Ceci Medina, a barista working at Mayan Buzz Cafe, mentioned that “hours for working employees were cut by a bit after operation hours were extended because two new customers came into the mix.” However, she later emphasized that “it isn’t companies fault because we needed extra workers for the coffee shop to function and if anything it became steady after a few weeks.”

Because of this, the increase in employees showcases how local coffee shops such as Mayan Buzz have been doing steadily well since the first lockdown. However, local coffee businesses could have received more grants during the first lockdown to bounce back from the first lockdown.

According to Bulnes, the State of Michigan received $114 million dollars. From there, Kent County received $25 million that the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce was hired to distribute to small businesses across Kent County. However, Bulnes said, “Mayan Buzz Cafe was only given approximately $5,000 worth of grants for the Grandville store and the downtown coffee bar-goo,” and expressed that, “I would assume that bigger businesses were given more grants.”

Medina agreed and added, “it would make sense that Grand Rapids would give bigger businesses more money because they typically bring in more money to the city and because local businesses are smaller, the city doesn’t believe they will bring in much revenue.”

However, she also added that “smaller businesses should be prioritized more often than big companies because at the end of the day they will be okay. In fact, smaller local businesses bring more diversity to the community,” especially minority-owned businesses.

Jackie Visser, President of Operations of Mayan Buzz Cafe Industries, states that the current second lockdown had been a financial struggle, but felt that the Mayan Buzz team has inspired her to keep going amidst the pandemic. Despite only having carryout options.

She also stated that “we can't always have everything all the time,” showcasing how small businesses such as Mayan Buzz Cafe have to work with what they’ve got.

Visser mentions that Mayan Buzz hopes to cater dine-in services as soon as the restrictions are lifted on January 20, despite only having carryout options. Mayan Buzz hopes to extend hours from 7 am-7 pm to 7 am-9 pm to bring back the community. Hoping to reopen, Visser believes having dine-in options brings in the culture and community of the Grand Rapids community. However, she also mentions that Mayan Buzz will also follow protocols like any other small business in the community.

Visser states that Mayan Buzz Cafe has been doing well in following new COVID protocols such as the new COVID strain that recently made its way from the UK to the United States.

“We are updated by the CDC. We make sure orders are put into place and follow through with what we're supposed to do to keep our customers safe,” Visser says.

Ultimately, she believes Mayan Buzz Cafe will be stronger than ever and that resilient leadership can make a team stronger and successful amidst tragic events. “[Bulnes] is the hardest working man I have ever worked under,” she said.

The goal of Mayan Buzz is to serve the people and give back to the community. As Bulnes puts it, "we named it Mayan Buzz because buzz means it will get people talking about our company, and I really do hope that it still lives up to that potential, especially now that we are in unexpected times.” He added, “we want to create a Buzz effect in the community.”

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