Deja Brew is one of the small business in South Bethlehem that hopes for a more effective way of managing the pandemic. Jeff Vaclavik, owner and manager of Deja Brew is supporting Democratic nominee Joe Biden. (Jake Epstein/B&W Staff)

Deja Brew faces decrease in customer activity


Deja Brew Coffeehouse and Deli, like many other small businesses, has found itself losing a large percentage of its customers due to both Lehigh’s switch to remote learning and the stay-at-home order from Gov. Tom Wolf.   

To ensure safety and sanitation, Deja Brew recently began limiting its services to takeout and GrubHub delivery. 

Deja Brew was a day or two away from starting to use Toast, an online ordering system where people can also buy gift cards, said Jeff Vaclavik, owner of Deja Brew. 

The day-to-day flow of customers at Deja Brew has been pretty slow, Vaclavik said. He said the time between spring break and finals week is usually the coffeehouse’s busiest time.  

“(Our business) is probably down by at least 80 percent, if not more,” Vaclavik said. “It’s a challenge. We kinda load up on a lot of business prior to summer time, which is normally our slow time. We’re doing everything we can to hang in there and be here when all of this is over with.”

Vaclavik said it has been difficult to adjust to not seeing customers he is used to seeing on a regular or even daily basis at his coffeehouse. Even after 25 years of working at Deja Brew, Vaclavik enjoyed meeting and interacting with new people. He said he looks forward to talking to students who have graduated and come back to visit Bethlehem.

Jason Pribila, an employee at Deja Brew, said the mood inside the coffeehouse right now feels like summertime, as opposed to the level of business they typically see during the spring.

“The most difficult part is the lack of people, because people staying home makes the day a little longer, but we are appreciative of the opportunity to still be open for people that still order and take out,” Pribila said. 

With such a large majority of students contributing to the customer base of Deja Brew, the lack of students on campus has interrupted business.

Riley Hesser, ‘21, worked at Deja Brew during this past fall semester before studying abroad in the spring, eventually returning home due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

“I liked working there,” Hesser said. “It was chill and there were always a ton of Lehigh kids there. Most of the customers are either Lehigh students or faculty, like a good 80 percent.”  

In addition to pausing the dine-in option at the cafe, the workers are safeguarding the environment for both employees and customers by continuing to keep the area clean and hygienic. They have stocked up on gloves, and make sure to change them more frequently, and they clean the doorknobs after each customer comes and goes, Vaclavik said.

Vaclavik said his daily schedule is now completely different, as he was used to coming in and being busy all day. 

“The sitting and waiting is a little weird,” Vaclavik said. “When the phone rings or when you hear the Grubhub beep go off, you kinda get excited. You’re getting in this lull pattern. I don’t want this to become the new normal, like a bad dream.” 

Vaclavik said it has proven difficult to stock up on food, especially produce and meat, which goes bad quicker. While Deja Brew was used to having a lot of food stored, they had to begin buying less, as only frozen food could be kept for longer periods of time. 

Although the number of customers has been reduced due to coronavirus, Deja Brew has not stopped its involvement in the community of coffee-lovers through online platforms, such as Facebook. 

Vaclavik said they recently got an email from someone who loved their chai-lattes and asked for the recipe. 

“We don’t usually give away our recipes, but I told them how much milk to put in, what brand we use and how much to put in, and they said, ‘Thank you so much, that made my day,’” Vaclavik said. “And it felt good because we miss the people, but the people also miss us.”

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