North Attleborough’s Meg Peters, 33, recently launched Crosby’s Coffeehouse in Wrentham. It was a bold move for a non-coffee-drinker in the middle of a pandemic: She opened in May 2020 after quitting her job to rethink her priorities after a miscarriage. Now, she balances the store with caring for two kids with her husband, Charlie. They both appear as co-owners on the shop’s website, but Peters says it’s her show.
“I’ve grown to be very proud of the work that I’ve done as a woman-owned business. He might hang a shelf here and there, but he has a full-time job. He’s a great supportive husband, but he doesn’t even know how to brew coffee!,” Peters says, laughing.
And, yes, she’s an avid coffee drinker now.
What was the impetus for opening a coffeehouse and naming it Crosby’s?
I’d been in the nonprofit sector doing fund-raising for about a decade when I ended up experiencing a second-trimester pregnancy loss. It was a boy, and his name was Crosby. And the experience really just launched me into an overall reconsideration of life. You know: What is happiness? What is joy? What is success? I had to spend some time figuring all of those things out. And, through that, I ended up quitting my job.
I didn’t have a backup plan. I quit and decided I was going to figure out how to make those things happen for myself, how to create the structures of my life around what I wanted to be doing. And I really wanted to own my own business. So I had to also figure out what that looked like, and what that business was going to be.
I was looking for a space to connect, and I was looking for a sense of community, which I felt like I didn’t really have around me. I felt like it was important that other people have it, too. So I set out to create a community space. I kept just calling it a “community” for a really long time. I considered a bakery and a yoga studio. I even considered, “What does it look like to have an adult indoor dog park?” I couldn’t quite decide what it was, but I knew I wanted a space that brought people together and would spark happiness in people.
I landed on coffee because I spent a lot of time in fund-raising saying this sort of silly phrase: “Let’s meet for coffee!” And I know my friends were saying on their Tinder dates, “Let’s meet for coffee!” which was a very safe way of saying, “Let’s connect with each other. Let’s get to know each other. Let’s make time for each other.” And I didn’t drink coffee before that! I drink a lot of coffee now.
Talk to me about the opening. How did that go? The small business owners I’ve talked to lately have been hit hard by COVID. It’s not a traditional time to open a business.
We definitely faced challenges trying to open a business during the pandemic. We were supposed to open in March, the week that everything shut down. Our final walkthroughs and inspections were all canceled. That was the first challenge. And then the second challenge was, you know, child care was a big issue. My kids were sent home from day care. And, as a mom, I was the primary caretaker. I also couldn’t go to work because I had these children at home whom I was now teaching kindergarten to and stuff. That was a big struggle, and I even found myself Googling the phrase “How to close a business that hasn’t opened up.”
I sort of sat on it until May 2020, about 10 or 12 weeks. And, finally, by then we knew that if you stayed 6 feet apart, if you were washing your hands and wiping everything down and wearing masks, you were less likely to contract COVID. So we just opened really sort of quietly and slowly.
By May, people felt comfortable to grab a coffee; you’re in and out in less than five minutes. We survived that way. We also found that everyone was out walking, which is something people weren’t doing before. So, all of a sudden, in this small town where everyone just drives everywhere, we had a huge uptick of foot traffic. People were taking these long 5-mile walks with their dogs and kids and stopping to get a coffee or an iced coffee or a lemonade or an iced tea. That worked to our advantage. It also really gave people something to do, because they felt like they couldn’t go anywhere else. . . . So we ended up also getting to know our customers really well.
The topic of pregnancy loss hits home for so many families. What would you say to families who are going through it?
Just to give you a little bit more background, I lost Crosby at 17 weeks, but I ended up having a total of five miscarriages in two years — so a lot of trauma. A lot of grief and a lot of guilt and heartbreak. Infertility and pregnancy loss, both of those things, they change you. And it’s OK that they do. And I also think it’s really important that couples seek therapy outside of each other. Each person is dealing with it very differently. There’s a lot of struggle for the person who’s carrying the baby. There’s a lot of struggle for the partner who’s not carrying the baby. . . . You really are never the same after all of those things happen to you, and it’s really easy to sort of just crawl into a hole and just never be the same.
The next option is to sort of step out of the hole and say: “OK, well, who am I now and how do I push forward?” Which is something that I don’t know that I have the answer to, but I do feel like I had to work really hard to decide that I was going to be this new person and push forward and be something else than I was before.
But I would say, I definitely encourage you to go to therapy. I’m a big proponent of therapy.
On a lighter note: guilty pleasure snack?
You definitely will find me late at night with a spoonful of Nutella. It’s not even classy. It’s not even cool. It’s just a good bowl of Nutella.