Local coffee shop reflects on impacts from hurricanes in Central America

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Although the Grand Strand was spared impact from Hurricanes Eta and Iota, a local business-owner who works with farmers across the world says, it’s important to remember that it could have been us.

Banks Thomas is an international coffee trader. He and his wife opened Grand Strand Coffee when the pandemic began.

‘We opened two days after they basically closed down restaurants in March,” Thomas said. “We started with our condiment stand sitting outside and we were just serving people at the door. It was tough because no one could see our food, no one could see our menu, no one knew what we had, but it worked. It did okay.”

Fast forward to November and Thomas says after garnering a solid customer base and some regulars near the end of summer, recent case increases have once again taken a toll on business.

While the pandemic is impacting their business, something taking a toll on farmers in Central America now is damage from Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

“The mudslides are going to happen over the next couple days and that’s when the farms will go down or what’s left of the farms because we don’t know with that much rain and even though up in the mountains, they’re saying they only got like 60 mile an hour winds, coffee plants aren’t designed to have 60 mile an hour winds,” Thomas explained.

At Grand Strand Coffee, they keep two roasts consistent, but about once a month they bring in two different roasts from across the world.

“We try to buy from family farms to family coffee shops and work it all the way through,” Thomas said.

Thomas says he’s been able to reach the farmers he works with in Honduras and Guatemala, but hasn’t heard from his friends who farm coffee in Nicaragua yet.

“We buy from this one farm in Nicaragua; I’ve known these guys for man 15 years that I’ve been buying from them from different companies that I’ve worked for and I’ve seen their kids grow up and the next generation is starting to take over, but this is four generations back that they’ve been growing coffee,” Thomas said. “I can’t get in touch with them. I tried. I tried again this morning. I think because of where they are located, they are okay, but I’m assuming they don’t have power. I can’t get in touch with them.”

In addition to devastating the area, Thomas says many there anticipate these storms causing food insecurity.

“A lot of the beans and rice are grown closer to the coast where it’s more flat and it’s not on the mountains and that’s all flooded,” he explained. “I don’t have a lot yet, but we’re hearing that there are going to be food security issues in Honduras and Nicaragua.”

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