CISCO – Things change.
Sure, I was surprised to hear that Sean and Kasity Grose were selling their store, Waverly’s Coffee & Gifts. things change.
“In our lives, we’ve got the coffee shop, the family and the church, and all three are flourishing,” Sean explained. “The coffee shop gets the attention by default, the center of our lives is in the coffee shop.”
The story of how Sean, Kasity and their now-10 year-old daughter Ilya came to Cisco was the subject of my July 5, 2012, column. Waverly’s was named to honor their second daughter lost during pregnancy, and served as an affirmation of the family they already had.
As teachers in Meadow, a small town 28 miles southwest of Lubbock, the weight of not being able to spend more time with each other rankled Sean and Kasity. Creating a family business changed that, bringing them together in a way few families experience anymore.
“It’s been amazing to see the transformation, not just in the coffee shop and the transformation of the town, but also the transformation of our family,” Sean said. “Kass and I went from working in the same building but only seeing each other 20 minutes a day, to being each other’s number-one teammate, running the coffee shop and raising our daughter.”
Cisco has seen a renaissance in the years since the couple opened their shop. It took more than one person or a single business for that to have happened.
Still, the argument can be made that having a coffee shop that encourages foot traffic and fosters community served as an anchor for downtown. People had a reason to come even if they weren’t going to shop for antiques.
In 2012, the vacancy in downtown buildings was nearly 75 percent, according to John Diers, executive director for the Cisco Development Corporation. His agency was instrumental through incentive financing and other methods to help the Grose family start their business.
“When I started in 2009, most of the buildings were boarded up, closed or painted over the windows so you couldn’t see the junk inside,” Diers said of downtown. “Now, it’s probably 90 percent occupied. It’s very lively, very active and very successful.”
Rather than as an anchor, Sean employed his own characteristically colorful metaphor.
“I would say it’s more like a secret vacation spot that has great waves to surf,” he said. “We didn’t create the wave, but when people were watching, we were one of the first to get out and surf it.”
They didn’t limit their efforts to coffee. Sean has been the pastor for First Christian Church almost since they came here and has seen the congregation grow.
Across the street on Conrad Hilton Boulevard. a place known as the gap – literally the building-sized empty gap between Log Cabin Collectibles and Campbell Insurance – has been a convenient site for musical entertainment, a farmer’s market and other gatherings.
There were some misses, too. For time they tried opening a second Waverly’s in Eastland but it didn’t work out as well as they would have liked it to.
“We needed to learn that if you separate Mom and Pop, it’s not a ‘Mom-and-Pop’ anymore,” Sean said. “It’s Mom and it’s Pop, and that defeated the purpose of us being a team.”
Through this, he said they realized that the importance in small-town businesses isn’t growth, but adaptability.
“We learned that even when things are going really well, we don’t have to grow,” he said. “We just have to adapt.”
That’s because things change. People grow, as do the endeavors they created.
“With a new era in Cisco, we don’t want to prune the church and we don’t want to prune the family,” Sean explained. “So we are making a difficult decision, but an important one, to re-center our lives around the church, it’s grown to the point to where it won’t do much more without more attention.”
Beside working with the church, Sean also hopes to continue his writing career. “Under the Sun”, a 2018 book for young adults that he wrote under the pen name of Redemption Gray, was awarded a silver medal in the Nautilus Book Awards.
Always a beautiful day
Often the hardest question I ask of people is to recall a special moment or encounter that’s stood out. In a business such as Waverly’s where you meet dozens or hundreds of people a day, I didn’t expect Sean to be able to provide a ready answer. But he did.
“It’s when customers come in,” he explained. “I welcome them, ask ‘How are you today?’ They always say, ‘Great, how are you?’”
But instead of simply replying, “Fine” or something banal, Sean has evolved his own salutation.
“I always say, ‘It’s another beautiful day in Cisco. I’m just glad to be a part of it,’” he said. “I say that probably 10 times a day. And every time I say it, I mean it.”
“Because it was an appropriate response that was true and repeatable, without me getting sick of it,” he replied. “And whether the sun is shining or it’s raining, or icy, from my view, from this side of the windows, that’s exactly what it is.
“Another beautiful day in Cisco.”
It’s something he hopes the new owner, whomever it might be, will also realize. That owning a business like this in a small, Texas town is about more than earning a dollar.
“It’s about the people, the customers that come in,” Sean said. “It’s about working alongside my wife, watching my daughter grow up into a fine young lady.
“That is an experience that we’d like to pass on to someone else, that ability to stand there and say it’s a beautiful day in Cisco. I’m just glad to be part of it.”
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