‘Do I want to build it back up again?’

Festive Cup owners disheartened by layoffs, business struggles


Dawn and Tony Whitham had never been able to leave just one person working at their Highlands Ranch shop, Festive Cup Coffee. It was always too busy.

That is, until last week when they were ordered to suspend all dine-in services as part of the state’s COVID-19 containment plan.

A few days after the March 16 order, Dawn, 62, drove home to take a nap, leaving just her husband to man the store for take-out orders. Business had become nothing but a trickle.

The nearly complete halt of their operations happened very quickly, Dawn said. The first two months of the year, business was booming. Then, as COVID-19 became a greater threat, business began to slow down and, for the first time, they had to cut a shift. Then came the order.

“We figured, `Well, everyone kind of shares the pain but we can keep them employed,’” Dawn said, “But then it became obvious — after like a day — that we weren’t even going to be able to pay the rent.”

They had to lay off all six of their employees.

“We love all of them, we’re like a family,” Dawn said. “It was really hard. It was something I didn’t think I’d ever have to do.”

Before opening Festive Cup Coffee seven years ago, Dawn owned a store in downtown Littleton, she said. When she decided she wanted to open a different shop with coffee and gifts instead, she found the spot in Highlands Ranch. The store, in a small shopping strip on South Broadway and Plaza Drive, is tucked between The Urban Egg and a nail salon.

Inside, the store is decked from top to bottom in gifts and decorative items of all kinds. Purses, wall decorations, stickers, T-shirts and more line the walls. Dawn makes all the displays and buys all the merchandise. The shop serves as a place to shop, meet, work or relax for its customers.

Tony emphasizes that while they’re disappointed about the turn of events, the stress on their business won’t be the end of the world for them. They’re in a secure enough place in life where they aren’t worried about where their next meal will come from, he said. He’s mainly worried about young entrepreneurs who put all their energy and money into recently starting a business.

“It’s like an asteroid hit,” he said.

The couple, who have lived in Highlands Ranch for more than 20 years, will work to keep their business open as long as possible. But Tony isn’t optimistic they will thrive even after the store is allowed to fully reopen.

“Once people get out of the habit of coming somewhere, then you have to build that again,” he said. “It’s like you just opened a business again.” 

Because the store has hardly any income right now, the couple will pay next month’s rent from their own savings, Dawn said.

“I’ve been building this business for seven years and finally got it to where it actually was a real business — and now it’s just going to be going back several years,” she said. “Do I want to build it back up again when it could just be pulled out from underneath you in a day?”

Tony is also frustrated with people using harsh words against workers still going into public, he said.

“It’s really easy to judge when you’re not worried about feeding your family,” he said. “There are people in this world who can’t telecommute... There’s a lot of people who depend on (going in) public to make a living.”


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