Clutch Coffee Bar opened the doors to its new Devine Street location on Jan. 28, looking to redefine coffee culture as one that focuses on community engagement and support.
The opening on Saturday was marked by enthusiastic employees, unlimited free drinks and a DJ to establish the company's presence.
The new location is the company’s first location in South Carolina and the first of three planned Columbia locations. Additionally, it is their first ground-up build, as all of their previous locations have been converted into Clutch storefronts from other businesses.
The store is open daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and serves espresso-based coffee made with beans from an award-winning roaster out of Washington state. Beyond the coffee, Clutch also offers smoothies, teas, juices and energy drinks.
Clutch's design is unique in that it is a drive-thru coffee shop, with employees taking orders on tablets from customers in their cars. The drive-thru model is used in all of its existing locations, but this store is special with its outdoor patio and walk-up window for ordering. In the future, the company hopes to implement a mobile ordering option for customers who are in a rush.
The Clutch experience centers around quick service and strives to provide speed while also upholding its meaningful human connection.
“If you’re going to ask somebody how they’re doing, make sure it’s genuine ... because we want it to be quick, but we also want it to be intentional,” Morgan Holtz, Clutch's director of growth, said. "We want it to be a personable visit.”
The importance of human connection extends beyond customers, as Clutch also makes an effort to foster relationships with and teach valuable skills to each of its 31 employees, some of whom are students at USC or Columbia College.
For Clutch, it is important to teach its employees more than just how to make coffee.
“We firmly believe that whether someone stays working at Clutch for a year or ten years, we’re providing some life skills that they can take beyond to whatever they’re going on to do next,” Darren Spicer, Clutch's co-founder and CEO, said.
Spicer invited members of Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity at USC, to the store to teach them about entrepreneurship and talk about his experience creating his own business.
Spicer started working in the drive-thru coffee business as a senior in high school. He worked as a barista throughout college and began building the Clutch Coffee Bar brand in 2016, opening his first store in Mooresville, NC in 2018.
Beyond sharing knowledge, the company wants to establish a strong relationship with the Columbia community through tangible charity work. To kick off the journey to reach this goal, the store will donate its daily proceeds to Dreher High School on Feb. 1 to support local education.
Through its work forming a connection with not just customers, but the local community, the company hopes to build a foundation for growth.
“If we can make a positive and strong impact on the community then there’s kind of really no limits to how many locations we can open in Columbia or open in a particular area," said Cameron Evans, an All-star Trainer at Clutch.
As Clutch establishes itself in Columbia, it strives to provide the city with more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee, but a place to rely on for a quality experience.
"The number one thing that I'm looking forward to (is) people really seeing what Clutch is about and I say that not only from the drinks that we make and the experience that we deliver, but the impact that we have on the community," Spicer said. "It's not just a business to have a business."