Politics, not COVID, spoiled Quinhones’ coffee shop venture

Though Jessica Quinhones feels relief from her decision to close Around the Corner, it also means the end of a dream.



October 21, 2021 - 9:55 AM

The Around the Corner coffee shop Thursday morning, Oct. 21, 2021. The venue is selling only drinks now during limited hours. Photo by Vickie Moss/Iola Register

Jessica Quinhones announced this week that she’s closing Around the Corner mainly because of the pushback by patrons that they wear face masks while inside her coffee shop during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three days after the announcement, Quinhones said, “The worst part is the relief I am feeling. It’s terrible to know you are walking away from your dreams.”

Quinhones has worked in food service for 20 years; the last eight with the coffee shop.

An entertainer at heart, Quinhones said the best times were when groups gathered and she could make them happy with food and drink and a welcoming environment.

COVID-19 changed all that.

A firm believer in science, Quinhones followed health department guidelines that recommend social distancing and face masks as an effective means in keeping the virus from spreading.

“I don’t think it’s rude to ask people to wear a mask,” she said Wednesday. 

Health officials would agree that Quinhones took the right measures to protect not only herself and her staff, but other patrons as well. But as we all know, in today’s divisive culture the pandemic is more than a public health issue, but one of politics. And not a few let Quinhones know they thought she was on the wrong side of the fence and pulled their business.

“People felt they could talk to us in any manner they wanted. It became very toxic. I couldn’t do it anymore,” she said of the confrontations.

It didn’t help that Quinhones often felt outnumbered with only herself and fellow staff member Paige Olson on hand. Or that they are women.

“It would have been nice to have more backup,” she said.

Around the Corner coffee shop owner Jessica Quinhones is shown with her son, Jace, age 9. PHOTO BY VICKIE MOSSPhoto by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Quinhones also could see how the circumstances at work were negatively affecting her. 

Recalling a recent meeting of the USD 257 school board, Quinhones regrets a recent appearance where she criticized board members for their pandemic measures.

“That was a perfect example of what behaviors I was receiving at work and how an hour later I threw them back at the school board. They did not deserve that. My behavior was rude and uncalled for. They deserve better from me,” she said. 

“I want to be a resource, not a hindrance,” she said.

THE WEARINESS of the pandemic is growing on us all. 

As of Wednesday, more than 6,200 Kansans have died from COVID-19 and 729,000 Americans. And the longer we go with unsatisfactory vaccine rates, the better the chances for the virus to mutate again as it did with the delta variant this summer that sent deaths soaring. The cooler weather also is a harbinger for a resurgence. Already, northern tier states are seeing increased caseloads.

WERE IT NOT for COVID, Quinhones said she was on the road to success. 

“It was a million-dollar concept,” she said, noting her menu of salads, soups and sandwiches incurred very little waste. Master carpenter Pat Haire’s tables, benches and art lent the cafe a warm and welcoming vibe.

“I miss it already,” she said. 

And yet, at age 37, Quinhones knows myriad opportunities exist. 

“I’ve learned a lot from this, including how to stand up for a living wage. We all deserve better wages,” she said.

Whatever is next, Quinhones is determined she will be a force for good.

That’s all it takes.