By Tiffany Cooke
Holly Drury experienced her first taste of coffee as a child when her grandmother gave her a sip. Her love for it grew from there and she and her grandma shared this bond. They traveled to different coffee shops together, discovering small businesses, new and old, that served specialty beverages with personalities in their decoration and taste.
This became the inspiration for the Silver Fox Cafe in Pekin, a coffee shop that later developed into a cafe, dedicated to the memory of Drury’s grandmother. In fact, the cafe is named after her, as Drury and her family nicknamed her the silver fox for her shiny gray hair and foxy personality. The logo, designed by Drury’s aunt, also demonstrates a tribute to her.
Drury graduated from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis with a degree in restaurant and hotel management.
“I’d always wanted to do something like catering or run a bed and breakfast,” Drury said. “It’s what I thought was my dream.”
But when a century old home with siding falling off and an outdated interior went up for sale in downtown Pekin, she saw it as an opportunity to transform it into a shop like those she used to visit with her grandma.
This became her new dream.
At the time, she was working part-time in hotel management and raising four children.
“It was a huge adjustment for me to go to work full time,” Drury said. “My husband was always supportive, though.”
The start-up wasn’t easy. If the changes it brought to her personal life weren’t complex enough, she had to re-familiarize herself with the business processes she learned years before in college and apply them to her own career for the first time.
When trying to get financial help and business guidance, one of the biggest problems she ran into was after proposing her ideas, people would respond with, “Pekin? Where is that?”
Still, with help from friends, family, and professionals, Drury developed a business plan and then received a business loan from the Small Business Association to begin her project. During the renovation process, Drury went through two contractors as it was more work than she, or anyone, had anticipated.
In July 2015, two years after Drury lost her grandmother, Silver Fox Cafe officially opened. Today, it is decorated with art and products, like leather and pottery, from local vendors and filled with furniture from Drury’s grandmother’s house – another way the cafe preserves her memory while offering a comfortable environment.
Being able to sit at her grandma’s table in her place of work makes her feel closer to her, and makes what she does even more special.
“People come in and say, ‘I feel like I’m at home – like I’m in your home,’” Drury said.
She likes that she can provide this kind of atmosphere, and also tries to make customers feel even more at home by offering her companionship.
“My favorite part of being a small business owner in this area is that I get to meet people and talk with people,” Drury said. “I have a hard time doing my work sometimes because I like to talk.”
Whether they’re regulars or new visitors from out of town, Drury wants to strike up a conversation with her customers and get to know about their lives. This is what will bring them back, she believes, and what makes her business stand out above cooperate coffee shops.
Further, Silver Fox Cafe wants to cater to their customer’s needs. If a customer wants something not on the menu, they’ll do their best to make it. The cafe also has a meeting room that can be used to host small parties or groups and the entire building can be rented for after-hour catered events.
The Washington County Community Foundation awarded Drury with a grant to finish renovation on the upstairs of the house, currently closed off to public. When completed, this second floor will host the work of five local artists as a place for them to show and sell their pieces.
Drury grew up in Washington County and has lived in Pekin for 20 years. However, her favorite part about the location of her business isn’t just it’s proximity to home – it’s the history of the house.
“People will come in and talk about how they lived in this house or visited here before,” Drury said. “It has such a rich history and I love hearing about it.”
Now, the Silver Fox Cafe will become a part of this history and has more in store for the future.