With 30 cents and an 18-year-old’s idealism, Timothy Kiefer turned Election Day into more than just his first opportunity to participate in democracy; he turned it into a test of his capitalist mettle.
Kiefer has worked for Lakota Coffee Co. for all of a month. He came up with a business idea early Tuesday morning that would result in skyrocketing sales and increased recognition for the coffee kiosk he runs at the Columbia Public Li-brary, which served as a polling place Tuesday.
“I got here a little before 8 a.m., like I normally do, and I knew the election was today, but I didn’t know the library would be open so early,” Kiefer said. “And I was like, man, I just missed two hours (since polling places opened at 6 a.m.), and then I heard that there were al-ready 200 voters here and thought, man, that was a lot of business I could have had.”
Kiefer, who wants to own a cof-fee shop one day, acted quickly to exploit his shot at being the Little Coffee Kiosk That Could. He asked election officials and library admin-istrators if he could post signs offering a discount to voters. They agreed, so Kiefer quickly pitched the idea to his boss, Skip DuCharme, owner of Lakota.
“When he said yes, I took 30 cents out of my tip jar and headed over to make copies of the offer and put them up at the library entrances,” he said.
He offered a 20 percent discount on espresso drinks to those wearing the “I Voted” sticker, and by mid-day he was running short of sup-plies. “This has never happened,” he said. “This election is rocking the house. I’ve had at least double, if not triple the normal sales. I’m selling a lot more espressos.”
And he was hoping it wouldn’t be a one-time phenomenon.
“I also see this as a long-term opportunity,” he said. “… People walking through the doors with our signs will see that we’re here and maybe come back.”
If Kiefer is not the typical em-ployee, he’s also not the typical 18-year-old voter. He’s driving two hours to St. Louis this afternoon to vote because his absentee ballot didn’t arrive on time. Then he’s turning around and driving back because, he said, “I’ve got to work tomorrow morning.”