KENT — Due to the pandemic, it's been an uphill battle for the family that purchased Tree City Coffee earlier this year.

After a decade's long career as an ER nurse, Rebekah Gillespie and her husband Brian, bought the 10-year-old coffee shop in downtown Kent in May.

“Somewhere where people could go ahead and come in for dessert, a nice drink, that's kind of been my dream ... We got to the point of, like, it's either now or never (and) went ahead and did it May 1st ... And here we are,” Gillespie said.

It's been challenging for the Gillespies, especially when Kent State students aren't on campus, Rebekah Gillespie said.

“The biggest thing that's very scary for us is, we do not qualify for any federal or state-funded grants, aid, loans, anything, because of when we took over the business," she said.

What You Need To Know

  • Rebekah Gillespie and her husband Brian purchased Tree City Coffee in the midst of the pandemic

  • Tik Tok videos has helped increase business

  • The first Tik Tok video has more than 200,000 views 
  • The future of the coffee shop is uncertain

To help, Rebeckah’s daughter Shelby, who also works at the shop, took a shot in the dark and started posting videos about the coffee shop on Tik Tok.

“I see a lot of other small businesses, doing it and I was like, hopefully, this will help my mom,” Shelby said. “I didn't expect it to go up like that. But I just tried to do something.”

Shelby’s first video has more than 200,000 views and led to their busiest day since they opened in May.

“It's been people from all over, I've had people come from, like, an hour away,” she said.

Rebeckah said the videos had a major impact on sales this month.

"I was in tears because I thought it was so sweet that she did that and I was not expecting anything. Here I was a couple days before wondering how I was going to keep some of my employees employed," Rebeckah said.

But now that a few weeks have passed, the future of Rebekah’s dream coffee shop is once again uncertain.

"If we felt like we had just a little cushion, you know, somehow it would be a little less scary because we're going through the same thing that every other small business is going through, and every other coffee shop is going through, we're not immune to any of it,” Rebekah said.

Shelby said she wants to continue to make Tik Tok videos.

Not just for Tree City, but for other Kent businesses, too.