TIABI Coffee & Waffles is a small cafe within the UNLV area that persevered during the quarantine months and has welcomed the community for dine-in once again. I had the opportunity to speak with Jay, the store manager, in regard to the hardships they faced and what the current environment inside TIABI is like.
TIABI started as a dual partnership between business owners Tiff and May, although Tiffany Stiles is the sole owner now. The owners both came from Guam and are UNLV alumni. Jay says that their roots are reflected in the way the staff is treated like a family.
The cafe remained open even though most of the city entered quarantine in March. I asked Jay what the business felt like after quarantine began. He described it like a “shell,” due to the extensive requirements from the CDC and Gov. Sisolak that changed the way the staff operated. Because of that and a loss of businesses, most of the staff was temporarily laid off and a “skeleton” of the staff remained, including Jay and business owner Tiff.
I asked Jay how employees reacted to their layoffs. “For the most part, a lot of them understood that there was nothing we could do,” he said. “But a lot of them knew they’d be coming back once things got back to normal.”
Just like the rest of businesses under quarantine, TIABI was limited to take out, delivery, and curbside pickup for a few months. “We were even delivering ourselves, which is something we don’t do,” Jay said. “We were just like, ‘Hey, anything to get customers what they want.’”
Knowing that TIABI is so close to the UNLV campus, I asked Jay if they had a connection with the college community.
“Definitely,” he responded. “We get a lot of college students. A lot of our regulars are actually from UNLV and we do a lot with UNLV. I know we’re in the coupon book for UNLV. We’ve done events with the Arts Department.”
I asked them if interactions between the staff and customers have changed.
“Yes and no,” he replied. “No, because when they come in, we treat them the same. We’re just way cleaner and more cautious. The customers, for the most part, are really understanding.”
Jay states that quarantine actually gave them an opportunity to grow closer to their regular customers because they had time to talk to them and get to know them a little better.
I asked him what he has heard from their customers as many emerge from quarantine. Sadly, many of the customers told a similar story: they were laid off. Thankfully, many are going back to work which he discerned from the limited time customers can spend in TIABI.
I asked Jay how he felt Las Vegas dealt with the pandemic. Because he was one of the many essential workers that endured the hardships of working during a chaotic time, he personally felt that reopening could have been a slower process. At the same time, he is happy that things are reopening, as long as people are taking the proper precautions to stay safe.
Currently, TIABI is offering a “care box,” a promotional offer that started during quarantine. “4 coffees, 4 waffles, for a stellar discount,” he mentioned. They continue to sell their creative breakfast food to their community.