Small Business Feature: Scorpion Hearts Club

Small Business Feature: Scorpion Hearts Club

Meet Lori Slager Wenzel! The lovely human behind Scorpion Hearts Club. 

If you're a West Michigan local, you're probably familiar with her space. It's a Grand Rapids treasure to coffee and tea lovers alike. Many of us have spent time in her cozy, historic building throughout its different phases.

We reached out to Lori after learning we share a similar story and wanted to share her story with our community. We ventured out to Scorpion Hearts Club one afternoon in late January and shot our French Terry lifestyle shoot among the quiet hustle and bustle of the folks visiting her shop.

Tell us a little bit about your story and introduce us to your life - how did you get where you are today?


"I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, but I only lived there long enough for the dialogue in The Bear to feel extremely accurate. In high school, my friends and I would spend our evenings drinking burned diner coffee at Denny’s or driving an hour to sit in an actual real coffee shop. It was the nineties, and we were the group of kids that looked like trouble-makers - we were goth, punk, grunge, emotional little poets, and one football star, who was my best friend. Coffee shops left us feeling like the teenage babies we were, surrounded by the seemingly cooler college kids. When a coffee shop finally opened in our town, we went there daily. I moved to Grand Rapids over 25 years ago for school and absolutely hated it here for the first five years. All of my best friends stayed here after college, so I stayed too, working in my field and using my Art Education degree in after-school programming. I spent countless hours playing cards and drinking coffee at Kava House, Common Ground, and most frequently, Morningstar 76. At the same time, some of my best friends were buying and renovating buildings on Wealthy Street. So, in 2007, two business partners and I decided to open our own coffee shop on the same street. Two and a half years later I found myself as sole owner and have been ever since. Once I opened my doors and my heart to Grand Rapids, I fell in love with this place."

What does a typical day look like for you?


"Well, no two days are the same, but here is a general idea of what one might be like: I set my alarm for 5:30am and hit snooze until 7am. I truly have high hopes for getting up and writing, meditating, and having a quiet cup of coffee. However, this rarely actually happens (I swear I will tomorrow!). Instead, I roll out of bed and go from room to room waking my girls, then make them breakfast. I am fiercely independent, and am raising them to be so also, but breakfast is my love language so I cook for them every morning. If I remember to, I plan out and prep for dinner. When they’re ready, I drive them to school, and go directly to pick up pastries for the cafe. Once at my cafe, I make any product orders that need to be done, have a conversation with a customer or staff member, then I head to the gym. Then it’s usually lunch and heading back to the cafe to either make a meeting or work on a project. Sometimes I work from home so I can also do laundry and get distracted with cleaning my house. When I pick up the girls from school, I drive them to their various after school activities and get home in time for dinner. Many nights my boyfriend, Keith, comes over and cooks dinner for us. Anything he cooks is my favorite, and our dream is to open a breakfast joint when we retire. This week, after dinner, I’ve been spending time with my oldest daughter creating a paper mac
he corgi-shaped Valentine’s mailbox. Around 7:30pm I get each of them in the shower and then do our bedtime ritual. Finally, I spend an hour or two with my boyfriend, read, or watch a 90’s movie before bed. Weekends are for chores, laundry, and family!"

Tell us about what inspires you—either personally or at work.


"When I need inspiration personally, I go for a run, walk my dog, or hike with my kids. Just getting outside creates space for new ideas. Otherwise, I find a good novel or book of poetry. Any time I remove screens, I minimize what I call my exaggerated audience. Being a people pleaser is draining! All of the expectations I am convinced people have of me are inconsequential or nonexistent. It often feels like there are so many people watching and expecting something from me, but they aren’t. I have a very small audience, and when a Mary Oliver poem or a thrilling novel brings me joy, that joy is contagious to them. Yes, I have a number of books on small business, and they do help, but they are useless if I am burnt out"

We think a lot about our natural resources and uplifting our communities. Tell us why community and sustainability is important to you!


"Building a community is why we opened the cafe. To create a place where everyone is welcome, with no judgment. We have the community coffee fund, where a customer can throw a dollar toward a cup of coffee for anyone who can’t afford one. We operate on the principle that everyone is born with dignity and worth, and deserves kindness and respect. That concept is reflected in how we do what we can to create as little waste as possible. We recycle everything we possibly can and compost all of our grounds, tea leaves, etc. This is so we can look future generations in the eye and not feel like we completely failed them."

We know how difficult it is jumping back into business after a loss, what are some lessons you've learned along the way?


"We happened to be closed for Covid when my husband died in July of 2020. Reopening was a practice in keeping my heart open to any opportunities that came my way. But staying open-minded while grieving was a challenge, so this also meant being gentle with myself. If I needed a day in bed, I took it. I accepted help from anyone and everyone in regards to my home life and also with the cafe. I had lots of therapy too, of course!"

What does the future of Scorpion Hearts Club look like to you? And how can our community support you on this journey?

"Scorpion Hearts Club will always be welcoming, creative, and open to change. I’m not trying to plan too far ahead, because then I wouldn't be as open and willing to listen to exciting new ideas of how it can grow and become even better. Owning the cafe is fulfilling and challenging, but I like to stay curious about where it will end up, rather than force anything."

 

 

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