North Dakota Coffee Shop Shows That Honesty is the Best Policy
The Vault coffee shop in Valley City, ND isn't known for its friendly staff - but that's only because it doesn't have any. The coffee shop is run entirely on the honor system, without any employees, and customers are expected to pay on their own. Prices are clearly marked for drinks ($.75 for a regular coffee, $1.50 for Keurig-brewed) and the shop offers fresh-baked goods, ice cream, and even artwork for sale.
Customers can pay with cash, drop a check into a slot carved into the 100-year-old oak countertop, or swipe a credit card.
The shop's unconventional business model is starting to gain national attention. Owner David Brekke and his wife, Kimberly, opened up The Vault in the fall of 2013 with the intent of encouraging arts and culture, offering patrons the same amenities as many other coffee shops - a space to hang out, use the internet, enjoy open mic nights, and even a place to watch weekly movies.
Sources like the New York Daily News, Huffington Post, and Daily Mail have helped the small coffee shop gain national notoriety. Brekke feels the major media outlets that have covered the story have largely missed the point about the shop being run through the honor system. Instead, he says the focus should be on how Valley City, a community of about 6,500 people, is full of honest people who are willing to support a shop like his.
Even though the store has yet to turn a profit (a situation Brekke anticipates changing in the coming months), people have been very generous with their money. Brekke estimates The Vault has received approximately 15% in gratuity since the shop opened last fall.
Brekke recently spoke about the business model and his thoughts on why it works. “I think it all just comes down to the kind of people,” he said. “I think it would work in any place that has a tightknit community of morally minded people.”