Across the world there is a beverage that is part of every country’s morning routine – a ‘cup of joe.’ No one knows exactly how or when coffee hit the scene, but one thing is certain, it has become the jolt needed by many to get the day off to a good start. Coffee houses are the center of social activity throughout the world, and in Roanoke, the Little Green Hive is a part of the morning blend.
Little Green Hive is now owned by Sharon Ponce and Leo Jimenez. They took over the business from founders Mark and Amy Garland 18 months ago. Both Ponce and her husband Leo have years of experience in hospitality including management and culinary arts. It was a dream of theirs to one day have their own spot. “We started saving and decided to just wait on the right opportunity,” said Ponce. During a week when the couple was off together for two days in a row – a rare occurrence – they scoped out a business Ponce saw for sale on the internet. And as the old idiom goes…the rest is history.
Anyone who has ever worked in hospitality understands you work during the times most people enjoy – weekends and evenings. As a married couple in the industry, Ponce says finding quality time can be a challenge but they carve out moments whenever possible. The couple has three children – Gabriel, Liliana and Lucas. “I am thankful I have good kids, they do their chores and they are in honors class,” said Ponce. Before the family took over the coffee shop Ponce managed a fast food restaurant and Jimenez oversaw the kitchen at a popular restaurant, so they often worked six days a week. Ponce, who is originally from California, and Jimenez, who is from Mexico, knew their goal to have their own spot would be an investment in their children’s future and an opportunity to build generational wealth. That way their children “wouldn’t have to work as hard as we did,” said Ponce.
Taking over Little Green Hive has provided the step towards the life Ponce and Jimenez always imaged. Managing a business has allowed them to accomplish a dream, but here are some things they wish they had known before leaping into business ownership. “I wish I had studied QuickBooks and knew the human resource side of things more than I did,” said Ponce. Nonetheless, he is learning on the job.
Little Green Hive has three locations: Downtown Roanoke, Grandin and Roanoke College. The couple walked into the business with an experienced staff, so that helped with the transition. Ponce said they are slowly incorporating new ideas and systems.
Ultimately being responsible for everything was terrifying at first, but Ponce thinks it was worth the risk. “You have to ask yourself is the cake worth the bake,” said Ponce. For their family the journey into the unknown has paid off. “We have more time with our family now, our schedule is more flexible,” she added. The children spend much time at the shops. Their presence is felt even when they are not around. Liliana sells her own homemade chap stick and has designed a Little Green Hive coffee mug.
Involving the kids is just one example of how the family is making the shop unique. Little Green Hive features local vendors whenever possible. The coffee is from Floyd County’s Red Rooster Coffee Roasters. The milk comes directly from a dairy farm, and the pastries are either homemade or provided by local craft bakers. People visiting the shop know they are getting a quality cup of coffee and well-made Danish. The shop even has fresh smoothies and specialty teas. There is something for everyone, from the health conscious to someone looking to indulge. Giving people options and having more than one location is part of the shop’s success.
Little Green Hive is a business that not only is strengthening the bond of a family, but also the bond of other local Roanoke Valley businesses. The family has big plans for the brand’s future. “We believe the coffee shop is easy for people to learn. We could expand, having more locations here or in other states,” said Ponce. We could see Little Green Hives popping up all around Southwest Virginia and beyond since, it has become the perfect family brew.