A small Alexandria, LA, coffee shop recently held a big celebration.

For the last decade, Tamp & Grind has been a fixture in downtown Alexandria, serving up coffee, live music and good vibes to customers looking for a place to unwind. In February, Tamp & Grind held its 10-year anniversary celebration.

It was a long time coming, and with far more struggles than expected.

The coffee shop was founded in 2010 by Jeff Phillips, a cross-country truck driver with a dream of owning his own coffee shop. He opened the shop just as Alexandria’s downtown was undergoing a renaissance, and the shop caught hold. He soon developed a steady customer base, including a young teacher named Amanda Sanchez. Soon, Miss Sanchez became Mrs. Phillips.

As their lives grew together, so did their business. In 2013, they expanded into the space next door to accommodate the increasing downtown traffic, more than doubling their square footage.

Then, fate played an unexpected hand that put the business in jeopardy.

Jeff Phillips died suddenly in 2017, leaving Amanda to take on the business along. At the time, she was working full-time as a teacher. She had two choices: She could sell the business her husband worked so hard to build, or she could take it over herself. Amanda said she knew the only way to go.

“I decided that I certainly didn’t want this to end, as well, because he had such a love for it. So we continued on.”

So she took a sabbatical from her teaching job to take over the business. But she found the business wasn’t in as good a shape as she thought. Business records were in total disarray, and the shop was on the brink of closing.

In order to find ways to save her business, she entered the Business Acceleration System (BAS) program offered by the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA). While working with CLEDA, Amanda learned that a new nursing school would soon open downtown, and she wanted to take advantage of the increased traffic. But the coffee shop would need better equipment to handle the new crowd. But with the coffee shop’s recent struggles, getting a bank loan would be difficult, at best.

It was then that Amanda’s BAS coach referred her to Communities Unlimited, which provides small business loans to those who may be asking for less than what banks prefer to lend. Amanda went to Communities Unlimited with a loan request for a commercial-grade freezer and refrigerator, as well as general remodeling. Not only did she get the loan, but she also got business guidance that helped streamline Tamp & Grind’s renovations.

“Communities Unlimited was really great to saying ‘yes’ to all those ideas,” she said. “Presenting all those ideas to Communities Unlimited was a great way to see on an actual, literal level that everything that I was doing was good, that I was making the right decisions. If there were things that needed to be tweaked a little bit, they were able to offer that information to me.”

Amanda completed the renovations in time for the opening of the nursing school. Now, students often come in for a cup of coffee and free Wi-Fi as they study or just hang out.

Today, that tiny coffee shop opened by a former trucker has transformed into a popular “chill” place and music and artistic venue in the heart of Alexandria. Amanda hopes to continue adding more music events and get-togethers, such as trivia nights, to engage the community. Amanda said she knows that if she needs guidance in the future, she knows CLEDA and Communities Unlimited will be there.