Heart of the Entrepreneur: Juli Cuthbertson
Juli’s Coffee and Bistro
Photos by Bethany Hughes
And she loves her business. But she really loves her people—from the die-hard coffee drinkers, to the frazzled lunch crowd, to the weekend brunchers.
“That is one of the greatest things about me and my shop. I build relationships with people,” Juli said. “I know their kids’ names. I know what is going on in their lives. They talk to me about things and I love that.”
And the feeling is mutual. Which is why her customers keep coming back – and bringing the people they love.
“With our family, it has become a tradition to go to Juli’s on Saturdays for lunch after my daughter’s gymnastics class,” said Noble Morrell of Topeka. “Juli (a K-Stater) is a real jokester and loves to tease my son about being a KU fan. We always have a good time when we go there. It is all about creating good memories together.”
For almost 10 years, Juli Cuthbertson has owned and operated a coffee shop in Northeast Kansas. Now in downtown Topeka, she has a bustling bistro and catering business to boot.
Her new location in the historic downtown building is ideal for breakfast through lunch hours with large windows and an open inviting atmosphere in the main area. She also has a ballroom in the back that is ideal for smaller parties and groups.
It all started with her first little coffee shop in Rossville, which she opened shortly after the birth of her daughter, Macy. Juli and husband Curt had planned on her staying home as a full-time mom. But that didn’t work out so well.
“It just wasn’t healthy for me,” Juli said. She soon realized she really needed to work outside of the home to be the best mom she could be. So Macy (then almost a year and a half) went to play with friends at a local family day care while Juli opened her little coffee shop.
“My life was once again balanced and back to ‘normal’,” she said.
When Curt’s job moved them to Junction City, Juli opened a coffee shop there. When they finally ended up in Topeka however, Juli was intimidated by the size of the city, so she started a coffee shop in Wamego. After a year there, she was ready for the move to Topeka and opened Juli’s Coffee Shop & Bistro at Huntoon and Gage.
With each shop opening (and closing), Juli learned many lessons—some harder than others, but all effective nonetheless. She learned business savvy and efficiency. She learned to value her time and resources, and to not just give them away. She learned to surround herself with people who are positive and hard working.
“One of the best things I learned was to get rid of the negatives,” Juli said.
For three years, she maintained a nice little shop with great food and great service. But she still felt like her business was not expanding like she knew it could. She felt like she had all the right components in place, but something was still missing.
“Curt and I have learned if something is not coming together, we need to stop. Renegotiate,” Juli said.
Juli started doing some renegotiating and research. She watched the traffic. She ate at the local establishments. She found out 30,000 people spend every workday from early morning until evening in an 8-block radius.
“This wasn’t just happenchance. It wasn’t like the planets lined up and I decided to move here,” Juli said. “It was more like ‘Okay. I serve breakfast and lunch; I need to get where those people are.’”
So Juli made the move to downtown Topeka. After years of hard work and positive energy, everything finally came together. She has all the right people in all the right places. From her knowledgeable food rep to her local delivery guy, Pat, who is retired and always available. And even husband, Curt, who is involved with his award-winning barbeque team.
“It is like sunesis where all of the rivers of understanding flow together,” Juli said. “Everything just came together.”
Since moving to its new location, not only has Juli’s shop thrived but her catering business has also drastically expanded. They now handle around eight deliveries a week, which includes breakfasts, box lunches and sandwich platters. With a well-trained staff to handle the shop business, Julie has time to focus on “more specialized stuff.” She has numerous wedding receptions and Christmas parties scheduled in the ballroom, and she is catering other events like an upcoming barn party in Silver Lake.
With all the good stuff happening, her greatest challenge now is balancing work and home life.
“Sometimes I have to force myself to leave and go home, because it is really easy to get wrapped up,” Juli said. “It is just like anything else, you want to do more of it. I have to work on not being here. I can always find stuff to do. It is really about keeping balance. Because if I allow it to, it will overwhelm me.”
All the years of hard work, good service and positive energy are certainly paying off.
“Everything I have done up until now was to get me ready for this,” says Juli. “This is my perfect storm. In a good way.”