Small Business Spotlight: Hawks Coffee Shop

Hawks Coffee Shop is located at 110 Gaul Street in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. It is owned and operated by Cyndi and Matt Nelson, and the story of how the coffee shop came to be is a storyline Hallmark would love to tell.

Cyndi and Matt both are very involved in the Sergeant Bluff community. Matt is a teacher and a coach at Sergeant Bluff High School, and Cyndi had been working for many years in the social work field. However, as a side hustle, she also planned parties and hosted activities that allowed her to use her more creative skills and imagination.

“My husband said it would be great if you had a space to do all that, but it didn’t include coming to our house. I’d seen a need for a place in the community where people could relax, socialize, study, have a drink, chill out, or meet with clients,” said Cyndi.

That’s how the idea of the coffee shop was born. 

“I prayed about it, and then things started falling into place after that,” said Cyndi.

Her husband told her one day that one of the kids on his team was working at a coffee shop in Sioux City that was closing, and the owner was selling all the equipment. Cyndi purchased the equipment. A space became available that would allow the coffee shop and a place next door to rent out for events. Then they heard that a contractor was looking for work, and the pieces of the coffee shop fell together. 

“So . . . all of these pieces just kept coming together, and I really felt like this was meant to be. We’d figure out a way to make it happen,” said Cyndi. 

Then fate, and a little help from above, stepped in.

Cyndi, Matt, and their two children, Makenna and Parker, had gone to visit Cyndi’s mom and stepfather in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Ed Hawks, Cyndi’s stepfather, had been a cattle rancher his entire life. The Hawks Hereford Ranch had been started by Ed’s great-grandfather and handed down from one generation to the next. Ed absolutely loved what he did and how he lived his life. Stories could be counted on telling how the ranch was born and all it had seen and endured over the years. 

However, on the way home from that fateful trip, Cyndi and Matt received a phone call from Cyndi’s mother, Gloria. Ed had a fatal heart attack shortly after they left on their way back to Sergeant Bluff, and one comment from her mother stayed with Cyndi.

“Mom said I just hate the fact that his legacy is kind of going away. That’s why we decided to name the coffee shop Hawks. I named it after Ed and put his brand on the logo. His spirit and passion can continue at Hawks Coffee Shop,” stated Cyndi.

Cyndi’s mom, Gloria, wanted to invest in something else once they sold the cattle, and Cyndi had been talking about opening a coffee shop. Her mom said, “Let’s do it.”

Now the funny part is that Cyndi, up until the point she had children, didn’t drink coffee.

“Now I need two cups a day to keep my sanity, but I only drink drip coffee. I don’t like specialty coffee drinks, and espresso machines intimidate me,” she said.

Not to worry. Cyndi and Matt hire student-athletes from the Sergeant Bluff community as employees, and they are more than ready to serve you something from the espresso machine. 

“Matt’s been a teacher and a coach for 20 years. Being his wife, I can tell you how sports can make his schedule anything but predictable. It changes day by day. I often thought, how do these kids make money? How can you hold down a part-time job if your schedule depends on practices and games?” said Cyndi. 

They schedule the student-athletes for a few hours in the morning before classes, a few hours in the evening after classes, or a few hours on the weekend, if they aren’t playing that weekend.

“Some can work more during one season, for instance, if they play baseball but don’t play soccer. We make it work. Working and being an athlete is really difficult. If some kids don’t go on to play college or professional ball, then they’ve given everything for the past four years to sports. Colleges really like you to have had some prior work experience, too,” explained Cyndi.

Working at the coffee shop gives them that.

“I am in the unique position that I can be a fully operational coffee shop on Saturday morning, and then in the space next door, also be hosting a baby shower. We’ve had bridal showers there, graduation parties, we did a door hanging craft for Christmas there one weekend. The space is available to rent for a very reasonable price. I just love watching the space transform, and I love watching people being able to celebrate big events,” said Cyndi.

Hawks Coffee Shop has specialty coffee drinks, plain black drip coffee, craft beers, domestic beers, breakfast items, soup, sandwiches, dragon fruit tea, locally made baked goods, wine and champagne, and locally made gifts and goods. Some of the favorite foods of Cyndi’s customers are avocado toast, pastries that are locally made, and rolled ice cream. 

“I wanted the community to have a place where they could get a gift for a special occasion without having to drive to Omaha, or Sioux Falls. We have specialty items that have a little bit of everything to appeal to everyone. Opening Hawks allowed me to provide the community with something they needed while doing something that I loved and also honor a man who was so many things to me, my family, his family, and his community,” said Cyndi. 

Follow Hawks Coffee Shop on their Facebook page, and watch the full interview on Siouxland Magazine’s Facebook page under Small Business Spotlight to learn more about the coffee shop.

By Amy Buster

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