FeaturesLocal BusinessShannon Bond

Leeah Shipley Connects People and Community Through Cornerstone Coffee

Cornerstone Coffee logo.

People often move from job to job, searching for their why. The why can be hard to pin down; it shifts and moves below the surface, just out of reach. Does the plumber love every act of plumbing? Or, is it the satisfaction of a job well done or a customer need fulfilled that brings joy? For Leeah Shipley, coffee and pastries aren’t the why; the people and community behind the business drive her.

“I knew I wanted to do something with business that revolved around creating relationships with people and providing an open space for the community to meet. Coffee and pastries just seemed like the perfect gateway to create a space for people to fellowship, study, host meetings, or work online,” Shipley says.
After graduating from Park University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Business Administration and Management, she went to work for Headrush Roasters. “I came up with the plan to open a coffee shop in January 2019. I was in college at the time and would be graduating in May. I thought the timing couldn’t be better and that transitioning from school to starting a business would fit perfectly in my life. Well, it turned out I had a lot to learn.” At Headrush, Shipley learned how to make different drinks and, most importantly, what customers wanted to experience at their local coffee shop.

Exterior view of Cornerstone Coffee in Smithville, Missouri.

On September 11, 2020, Cornerstone Coffee opened its doors in downtown Smithville, Missouri. Nestled into the corner of a historic building, walking into the shop gives customers a mix of classic architecture, modern style, and home-like vibes. A chalkboard menu hangs behind the counter, antique mosaic floor tile stretches into the main area, and a Smithville Warriors banner hangs from the far wall. Two comfortable couches surround a coffee table, inviting customers to sink into them. It’s easy to imagine friends laughing around a board game. Blue chairs and mismatched tables rest under a classic chandelier in the back room. The walls are a mix of brick and stone, and the ceiling is metal. The eclectic elements come together to create a friendly environment that encourages the fellowship Shipley talks about. “We are thrilled that over the first two years, we were able to upgrade almost all the furnishing and really help the space have a better vibe and character to it. We want to continually see those upgrades happen.”

And while Cornerstone offers online ordering and curbside delivery, she explains that most customers come inside.

Interior view of Cornerstone Coffee in Smithville, Missouri.

“We are nearly 100 percent in-person sales. We would like to think that it is because they love interacting with our wonderful baristas on staff.” Into the fall, Shipley hopes to offer more specials, like their pumpkin muffins, which sell out daily, and events, like their Cocoa and Coloring, where kids can get $1 hot chocolates and display their artwork on the walls for family, friends, and patrons to admire.

In the next breath, Shipley explains that one of their biggest challenges is operating Cornerstone with a small staff. “Cornerstone relies heavily on my family, with myself and my sister working the bar most days. I also have my mother doing a lot of business work behind the scenes. Without their help, I don’t know how the business would survive.” One of the sacrifices of her business, she has found, is finding time to spend with her family because one of them is usually working at the shop. The weekends are especially busy.

“We love the weekends because the Smithville downtown square almost always has a fun festival or event going on. Those event days are always huge for us, and we greatly appreciate all the time and effort the volunteers for those events put in to help create such a cute and sweet little town.”

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