Stillwater coffee shop customers ‘pay it forward’ for 104 days

For the last 104 days, customers at the Daily Grind Espresso Café have been making donations to the shop to “pay it forward” for the next person that comes into the downtown Stillwater shop.

Owners say well over $10,000 in donations has been made to keep the spirit of that first customer’s gesture alive.

“I didn’t project, I was just excited to see it go one more day and see who else would do it,” said Anita White, a Stillwater realtor and frequent customer of the Daily Grind.

White left the first $100 back in the spring to help bring others to visit the coffee shop as COVID-19 hit the state.

“I’m like, ‘How can I get people in that store? How can I get people to just go and get a coffee,’” White said. “I’m like, ‘People like free stuff, right?’”

White then challenged others in the community to "pay it forward."

“It’s our community wrapping their arms around us in a sense and each other, they are buying it for others,” said co-owner Megan Palm. “It means the act of kindness is still alive.”

The other day, $400 was in that "pay it forward" fund to give out in free coffee for those who came into the store that day. It’s different every day as to how much is given out depending on the day’s contributions, according to the owners.

It’s more than just a free cup of coffee, said co-owner Tim Palm. He said it’s comforting when they tell customer’s their cup was bought by a stranger.

“Someone is so stressed out you hand them a cup … ‘this is free today … it was paid by somebody else in town,’ just started sobbing, just balling … I bet that happened every single day of these 104 days," said Palm.

Palm recalled recently, when he told a customer the cup was paid for, the person pulled out a $20 bill to keep the spirit going.

The “pay it forward” at the coffee shop, the owners said, has brought daily contributions from those in town and outside the area that have seen what’s going on through their Facebook page.

Due to the uncertain times in our daily grind of life during COVID-19, White said these gestures of kindness can bring hope.

“We need to be able to reach out to the people we care about and be kind to them because it returns tenfold and, in my case, 100-fold,” White said.