Sip Coffee House owner finds success through risk and self-expression

Sip Coffee House owner finds success through risk and self-expression

Written by: David Zuccarelli
July 24, 2018


Nowadays, local business owner Rhonda Bloch spends most of her time between her two coffee shops, Sip Coffee House in Crown Point and the more recent Sip Coffee House 2 in Highland. Both locations are always busy, and customers have come to know Rhonda’s shops as two of the more cozy and eclectic places in the area to grab a cup of coffee and share in conversation.

However, few patrons would guess that the entrepreneurial success that precedes Rhonda—an East Chicago native—all began with just twenty-five teacups almost two decades ago.

It was early in 1999 when Rhonda came across those ceramic cups, where they sat outside on a table at a local garage sale. She remembers conversing with the man who was selling them; he revealed to Rhonda that they weren’t his, but belonged to his wife who had passed away.

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Nowadays, local business owner Rhonda Bloch spends most of her time between her two coffee shops, Sip Coffee House in Crown Point and the more recent Sip Coffee House 2 in Highland. Both locations are always busy, and customers have come to know Rhonda’s shops as two of the more cozy and eclectic places in the area to grab a cup of coffee and share in conversation.

However, few patrons would guess that the entrepreneurial success that precedes Rhonda—an East Chicago native—all began with just twenty-five teacups almost two decades ago.

It was early in 1999 when Rhonda came across those ceramic cups, where they sat outside on a table at a local garage sale. She remembers conversing with the man who was selling them; he revealed to Rhonda that they weren’t his, but belonged to his wife who had passed away.

“He told me a story about how opening up a tea room was what his wife had always wanted to do,” Rhonda says.

The moment shared with the man was touching for Rhonda, not only because of the unexpected depth of their conversation, but because it would be one of the moments that finally helped her realize what she was meant to do. Meeting this random stranger came at a time when Rhonda was beginning to grow fed up with working for someone else her whole life, and when she felt as though her soul was still searching for self-identity.

In fact, up until that moment, Rhonda had never been able to plant her feet at any one job, or any one city, for that matter. After attending Roosevelt High School in the 1970s, Rhonda took off to California at the age of seventeen, not exactly knowing what she was going to do.

“I went through that young stage that teenagers go through; I was a rebel. So I set out to prove myself.”

Though she was never able to gain much traction or find a stable job on the West Coast, her experiences away from home laid out a foundation that would eventually lead her down the path of entrepreneurship. Bouncing from Indiana to California, then up the coast to Washington, Rhonda took up a multitude of whatever small jobs she could find, mostly in the restaurant business.

When she thinks back now on how difficult that period of her life was for her, Rhonda almost has to laugh to remind herself that everything happens for a reason.

Photo Credit: David Zuccarelli
Rhonda Bloch
Photo Credit: David Zuccarelli
Rhonda Bloch

“He told me a story about how opening up a tea room was what his wife had always wanted to do,” Rhonda says.

The moment shared with the man was touching for Rhonda, not only because of the unexpected depth of their conversation, but because it would be one of the moments that finally helped her realize what she was meant to do. Meeting this random stranger came at a time when Rhonda was beginning to grow fed up with working for someone else her whole life, and when she felt as though her soul was still searching for self-identity.

In fact, up until that moment, Rhonda had never been able to plant her feet at any one job, or any one city, for that matter. After attending Roosevelt High School in the 1970s, Rhonda took off to California at the age of seventeen, not exactly knowing what she was going to do.

“I went through that young stage that teenagers go through; I was a rebel. So I set out to prove myself.”

Though she was never able to gain much traction or find a stable job on the West Coast, her experiences away from home laid out a foundation that would eventually lead her down the path of entrepreneurship. Bouncing from Indiana to California, then up the coast to Washington, Rhonda took up a multitude of whatever small jobs she could find, mostly in the restaurant business.

When she thinks back now on how difficult that period of her life was for her, Rhonda almost has to laugh to remind herself that everything happens for a reason.

“I ran out of money. I was homesick. Sometimes I had a place to sleep, and sometimes I didn’t.”

Yet, those experiences matured her, and helped to slowly shape her into a determined individual with real-world knowledge. After moving back home and finding a bartending job in Hammond, and eventually working for a tea shop in Merrillville, it was that day at the garage sale that acted as a moment of sudden clarity for Rhonda.

“I looked at the teacups in front of me on that table, and I bought them all and opened up a tea shop. I just thought that it was meant to be.”

Rhonda opened that restaurant in the Crown Point square; it wasn’t Sip Coffee House, but instead was a quaint and classy little tea shop called Tiffany’s.

Rhonda isn’t hesitant to admit that she had to “play the part” to make her first business successful; she aimed Tiffany’s at older women who had money. It was the same business model she herself had experienced as an employee at another tea shop in Merrillville, and she ran with it.

Eventually though, that sort of persona and style became tiring for Rhonda, who began to realize her desire to express her more creative and eclectic side through her restaurant.

“I was tired of wearing black and white. Ironed pants, ironed shirts, that kind of stuff. I felt that I had somewhat lost myself in that transaction, and I just wanted to be me again,” she says.

That feeling of connecting with her true self propelled Rhonda to completely flip her classy tea room upside-down. She painted over the neutral-colored walls, hung up a variety of brightly colored paintings and pictures, dimmed the lights, brought in rustic furniture, changed the menu from tea to coffee, and opened Sip Coffee House.

Photo Credit: David Zuccarelli
Rhonda Bloch

“From the first day it opened it worked,” she says. “Within the first week I had lines of people waiting for coffee.”

That success has stuck with the restaurant ever since, and has led to Rhonda expanding from Crown Point into Highland. Currently, she’s planning on taking even larger steps to not only expand Sip, but also to further other plans of one day opening up a new coffee shop in Michigan.

Although it might be safe to say that Rhonda has mostly grown out of her younger rebellion stage, she certainly hasn’t lost her energy for the risk-taking nature that has made her such a successful entrepreneur. Rhonda attributes this success to a balance between her groomed savviness as a businesswoman, her love for serving other people, and a desire to allow herself and others to freely express themselves in the process.

At the same time, she can’t help but feel that part of her younger self still drives her forward. It’s a kind of longing that she says isn’t too distant from what motivated her to drop everything and make the risky move to California all those years ago, long before she ever came across those cups at that garage sale in 1999.

“It’ll never be enough,” she says, speaking on how many businesses she still wants to open.

“I’ll probably work until the day I die. But I am not going to sit home on the couch and watch the world go by.”