Carefree, Arizona, –
The past year dealing with COVID-19 has been a difficult time for small business owners. A major advertising campaign is currently running imploring people to support small businesses affected by the pandemic.
William Hamilton, a former Army medic and owner of William’s Coffee in Carefree, is facing the challenges with the strength and determination he developed while serving in the U.S. Army – no easy task when competing with the major coffee chain stores.
Hamilton says William’s Coffee is doing well despite the difficulties of the pandemic. He recently expanded his business hours when some of the restrictions were lifted.
A career in the café business affords Hamilton lots of client contact. Every chance he gets, Hamilton promotes his military service.
“People ask me all the time about my military experience, and I tell them that I was very lucky. I had this great group of Soldiers,” Hamilton said. “I think in the Army there’s a higher percentage of very moral people who want to do the right thing.”
After completing Basic Training and Army medic training at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, Hamilton was assigned to Ft. Knox, Ky. in 2003. His duties included working at the basic training medical clinic and at the military prison. At the prison Hamilton worked alongside a physician’s assistant who he said had a profound impact on his military bearing toward detainees.
“He told me when I got there that you’re going to see people mistreating detainees. He said it’s not up to us to judge them, let the system do its thing,” Hamilton said.
To a 19-year-old, Hamilton said that was not the prevailing opinion among Soldiers toward detainees following the events of 9-11. He remembers an incident when he entered a detainee’s cell and side-stepped his prayer rug.
“He asked me why I did that and I answered that it’s not for me to judge you or your beliefs,” Hamilton said. “And this was one year before the Abu Ghraib [prison] scandal story broke.”
Hamilton said that throughout his military career he served mostly alongside Soldiers with the highest level of moral character.
“Even in difficult circumstances, you have to know how to stand up and do what’s right,” Hamilton said.
After the Army, Hamilton returned to Phoenix and attended Arizona State University, armed with a responsible attitude, a firm sense of commitment and loyalty ingrained from his military service.
“I thrived in college because of the Army,” Hamilton said. “That was another benefit of being a veteran; people looked up you as a good example.”
In college, Hamilton and other classmates studying literature started a club called ‘Common Sense.’ He said that he and his friends were politically involved, but not the Democrat verses Republican type. They studied congressional legislation and looked for ways to improve those bills they agreed with and contacted the congressmen sponsoring the legislation.
Finishing college at the height of the recession helped Hamilton’s entrepreneurial spirit really kick in.
“I found a yogurt store in town where the owner needed some help,” Hamilton said. Eventually the owner sold the business to Hamilton on a contract basis that he feels was based heavily on the strength of his military background. “And from there, for almost 10 years now, I’ve been doing café entrepreneurship.”
Hamilton eventually sold the yogurt store and a business broker friend told him about an opportunity in Carefree. And William’s Coffee was born.
Unlike the previous owners who offered coffee and sandwiches, William’s Coffee is strictly great fresh roasted coffee and specialty pastries. He admits it’s been challenging to run a business during the pandemic, however he remains optimistic about the future once things balance out.
Hamilton believes that overall, people should have the greatest respect for those who have served in the military. “By and large if you see a Veteran or someone serving in the military people should say that’s a shining star,” Hamilton said.