New coffee truck serves community, navigates pandemic during start-up | Business

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It’s not everyday someone opens up a new business.

And it’s certainly not planned to open a new business during a pandemic.

That was the case for San Juan Mobile Coffee in Montrose, a locally owned and operated coffee truck, started by John and Davina Pope, Montrose residents who want to share their love of coffee with the community.

Their first day of operation was March 17, one day after their health inspection and a mere week before Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The couple had to delay opening the business to determine when to return to a normal schedule, and wanted to give the community a chance to support other local businesses.

Needless to say, it created a slight challenge for the new start-up.

“Scary, because our entire business model changed overnight,” John said.

Originally, a mobile operation was the plan, with the truck driving to different locations on a certain route and offering its service throughout the morning. Although the pandemic forced them to postpone the model in favor of staying in one location, the two were able to find a space in the AutoZone parking lot.

“These guys at Autozone were just amazing with us,” John said. “We stopped in to get some oil for the generators and I was like, ‘Do you guys mind if I park the truck out there?’, and they were like, ‘have at it’.

“So we’ve been coming down here for the last two weeks and it’s really helped because everybody drives past here.”

As coffee enthusiasts, the truck was years in the making. When watching their children play soccer at Riverbottom Park, the two often wondered why there wasn’t a coffee truck nearby, picturing it was the perfect opportunity for parents to share a cup of coffee in colder temperatures.

After buying an espresso machine and taking some lessons on how to craft a cup, mobile coffee was born.

“We’ve always been big coffee drinkers, and the last couple years we bought an espresso machine and had it at the house and kind of started playing with it,” John said.

The process to get started has given them a tight-knit circle that John and Davina are grateful to have after a strong start.

“That’s the one thing that’s been really fascinating to us about this whole process,” John said, “everyone we’ve come into contact with, every single person has been so kind and just genuinely happy and enjoying what they do. It’s really been a cool culture to gather.”

Staying local is important for the Popes, too.

“Our goal of this was to keep everything local,” John said. “So we didn’t want to outsource anything out of state. So we’re getting all of our products here on the Western Slope.”

After settling in the past few weeks, the truck has found its niche, pushing to serve quality coffee and offering the community a chance to experience some local brew. They source their beans from Cimarron Coffee Roasters, a coffee business with locations in Ridgway and Montrose, and roast the product upon arrival to keep it fresh.

“We do strive for quality,” Davina said. “That’s what we want to give people and we want to also give people a really, really good experience when they’re here too.”

Serving the community has been everything they hoped for and more, John said.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “We’ve had a blast. We just stand at the window and chat with people and visit with them, make them a coffee. It’s been really fun, we’ve really enjoyed it.”

Davina echoed John’s thoughts.

“I want people to come up to the truck and be like, ‘yeah, those are great people, we want to support them’, and just being kind and gracious with people and passing on those blessings that the community has run through us is so amazing to watch,” Davinda said. “When people have that surprise look on their face of, ‘Oh my gosh, my coffee’s paid for,’ it just makes their day better.”

Davina is referring to the Buy-A-Cup program, an offer where people could pre-purchase a coffee for health care workers, law enforcement, and grocery store employees. The Popes then deliver the coffee to those essential employees.

It didn’t take long for the program to take off.

“Within a couple days, we had enough donations that we were able to go park at the hospital and we served 70 cups of coffee to hospital employees, pre-paid. We had nurses coming out crying,” John said.

“It’s been really cool, it’s just been really fun to watch,” he added.

They’ve kept the program going, utilizing the opportunity at the hospital three times and serving around 250 coffees and beverages, pre-paid, to health care workers.

“Spreading kindness and love is what’s really important to us,” Davina said.

Their Facebook page is growing each day, with several comments asking where they will be next. Social media was a focus for the Popes, looking to capitalize on staying engaged with the community during their start.

“Better than I expected, to be honest with you,” John said. “We were slow at first, introducing the truck, getting used to the truck. Friends and family would come and they’d start talking about it. Then we moved to [AutoZone] and everyday we’re getting busier and busier.”

Although each day varies, a steady day sees them serving around 50-70 people.

John’s hope is, once physical distancing guidelines begin to decrease, all locally owned trucks in Montrose can gather in a large plaza and give the community a chance to interact and enjoy local products.

The truck is set up at the corner of Main and Townsend in the AutoZone parking lot from 7 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Friday.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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