Food trucks have become a staple in the Auburn-Opelika area, but one entrepreneurial couple hopes to take a different approach to the business model by offering coffee on wheels.
Gleason Jones' take on coffee and service paired with simplistic design, aptly named the Minimalist Coffee Company, is launching its coffee bus in the Auburn-Opelika area by October.
Jones started his business after he was dissatisfied with the taste of other coffee brands. After expressing his frustrations to his fiancee, Savanah Stevens, he said she encouraged him to begin making and selling his own blends.
“I always credit her to being the reason that I started it instead of just complaining about it to this day,” Jones said.
Jones traveled to California to perfect his coffee and create the coffee beans he uses today. He said he wanted to focus on the natural flavor of the bean that comes out when it's roasted.
“I didn't want it to be just your other brand; they have basically all the same flavors [but] just call it something else,” Jones said. “I wanted it to be its own pillar and coffee itself.”
Jones said he wasn't always in tune with minimalism, collecting expensive shoes earlier in his life. However, he eventually sold the shoes to cut down on his material possessions which generated money he's now using to start his coffee business.
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From closet bus to coffee bus
Jones' minimalist aesthetic revolves around a black and white color scheme and simple design. He said each coffee bag has its own design on it while still maintaining the signature black-and-white concept. He adopted the minimalist aesthetic as a way to remove distractions, focusing entirely on the coffee.
“I kind of started transitioning from just the basic minimum to actually having more of the aesthetically pleasing side of it to it,” Jones said.
Jones started out selling coffee online and then bought his bus from his sister, Taylor, owner of the Tiny Closet Boutique. Jones transformed the bus into a small minimalist coffee shop with the black logo and decals.
“That just kind of reflected how it's this really cool-looking coffee ... that's still not like — bam — in your face, but it catches your attention at the same time,” he said.
Jones said he redesigned the bus from the ground up by himself in two months. Before, he was operating online as a new way of running his business and keeping the aesthetic of his brand.
"I've always been, I guess, the wildcard,” Jones said. “So, I was like, let's try this way instead. I'm basically trying to reinvent the wheel on accident.”
Customers can purchase bagged coffee and wholesale coffee off the website. Jones said customers can make their own quality coffee this way and not “spend eight to $10 at Starbucks every morning.”
Jones said his goal on the website is to be welcoming and make customers feel comfortable while finding their favorite coffee.
“Nobody wants to be on the site and just feel like either there’s nothing here to offer or you’re trying to sell me the ground under my feet,” he said.
Jones said he’s trying to figure out his target audience with the help of his sister handling the company's marketing.
“A lot of my clients — our customers — they have been largely female coffee drinkers,” Jones said. “And that’s because they, I think, have been appreciating the aesthetics a lot more.”
Savanah Stevens, his fiancee, runs the Minimalist Coffee Company's social media pages which he said has been a tremendous help. On social media, the couple will post where the bus will be and when, which was inspired by Dumps Like a Truck, now Irritable Bao, located on East Magnolia Avenue. Jones said he has worked closely with Irritable Bao's founder, Whitley Dykes, in the past.
“I've been good friends with [Dykes] since the beginning,” he said. “I actually helped his wife the first time she ever set up.”
With his mobile setup, Jones is able to go anywhere with his coffee. His bus is fully equipped with a functioning refrigerator, sink, espresso machine and regular brew machines. Jones said he believes his full setup brings a fun, out-of-the-box coffee shop to Auburn and Opelika.
“Other places have coffee shops pop up left and right in Auburn and Opelika, and they're all kind of the same [but] not in a bad way,” he said.
Instead of sitting down inside a shop and hanging out, customers can enjoy their coffee outside the bus, with speakers outside the bus playing music. Jones said he believes the bus reflects the standards of today’s world.
“It ... isn't forcing people to get uncomfortable inside of tighter spaces,” he said. “So, it’s kind of rolling with how the world’s evolving right now in a sense.”
Coffee for charity
Jones launched the Minimalist Coffee Company earlier this year and said he believes it’s a blessing that he's starting his business now as people are looking to go out and try new things after the more restricted period of the pandemic last year.
“Everybody's so excited about it,” he said. “It kind of brings a larger audience to it because there's more people wanting to go because they've been locked where they've been at for so long.”
The pandemic has also brought obstacles because of the shortages of many products. Jones said he's waiting for new coffee bags to arrive and had been waiting for a health inspection to be completed so the business can launch next month as planned.
In the meantime, Jones is working on his craft and teaching himself how to do lattes, espressos and more.
“So, it's just really making new connections, trying to perfect what I'm doing and getting everything prepared for this next step,” he said.
Jones is continuing to think up ideas for his new coffee shop, including having coffee pouches similar to Capri Suns, adding a subscription service and having a continuously changing menu.
“Just adding all that together I feel like is what really brings the bus to it as a whole,” Jones said.
Not only does Jones have big plans for his shop, but he said he hopes to have a big impact on the community by doing charity work and connecting charities with each coffee flavor.
“Right now, we have our newest flavor that will come out that is very deep to me,” Jones said. “And it's to help those who need rehabilitation for addiction because I had a friend that passed away in 2018 from an addiction.”
Jones said he's been working with his friend’s mom to raise awareness and he hopes to have a portion of the proceeds from each flavor go to its respective charities. Another flavor, called Golden Hour, is inspired by his golden retrievers and Jones said he hopes to have the proceeds go toward the Humane Society.
“I think [customers] would appreciate it and more knowing that they’re not just helping another small business, but they’re actually helping something that might mean a lot to them,” Jones said. “So that’s something we’re really passionate about.”
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