Considering Starting My Own Coffee Shop, Looking for Advice from Experienced Owners.


New member
Jun 19, 2012
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I really need some help here, so if anyone could give me some advice, I would truly appreciate it. My wife and I want to open up a coffee shop and possibly a gift shop in a small town. The population is only about 2,300, but the location has a 9500 traffic count and there are other small communities around. Another draw is a recently opened mountain bike recreation area which is projected to be in the top 5 biking destinations in the Midwest. The first year it brought in over 15,000 riders and is growing. There is also a growing boating and kayaking crowd. The nearest coffee franchise is 20 miles away, but the hospital’s coffee shop in town, that employs over 900 people, sells caribou coffee. There is also an elementary school, high school, DQ, Subway as well as many bars and 2 gas stations. The building I’m looking at has room for a drive through, has two, 2 bedroom apartments above it rented out for $500 each and I can purchase the building for $90k. I think that the apartments will carry the cost of the building and taxes. I’ll need to come up with the money for the remodel and parking lot and coffee equipment. I also remodel and flip homes, so I can do a lot of the work myself to reduce the cost The building is big enough to have two businesses in it as well, the second one would be great for the gift shop or rent out to another business.
Does this seem like a good scenario and equation for a coffee shop? I know that the population is small, but will I be able to capitalize on the bikers and kayakers and the traffic count of 9500? Also, I have a friend that would go in with me that would basically run the shop, she has some experience in this area. Would it be better for me to be more of a silent partner or be involved with the ordering, accounting and marketing and let her handle the service side? Or would I need to be more involved than that? Could I still keep another job? Or does this sound like too risky of a deal in a smaller town?
Why am I doing this? This has always been a dream of my wife and I’ve always wanted to be my own boss and we would like to eventually both be working there together. We have younger children and would rather wait 5 or so more years, but the great building location on main street and an increase of bikers in the summer are posing interesting opportunities. Any thoughts, ideas or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.


New member
Mar 28, 2012
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What is currently in the space?

Be sure to check out the state/county requirements concerning grease trap interceptors for coffee shops. Look into the fire code/sprinkler system requirements, too. Those two issues were the biggest hurdles we faced when looking into a space for our coffee roaster. As a matter of fact, they are the reason we will only be roasting beans (in back) and selling retail items up front with no coffee service by the cup.

Good luck.



Active member
Aug 11, 2004
Des Moines, Iowa
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Like all good business you need to have a plan before you start. In the small town I grew up in it was somewhat easy to start a business just on the idea of word of mouth. You may want to check around with the other townsfolk and see if they are even interested in the idea of a coffee shop. If you have enough momentum to carry you on then I would think about opening this by yourself for the time being. I know you may have a friend who has done this but you may want to use them as a consultant vs a paid employee. Right now anything that takes money away from a small project is going to hurt in the long run.