BROWNS FLAT – It’s the perfect place for a coffee shop – for one week a year, at least. Every July, hundreds of Wesleyan families from all over North America come to this small town along the St. John River for Beulah Family Camp, an annual week of celebrations that includes worhip services, concerts, communal meals and beach activities.
They also drink a lot of coffee, as Scott and Evelyn Brooks found out when launched their new business, Eb Coffeeshop, there in the summer of 2018. I sat down for a chat (and an Americano) with Evelyn that week because my family has a cottage near the Beulah campground and its 350 cottages, dorms, and RV sites.
“It’s amazing, you’re guaranteed customers because there are people everywhere…we serve about 200 people on a slow day here, which is a crazy day anywhere else,” says Evelyn, who has been going to Beulah during the summer months since she was a child.
Their second year in business will come to a close in a month, and they’ve travelled far afield with their coffee truck, to farmers’ markets, festivals, and workplaces like Xerox in the north end of Saint John and Arrow Construction on the east side near the Irving Oil refinery.
Evelyn’s love for baking began in high school and then coffee after she graduated and began to work in the industry.
“When I was in high school I loved baking and making pastries, so I always wanted my own little bakery,” she says. “Then I started working a Starbucks and figured out that I loved coffee too. I was trying to figure out different ways to make coffee and just became very passionate about it…My dream is to [one day] have that bakery with that coffee shop.”
Evelyn still has that dream but sees the coffee truck as a step toward operating a bricks-and-mortar shop.
“We decided to try it as a food truck first before investing in a huge storefront and having all of those overhead costs,” she says.
To get the business off the ground, she had lots of help from family members. Her father is a mechanic by trade who can “build anything,” says Evelyn. He outfitted the truck, doing all of the necessary plumbing and electrical work. Her mother has a business that sells jewellery, yarn and textiles at markets, and her husband Scott owns and operates a flooring business.
“We have a crazy amount of skill sets in the family, which was very helpful,” she says.
Even though her ultimate goal is establishing a permanent bakery somewhere, ideally in Saint John, Evelyn says they embraced the life of the mobile coffee shop owner.
“We fell in love with it way more than we thought we would,” she says. “We started it thinking it would be a gateway to the bricks and mortar but we love it. It’s so nice having the mobility – to go around to the people you wouldn’t get to reach if you had a shop. Our idea now is to do both – to have the storefront and have this going as well.”
Throughout the summer months, they developed a fairly regular routine of places where they set up shop, apart from special appearances at events like Beulah Family Camp week or the Sussex Flea Market in August. The places where they’ve made regular weekly appearances were Xerox, Arrow Construction, the Kingston Farmers’ Market and the Night Market in uptown Saint John.
Eb Coffeeshop (“Eb” is Evelyn’s nickname) serves a variety of coffee products, all made using beans from Picadilly Coffee Roasters in Sussex. They also serve baked goods they make on the truck – “simple things,” says Evelyn, that can be prepared and stored with the limited space: cinnamon buns, muffins, brownies, et cetera.
“I’m very limited in what I would like to do,” she says. “I don’t have fridge space because it’s full of milk!”
The customer profile changes according to the location, says Evelyn.
“In the refinery area, they’re looking for Tim Hortons [so they get regular coffee],” she says. “But you do get the occasional person who says, ‘you have some of the fancier things,’ which is awesome. At Xerox they’re more into the lattes, and products like that, so it’s different everywhere we go.”
“But everyone loves coffee so they’re looking for coffee no matter what,” she adds.
Evelyn says it can be challenging moving around from place to place, but she has regulars who know where to find her.
“Even with moving around so much I still have people who will come to me wherever I am, which is really cool, and they’re people I’d never met before running the food truck – not just friends. It’s very encouraging. They track me down.”
This week, you can find Eb Coffeeshop on Thursday at the Saint John Night Market, Friday at Xerox and Saturday at the Kingston Farmers Market. Check the Facebook page for week to week changes to the schedule.