VICTOR — A valley landmark changed hands Jan. 1 when Alpine Air Coffee Roasting took over Local Joe Coffee Drive-Thru.
Danielle Koning opened Local Joe, the coffee stand at the corner of Main and Center Street in Victor, 15 years ago. Prior to that she had operated a coffee cart in Jackson, Wyo., and based her model off the ubiquitous coffee huts in Oregon.
Koning and her husband enjoy taking winters off for sailing trips, leaving the coffee stand in the hands of a capable manager, but recently decided they wanted a little more time and flexibility in their travels. Koning started weighing the possibility of selling the business a year ago.
“I’m still trying to get used to the idea,” Koning said. Her favorite part of owning Local Joe has been serving familiar faces and being part of people’s morning routine.
Local entrepreneur Alex Suckling caught word of the possible sale through mutual friends. He and Koning briefly discussed the idea in 2018 but didn’t take action, and Suckling instead founded Alpine Air Coffee Roasting on Dec. 1 of that year. He operates out of the Wildwood Room in Victor and has grown his business exponentially in the last year, selling bulk and retail organic coffee in many local stores, at farmers markets, and through a subscription service. He didn’t let go of the dream of owning Local Joe however, and he and Koning resumed their conversation at the end of the summer.
“Especially after this summer, when I dipped my toes into retail and really enjoyed it, I knew I wanted a place to serve coffee consistently, rather than just doing it 18 weeks in the summer. A headquarters, if you will,” Suckling said. He worked as a barista over a decade ago in his home country, New Zealand, and wants to get back into that side of the business.
Suckling said that the roastery isn’t currently operating at its full capacity; he can fill orders by working between three and four days per week. By increasing his output to supply the coffee stand, he hopes to take on an employee at the roastery.
Koning said that finding enough employees has always been the limiting factor for business, so she expects Suckling, as an owner-employee, to tap into more of the stand’s potential as the valley grows ever busier.
“It’s like buying a job,” Suckling said wryly. “That’s how you live and work in this valley.”
He took over Jan. 1, while Koning retains ownership of the lot. Sucking anticipates a rebrand later this month, when he’ll change the name to Alpine Air Coffee Hut. Other than that it’ll be business as usual; the stand will operate with the same staff and the same hours.
“The system works so why break it?” he said. “It’ll be my face in there, probably a lot, instead of Danielle’s. I’m looking forward to being more involved in the community, instead of being the hard-to-find coffee guy hiding in the back of the Wildwood Room. I often see people driving around the parking lot trying to find me.”
He’s also excited to have more immediate feedback from customers as they buy and drink his coffee, and to experiment more with blends and roasts.
“I’m pretty happy with my products, but I’m looking to play with more specialty coffees,” Suckling said. “The world of coffee is so big, and every country and every region has unique flavors that deserve to be highlighted.”
With the papers signed the week before Christmas, Koning worked a few more shifts before leaving town for warmer climes. She’s looking forward to enjoying a coffee from the other side of the drive-thru window.
“I’m so proud of the business I built and I’m excited to see where it goes,” she said.