Most people work in coffee shops while they start their careers; Amy Gaskill did the opposite.
The former human resources professional moved into the coffee business to help a friend in 2007, and she was hooked. But the spiraling economy damaged her friend’s business and Gaskill was laid off.
Fast forward to May 2010. Gaskill successfully completed a sale to acquire a 1973 Chevy van that was converted from an ice cream truck to a mobile espresso truck to start her first business.
“This just kind of fell in my lap,” she said.
In the coming months, Treeroot Espresso and Edibles will be selling its local, organic wares at some of the more popular events around the island. So far Lucy, the name of Gaskill’s mobile coffee truck, stops only at the Bainbridge Aquatic Center and the Day Road Industrial Park on Day Road West. She hopes she can introduce the island to her business at the Grand Old Fourth of July Celebration.
Gaskill chose to go mobile both because the initial investment cost is significantly less, and she identified a need for service away from some of the core areas.
Her goal is to make sure she sets up where the customer base is.
“It allows me to go where the customers are rather than wait for them to come to me,” she said. “From a customer standpoint, they don’t have to go out of their way to get high-quality local beverages.”
Gaskill is also hoping to become a staple at Bainbridge sporting events, setting up shop at football games to warm up the crowd on cold Friday nights.
The previous owners of Treeroot had already established a presence at sporting and recreation events. A couple living on the east side of the island used to run the business until health problems pushed them out, and that’s when Gaskill stepped in.
Gaskill has moved quickly in starting her business, but things weren’t always easy. She was first challenged with getting the required permits from the city, a lengthy task given the history between Bainbridge and some of its past mobile vendors.
“There was a little concern at first,” she said. “They thought after some other activities on the island it might be another big mess, but I’ve had no problems with them.”
Under current zoning requirements, Gaskill is only allowed to take Lucy into areas that aren’t zoned for permanent restaurant use, like light industrial parks and residential zones.
She also doesn’t have the option of rolling down the street, playing a jingle for all the still-sleepy adults to come running, like a grown-up ice cream truck.
But that hasn’t slowed Gaskill’s emerging business. Her focus has been on making the truck truly Bainbridge. Almost every material she sells is produced on the island. And it wouldn’t be Bainbridge if it weren’t sustainable.
Gaskill gets organic coffee beans from Fog Woman Coffee Company, and she has desserts from Pane ‘D Amore and Metro Market.
“I think it’s important to provide those local options in order to reduce carbon footprint,” Gaskill said.
One thing that goes a long way toward reducing that footprint is a truck in good condition. Lucy is currently undergoing some repairs, most notably a replacement of the vehicle’s 37-year-old engine, to help prepare for the increased business Gaskill anticipates seeing over the summer and into the fall.
“Everything could have stayed the way it was, but I was concerned about the engine,” she said. “I didn’t want to risk having the engine go out and my customers missing me.”
Gaskill has zeroed in on vendors, cultivated a positive relationship with the city and started her run. Now all she needs is a couple of employees to help her carry the load. Gaskill doesn’t fancy herself an owner or a manager, she just likes being a barista. And she said she’s looking for a couple more people who share that point of view, and her love of coffee.
Coffee coming soon
As Treeroot finds more places to sell from, an updated route will be posted on the company’s website (http://www.treerootespressoandedibles.com/).