When Michal and Young Bennett decided to open a mobile coffee shop in Coeur d’Alene, they searched worldwide for a rig that could haul themselves and their stuff — and transform into a storefront wherever they went. Naturally, they bought a tricycle. You can find the husband-and-wife duo serving piping hot pour-over coffee from their trike weekends at Coeur d’Alene Bike Co., Vertical Earth, and the Bluebird in Coeur d’Alene. The couple uses locally roasted DOMA Coffee and makes their own syrups and sauces for flavored drinks. Those who prefer not to drink their beans can enjoy handmade soda and chai tea. (Michal, for full disclosure, is a regular contributor to this publication.)
OTM: Where did the idea of a mobile coffee company originate?
Young: Kind of the environment, the community, that we live in. [DOMA co-founder] Terry Patano and I started talking about different things we wanted to see in the community. One thing that we saw in other cities was more trike-oriented or bike-oriented businesses: coffee businesses or ice cream or street cleaners. What if we had a trike so that we could do pour-over at farmer’s markets?
Michal: We’re also cyclists.
Young: We don’t even own a car.
OTM: You just recently got your trike, but Coffee Roboto has been around for a while, right?
Michal: We’ve been operating Coffee Roboto for a couple of years. We’re a mobile coffee company, so we started with pop-ups in cafes when they’re closed. A few times a month, we would pop up and serve coffee from their equipment. We’ve worked with both DOMA and another company to use their spaces. We did have a truck fall into our laps a few years ago, but it didn’t pan out for us, so we went back to our tricycle. We also have great relationships with bike shops. Both Coeur d’Alene Bike Co. and Vertical Earth approached us about setting up shop and serving coffee at their shop.
OTM: How did you find your perfect trike?
Young: We started researching two years ago. I’m meticulous when it comes to things like this, and we spent a lot of time developing what we wanted it to be. We researched the trike scene in the U.S. as far as who was developing, who was building, and so forth. The front box trike was definitely the way we wanted to go. We settled on Haley Trikes out of Philadelphia. They’re pretty much the same elevation in Philadelphia that we are in Spokane. They get a lot of the same weather that we do: ice, snow, rain, and slush. And this dude would post videos of how the trike would track during the winter. That spoke to us, making the whole trike thing viable. I spent three days in Philadelphia, including an eight-hour day downtown riding around on this trike, which was similar to the one that we bought.
OTM: Do you plan to keep operating year-round, even in inclement weather?
Michal: We ordered the trike in April. There were quite a few delays and we didn’t get it until the end of August, so we kind of missed our season. But we still wanted to get going, so that’s what we’re doing now.
Young: In the summertime we’re hitting around 100,000 people, [which drops] to 40,000 during the winter, when everybody goes inside. So a lot of the brick-and-mortars are stuck with a building in one location. We saw that the trike afforded us the opportunity that if we were in a location that wasn’t feasible for us, then we could up and move.
OTM: I don’t associate Coeur d’Alene with bike-friendly culture. Are people just [expletive]s on the street when you’re out riding your trike?
Michal: Yeah, but it’s getting better.
OTM: You’ve mentioned the name was inspired by the Styx song Mr. Roboto. What does it mean to you?
Young: There are so many different companies that are just going through the motions and just doing it. But at the same time, there’s this heart beating — there’s this human beating heart — inside the robot.
Michal: He’s got a quirky personality, the robot. He’s very sarcastic. He’s angsty. He doesn’t like anyone telling him what to do. But he’s very devoted.
Young: It’s almost like we were on acid when we came up with it.
Erika Prins Simonds bicycles as her primary mode of transportation. You can find more of her writing at erikaprins.com.