TELLURIDE – It’s 1:30 p.m. and Meghann McCormick is not supposed to be swiping down a counter at the Steaming Bean coffeehouse where she’s been working all morning, but she can’t help herself.
“I love working here,” said the smiling blonde, who has been pulling espressos at the Bean since being hired there a few months ago. “I love talking to people.”
Which is just as well because McCormick and Brian Werner, her significant other, have just taken one of life’s ultimate plunges together – into co-ownership of the main street mainstay they are purchasing from its founder, Mick Hill – and a canny ability to chat up customers craving their morning caffeine is vital to coffeehouse success.
“It’s a fun business, and they’re young and gregarious enough to do well,” said Hill, who sold the retail side of his Steaming Bean coffee business to the pair earlier this week.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” he said, describing the sale. “If I had fewer things going on, I would probably still be there.”
Nevertheless, Hill said he had his hands full operating the wholesale coffee-roasting business he continues to own with R.C. Gartrell and Doug Jones, and as director of coaching for the Telluride Youth Soccer Club.
“For it to be successful you have to be there all the time,” he said in reference to the coffeehouse, but voicing a common truth for all small retail business owners in Telluride where long off-seasons and their corresponding diminished foot traffic wreak havoc on bottom lines.
Couple that with plans by the building’s owner to begin remodeling the historic structure in April 2011 (assuming all the necessary town approvals are obtained) that would force at least a temporary relocation of the business, and the wisdom of passing the torch along to a younger generation of entrepreneurs made sense.
“I was thinking we were done; then Brian and Meghann stepped in,” said Hill.
And Werner and McCormick have stepped in with gusto, launching their new enterprise with fresh-baked Belgian waffles available for a limited time only, and plans for “a return to the glory days of the Bean when it was cranking and packed at all hours of the day,” as Werner described it.
But don’t expect anything too radical, just yet. With only a year on the lease at the present location, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to invest a bundle in infrastructure improvements at the Bean– not that it necessarily needs many.
“We really like what the Bean has going on now,” said McCormick.
Still, “Space-wise it has a lot of potential to open up.”
So plans include sprucing up the place to make it brighter and more inviting, and transforming the unused food-preparation area near the back into a space where customers can lounge on couches by day and musicians and thespians might hold court by night.
Free WiFi access will remain and Werner said they’d like to expand the reading offerings to include books and magazines.
In a way, it’s almost as if the fates have been conspiring to put the young couple at the helm of the popular coffeehouse for quite some time.
Take Werner – today he’s an information technology consultant and one of four new Telluride councilmembers. But back in 2001 his first job in town was at the Bean.
“I’ve always had a fond place in my heart for the Bean,” he said.
But with the remodel looming, “there was fear it might close,” he continued.
“We wanted to make sure that it stayed there; it’s a really important part of this community.”
McCormick first came to town during the summer of 2007 while working as a sales representative for fashion designer Autumn Teneyl and running the label’s booth at the Telluride Jazz Celebration that year.
That work brought the New York state native and trained barista back and forth from Telluride, where she eventually met Hill and had the opportunity to bounce her idea of opening a coffeehouse in Dolores off him. (Not viable, she decided).
This past December McCormick moved here full-time (having met Werner over the summer factored largely into that decision), and soon thereafter, she went to work for Hill.
The new owners of the Bean plan to add more items like breakfast sandwiches and burritos, smoothies and yogurt bowls to their morning menu, and sandwiches at lunchtime, Werner said.
Additionally, “We’re going to be here for off-season,” said McCormick. “We’ll be open.”
As for Hill, he plans on focusing his attentions on his coffee-roasting business and will continue providing McCormick and Werner with,“what we think is the best coffee in town,” he said.
Not to mention: “Whatever help they need I’m still there for them,” he said.