By Griffin Swartzell
For many, slinging drip coffees and pulling espresso shots is something short term, a summer job after classes for high school and college students. And looking at the numbers, Vicy Stone seems like just that. She was 15 years old when she started working at The Daily Grind, a popular mainstay on Pueblo’s Union Avenue that has since been rechristened The Hanging Tree.
But where most teens eventually stop working in coffee, Stone stayed with it, mastering the craft and teaching herself things nobody else in Pueblo was doing.
Now, at 32, Stone is opening her own coffee business. She and her husband, Daniel, have converted a 1977 Volkswagen Bus into The Sacred Bean, and it’s set to open in the next few weeks. As of mid-May, she’s run a test service to make sure everything works. It went smoothly, but she says she’s still waiting for a few key supplies to come in before she announces the grand opening.
Stone has been in coffee for most of her life now. She worked almost 12 years at The Daily Grind, spending about seven years as a manager. But when the company rebranded as The Hanging Tree in 2014, she resigned.
“My plan originally was to go back to school and kind of just be around more for my kids,” she said.
But things didn’t go according to plan. While taking care of her kids, Stone kept working with her home espresso machine. She taught herself how to do latte art — she says she didn’t know anyone in Pueblo who was doing it at the time. As she practiced and perfected her art, she posted pictures of her elaborate coffee-and-milk designs on Facebook. At the time, she began dabbling in rainbow latte art — made with milk mixed with food coloring, expanding her pallette beyond shades of white and brown. Her skills didn’t go unnoticed.
“Another company called Gypsy Javas came to town,” she said. “They found me on Facebook and asked me to come on, do some managing and teach them everything I know about coffee, as well as teach them my techniques for pouring latte art.”
She took the job, working for founders Sharayah Pemberton-Harper and Cherie Wisniewski, who also ran sister company — Uncharted Coffee Company, a coffee roaster. Stone spent three years as manager there, developing most of the spot’s signature recipes, such as a white chocolate mocha with bergamot — the citrus that flavors Earl Grey tea — and a dark chocolate mocha with dried, powdered green chilies from local Musso Farms. She taught the staff everything she knew about coffee and latte art.
In January 2019, six months before Pemberton-Harper and Wisniewski sold Gypsy Javas to a Denver family and shut down Uncharted Coffee Co., Stone resigned to devote more time to her own ambitions. That included finally starting a coffee place of her own. She originally planned to open a small coffee shack, similar to Kangaroo Coffee and other businesses in Colorado Springs and across the front range. But Daniel had another idea.
“My husband has had this Volkswagen Bus for about 19 years, and it has been kind of just hanging out without a real purpose,” Stone said. “We wanted to do something a little different than anything else in town. So he started getting that bus [running], and the whole Sacred Bean idea just came together.”
Working out of the VW has advantages all its own. As with any food truck, the startup cost is lower than a brick-and-mortar business. But since The Sacred Bean doesn’t need a kitchen, the costs are even lower than for most food trucks.
Since it’s a coffee truck, Stone said the COVID-19 pandemic will have little effect on how she operates.
“Other than the precautions that are expected, I’m actually doing a lot of having people order online to pick their stuff up when we go [out], so that I have less of a wait and less of a crowd … [and] I’m doing a lot of contactless pay,” she said. “Otherwise, there’s not too much I’d be doing differently. I don’t really see it affecting our business plan so much … I think it’s a really good way to bring something funky and good vibes to the community when we really need it.”
Stone intends to stick to coffee and tea when she opens the business, leaning on her skills as a latte artist. Rather than partnering with one roaster, she’s elected to offer customers a rotating selection of beans from across Colorado, celebrating the state’s wealth of coffee roasting talent. On opening, she will feature two Pueblo roasters: Solar Roast Coffee, arguably the best-known coffee roaster in Pueblo, and Stay Woke Coffee Company, a smaller company that Stone has been working closely with. For the longer term, Stone has started working with Colorado Springs’ Switchback Coffee Roasters and Denver’s Corvus Coffee Roasters, which she will eventually feature on her bus. She’ll pair her espressos with a selection of flavoring syrups that she’ll mostly make herself using fresh ingredients. Right now she’s working on a syrup made with star anise.
As much as she’s looking forward, her business takes its name from her coffee-making roots. She recalls how her boss at The Daily Grind would refer to coffee as a “sacred bean,” and the phrase stuck with her. She decided that would be the name of her coffee business five years ago, long before it was anything but a dream.
Throughout her soft opening, Stone said business has been good. She has a following in the Pueblo coffee community — customers and regulars followed her from The Daily Grind to Gypsy Javas, and they’d show up when she worked as a guest barista at Pueblo companies like Bite Me Cake Company. When she announced The Sacred Bean, she knew she would already have fans.
“I guess I have been a more prominent barista in town since I’ve been doing it for so long,” she said. “A lot of it [has to do with the] high turnover rate as a barista. Most people don’t stick with it as long as I have. So it’s really easy to keep up with somebody who’s done it for 17 years.”