Local coffee shop coming to Tuscaloosa
The Monarch Espresso Bar will offer a taste of local coffees in downtown Tuscaloosa.
By Anna Fogg
Soon Tuscaloosa will welcome a new local coffee shop, the Monarch Espresso Bar. Audrey and Paul Vermilyea both attended the University of Alabama and had always discussed the idea of Tuscaloosa needing more local coffee shops. After graduating and getting married, Audrey and Paul decided to give life to their vision and came up with the concept for the Monarch Espresso Bar.
“We spent the last year getting our business plan together,” Audrey Vermilyea said. “We sought out several mentors, who are different coffee shop owners, to just really learn their experience and how to understand how to run a great coffee business.”
Vermilyea knows that they are in a good place financially to open their doors if they were just covering the operational costs. However, the cost and upkeep of the historic building that they would like to move into has proven to be expensive. The 70-year-old building was previously a veterinarian clinic run by Dr. Rufus O. Moore Jr., a World War Two veteran. Moore’s family has wanted to preserve the historic space and not allow it to become an apartment complex or a space for a chain restaurant.
“We’ve put together a Kickstarter campaign. It really eliminates any risks that people commonly assume with investing.” Vermilyea said. “If you’re going to invest in a business, you’re probably going to invest hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, and that comes with huge risk and huge commitment.”
Each donation starts at $10 and the more someone donates, the more rewards there are available. The coffee shop is offering a free cup of coffee, latte art classes, hand-made mugs, or free coffee for a lifetime, depending on the donation. The Kickstarter will last for 35 days and if they reach their goal, the Monarch Espresso Bar will be able to move forward with its progress.
“If we are fully funded on April 1, then we will be able to move forward in making Monarch happen in Tuscaloosa this year,” Vermilyea said. “This is the place we want to make our home and until we raise the money that isn’t really possible.”
Sofia Borron, a senior at the University of Alabama, is excited about having a new coffee shop in town.
“I’d rather support a local business than a franchise,” Borron said. “I can’t go to school or do anything without my coffee, for me it’s a daily routine.”
Once the Monarch Espresso Bar can move into this historic building, Vermilyea has a specific atmosphere that she wants to create that will make customers comfortable and feel at home. The coffee shop will also stay open later to accommodate students that are studying or to give customers an alternative place to go on a Friday night.
“We want people to come in there and be a great place for them to get work done,” Vermilyea said. “It’s going to have long tables, outlets, and comfy chairs but what we’re really trying to create is an inviting relational atmosphere that lends itself to people coming and grabbing a coffee with someone and having conversations.”
Ariel Rearick, a senior at the University of Alabama, thinks that having a coffee shop in Tuscaloosa will be more convenient than driving out to Northport.
“Of course there’s Starbucks but most coffee shops are far away,” Rearick said. “There’s nothing that people in college want more than a cup of coffee at 9 o’clock at night to help them study when everything is closing.”
The Monarch Espresso Bar will be bringing in different coffees that have been roasted throughout the state of Alabama. The Vermilyea’s coffee shop will remain local and unique to the Tuscaloosa area.
“It’s been a really cool experience so far and we can’t wait to launch,” Vermilyea said. “If this place comes to be, it’s going to be because so many people believed in it.”
To check out their Kickstarter click here.