SHERIDAN — America runs on coffee. Black coffee, instant coffee, hot coffee, warm coffee, iced coffee. It comes in countless varieties: latte, espresso, mocha, cappuccino, frappe, macchiato, with cream, with sugar, with cream and sugar.
Most coffee drinkers have beans or grounds in their home or office. Or both. They may also stop by a coffee shop for a relaxing cup of joe.
Coffee drinkers in Sheridan have all those options but are also privy to a more unique option: the drive-thru coffee kiosk. These coffee sellers have no seating and are in the parking lots of other businesses, yet Sheridan currently supports four kiosks.
All are small but maximize space. Nearly every inch is packed with coffee machines, syrup, cups, snacks, refrigerators, mini-fridges and utensils. Workers constantly move around, deftly avoiding each other and all the other materials packed into the kiosk.
The Daily Grind has operated in town for the longest amount of time, opening in the late 1990s in the same location it stands today: on Coffeen Avenue near Ridley’s Family Markets. It underwent renovations last November, nearly quadrupling its kiosk space.
“We were getting busier in the old building, and I kind of just jumped with both feet in,” owner Lexi Kooper said. “It’s been great so far.”
Kooper took over about five years ago. She worked as a barista at Starbucks previously, her dream job as a teenager, and fell in love with the coffee-making process.
The Daily Grind opens at 5:30 on weekday mornings, so Kooper arrives before 5 to get everything ready. She makes a lot of the menu items from scratch and buys some of the pastries from other stores in town.
The kiosk offers a wide variety of drinks and food — breakfast sandwiches, breakfast burritos, cinnamon rolls, cookies, granola bars, banana bread and muffins.
Regular black coffee and melt-your-mouth mocha are two of the more popular items, along with white mochas and caramel macchiatos. In addition to coffee, Kooper sells hot tea, bubble tea and protein shakes. Lemonade, fruit smoothies and shaved ice are offered in summer, the busiest season.
Mornings between 7 and 8 a.m. are jam-packed with people heading to work and school. Regular customers have kept the business alive, Kooper said. In the mornings, Kooper knows about 75 percent of the customers and enjoys chatting with them for a minute or two.
City Brew has had two locations in Sheridan for more than a decade, one on Sugarland Drive near Albertson’s and one on Main Street near Wells Fargo. The kiosks are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
City Brew employee Taylor Hodge started working June 2017 at the Main Street kiosk. She was previously a barista so only needed a bit more training. It took a bit of time to adjust to working in close quarters with another person, but Hodge quickly got used to the dance.
Hodge enjoys her job because she likes working and talking with different people. It gets busy in the morning, but Hodge said it isn’t overwhelming, even when there is a line of four cars on each side of the kiosk. Two people work together, with one making drinks and food and the other taking orders.
City Brew offers a variety of foods like egg sandwiches, burritos, muffins, breads and cake pops. Hodge said one of the best parts is giving a tired, perhaps ornery person a steaming cup of joe in the morning and seeing his or her attitude brighten a little bit.
Another kiosk opened less than a year ago.
Mudslingers, on East Brundage Lane near Scotty’s Skate Castle, opened in 2017 after co-owners Heather Chavez and Danica Sidletsky — stay-at-home mothers at the time — met most mornings for several months to discuss future business plans. Chavez initially proposed the idea of a coffee kiosk. She was nervous of what Sidletsky might think, but Sidletsky — who previously worked at City Brew — jumped at the idea.
They enjoy the independence and creativity, relishing the ability to come up with their own unique flavors like simply blissful, which has white chocolate, blackberry and lavender.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Sidletsky said. “I absolutely love it.”
Mudslingers is open from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, and will eventually open on Sundays.
Business is mostly steady on weekdays, with slightly less customers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Mornings are busiest, with a little boost around lunch and in the afternoon when people are leaving school and work.
Similar to Hodge, Sidletsky likes seeing customers’ reactions after trying a new flavor.
“I like to see them try it and melt in it,” Sidletsky said.
Kooper, Chavez and Sidletsky all said they went through a learning process in the first few months but are more comfortable now, with grander thoughts of the future. Chavez and Sidletsky hope to open stores in different parts of the state, while Kooper is considering a delivery option in town.
Sheridan supports coffee kiosks both old and new, with no end in sight. Northern Wyoming, like the rest of the country, seems to run on coffee.