After Jennii Buenda took our 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class, she and her husband Adrian opened a drive-thru coffee and sno cone shop in Norman, Oklahoma. Beanstalk Coffee and Sno opened just days before the COVID-19 pandemic brought businesses to a halt. The result, however, was a convenient, family-friendly success.
Meet the Coffeepreneurs® from Beanstalk Coffee and Sno:
In the early 2000s, Jennii and Adrian ran a busy sno cone stand called Eskimo Sno in Norman. Within a few years, it grew. They scaled it to multiple seasonal sno cone stands, a store with a drive-thru, and three mobile units. By the time Jennii came to Texas Coffee School in 2019, she was used to juggling multiple family businesses, managing 60 employees, and hosting over 450 events every summer.
But coffee? That was a different story.
Jennii told us the story of her major business pivot to open a coffee shop after nearly two decades of mastering sno cones. “We knew zero about coffee,” she said.
The change happened when the Eskimo Sno owners were scouting more retail locations. They found a brand new, 2,000 square foot retail space with a drive-thru in a growing part of town. They knew they couldn’t afford the rent in the winter on sno cones alone. But, there wasn’t a drive-thru coffee shop anywhere near this rapidly developing area.
That’s what brought Jennii into the Texas Coffee School classroom to launch her family-friendly, drive-thru coffee and sno cone shop: Beanstalk Coffee and Sno.
Drive Thru Coffee Shop Meets Sno Cones:
To combine sno cones with coffee is already a unique selling proposition. But Jennii wanted to consider what would truly set her coffee shop apart.
“During class, I heard Tom say, ‘What is going to set you apart from everyone else? And it can’t be great coffee because everyone says they have great coffee. It has to be something that makes you unique, and special’” Jennii shared. After a lot of deliberation, a friend and former employee suggested the name Beanstalk, which has become a primary theme for the coffee shop.
The menu includes beanstalk-shaped sugar cookies and “Jack” or “Giant” sno cone sizes. The coffee shop features a 16-foot beanstalk growing from floor to ceiling.
Jennii, a mom of two, imagined a coffee shop where parents would be comfortable taking their toddlers without worrying that they’d be noisy or spill. She imagined baseball teams coming after a game–kids could order a sno cone and parents could order a latte. Or even better, someone could order their new menu item: a cold brew sno.
The coffee shop and sno cone concept has been such a success that Jennii and Adrian plan to roll it out to all of their existing sno cone locations, rebranding their entire company as Beanstalk Coffee and Sno.
Opening a Drive-Thru Coffee Shop During a Pandemic:
Jennii was preparing Beanstalk for an early March 2020 opening when everything in the world changed. She cancelled an employee training. She stopped all promotion for opening the coffee shop. Instead, she, Adrian, and her sister (who also works for the company) quietly turned on the Open sign in the drive-thru one day in mid-March when everything else in Norman was shutting down.
To everyone’s surprise, cars lined up.
“I wasn’t sure if you were open,” the first customer said through the drive-thru as he ordered his coffee. As it turned out, Jennii’s gamble to open the only drive-thru coffee shop in a busy Norman neighborhood paid off quickly. What made it even better was a menu that excited the entire family. For half of March and all of April and May, she, Adrian, and her sister were Beanstalk’s only employees. Day after day, cars lined up all the way out to the street.
“This is the only thing we leave our house for,” customers would say to Jennii and Adrian, who already had two decades of building relationships with the community through sno cones. During the shut downs, they found ways to support local teachers, healthcare, and essential workers through their drive-thru window, all without training employees or opening the inside of their cafe.
When they finally held their employee training, Jennii focused on the customer service that had sustained them through the pandemic. “This four foot window has literally been the entertainment for the entire town for the past two months,” she told the Beanstalk employees.
Strategies for Success:
Since their very first sno cone stand, Jennii and Adrian have thrived because of consistency, commitment, and customer service.
Jenni found similarities between making great coffee and making great sno cones. Texas Coffee School teaches the importance of grinder calibration, temperature, and proper operation of brewing equipment in making coffee. Jennii linked this to the consistent parameters she used to shave ice and maintain its temperature for sno cones.
“We saw other sno cone stands come and go through the years because they weren’t consistent. People didn’t know when they’d be open or they’d run out of products. We were there every day on time to make sure our products were perfect,” she said.
By the time she opened Beanstalk, her entire family understood the entrepreneurial lifestyle. “We’re all in,” Jennii said.
Jennii joked that when Adrian first opened the Eskimo Sno stand, he’d have long lines of people waiting on him because he wanted to have conversations with every, single customer. Norman locals call him “Sno Cone Guy.” He greets each customer with, “Hi friend!”
When the pandemic hit, the company came full circle. Long lines of cars waited for a friendly greeting from the “Sno Cone Guy.” They wanted a product they could count on when everything else in the world seemed uncertain.
Coffee Business Takeaways From Texas Coffee School:
One of the most valuable takeaways, she shared, was the detailed strategy Texas Coffee School teaches for negotiating a commercial lease for a coffee shop. “I’d signed multiple leases before, but I’d never negotiated them,” she said.
This time, Jennii negotiated everything she needed. Her lease included clauses on air conditioning, parking, and stating the other retail spaces in the building couldn’t sell competing products.
“Everything Tom has told me up to this point has been completely correct and has come true,” Jennii said of her experience at Texas Coffee School. As much as we’d like to take credit for her success with Beanstalk, Jennii already had the keys. Years of dedication, work ethic, and business savvy have made Jennii a force to be reckoned with.
Coffeepreneur® is a Registered Trademark of Texas Coffee School.