Though David Bowers is starting his own mobile coffee business from the ground up, he’s not jittery about the market potential in Columbia County.
“There’s a huge demand and no supply,” Bowers said. “There’s no one in the near area that’s selling a higher-quality coffee. Not only do I have a new business, I also have a huge demand for the product that I’m selling as well.”
Bowers’ outdoor gourmet coffee shop, The Coffee Geek, officially opened for business Monday near the Interstate 20 Grovetown exit at 475 Lewiston Road, serving espresso, lattes, Americano beverages and regular hot cups of joe to morning commuters.
All the products he uses are local, said Bowers, who gets his milk from Southern Swiss Dairy in Waynesboro, Ga., and his coffee beans from Moon Beans in Aiken, which is run by the owners of New Moon Cafe in downtown Augusta. In coming months, he plans to carry goods from local bakeries.
Bowers had to get a seasonal-vendor license to be in compliance with Columbia County. The permit gives him access to operate from 5-10 a.m. Monday through Friday for the next six months.
Bowers is working with the county’s planning staff to create a new policy for mobile businesses because there aren’t regulations in place for food trucks or mobile commercial operations.
Though The Coffee Geek sits on property zoned for commercial use, the business model doesn’t call for a traditional brick-and-mortar location, said Columbia County Planning Manager Nayna Mistry.
“It’s sort of a new concept that we’re trying to understand,” Mistry said. “The main thing is to decide, if we allow these businesses, how do you regulate them? What zoning district should they go in? We really can’t say yes to anyone who just wants to do anything,
but we have to try to make it fit a certain category or (find) a way of handling that business.”
Mistry said county planners want to work with entrepreneurs and small businesses, and their first step is conducting research.
“I think we need to do a little bit of research first and look at communities where it works, and then decide if it’s the right thing to do here,” she said.
Bowers said that as a native of Vancouver, Wash., he’s accustomed to mobile food vendors setting up at designated locations and serving customers daily. Bowers also will cater and set up his mobile cafe at events.
The concept for The Coffee Geek started in Bowers’ Grovetown neighborhood of Canterbury Farms. He operated the
business at the subdivision’s pool house for the past month and generated $50 to $100 daily.
Bowers, who spent four years as an Arabic linguist with the Navy, said he and his wife, an active-duty member of the Navy, moved to the area two years ago. With the exception of a six-month stint doing marketing in China, Bowers has been without a job. After the addition of his son 10 weeks
ago, Bowers didn’t want to venture far for work.
“It keeps me home, and it keeps me local,” he said.