York-area man opens coffee shop on wheels
Forrest Yingling was tired of not being able to find a convenient source of coffee at outdoor festivals and other events.
"We always want coffee, all of our friends always want coffee, but you either go get it before you go or you leave and go get it and possibly come back," said the 36-year-old Yingling, who lives in Spring Garden Township with his girlfriend and their two children.
"I just really saw that there was a hole there," he said
Yingling is filling that hole with a green truck from which he can serve coffee and a variety of tea and espresso drinks, via his new business, On My Grind Coffee.
Yingling, a York native and 2004 York College graduate, started the coffee truck, his first business, at the end of July after over a year and a half of planning.
His truck is becoming a familiar sight at events like York's First Friday, the Summer Art Market in York's Royal Square neighborhood and the New Freedom Farmers Market. Yingling also hopes to develop his business by working at corporate events like employee appreciation days and weddings.
The truck seemed like "a unique way to break into the market," said Yingling, who works as a copywriter for CJ Pony Parts Inc., a Harrisburg-area specialty automotive supplier. He hopes to eventually open his own bricks-and-mortar coffee shop and expand to a fleet of coffee trucks.
Yingling found his 2005 Ford stepvan on Craigslist from a Baltimore auto dealer that had bought the vehicle at an auction.
Yingling paid $15,000 for it, had it vinyl-wrapped by Impressive Signs of York and, with the help of friends, fixed all of the plumbing, electric and coffee equipment, and On My Grind Coffee was launched.
He believes the truck had been owned by businesswomen, possibly in Delaware, who had tried to launch their own coffee truck. He had thought he would have to buy a vehicle and have it remade into a coffee truck, adding the equipment himself.
Yingling said he is confident in his own chances. "I have no idea why (the earlier) business didn't work out," he said. "I have taken all the proper steps to make sure this business does work."
Lancaster-based Community First Fund provided him with a loan that allowed him to purchase the truck and supplies, said Yingling, who declined the give the loan amount.
His truck is easy to spot, both because of the lime-green color and catchy, circular On My Grind logo. York-based artist Brandon Schlosser designed the logo.
"That's my number-one marketing tool," Yingling said of his truck. "It's a moving billboard. It grabs the eye."
He also doesn't have to pay rent for a fixed location. However, he often pays fees to appear at events, depending on the event and the permitting policies of the host municipality.
He believes he has the only such coffee truck in York, but it joins other nontraditional coffee shops in the White Rose City.
The owners of I-ron-ic coffee shop/art gallery recently opened what they call York’s first "take-out coffee window," an 11-by-12-foot walk-up site along West Market Street in York's Continental Square.
Yingling has everything a traditional coffee shop has – there's a full espresso machine on the truck that allows him to make all espresso drinks, lattes and mochas, and he also offers chai tea that can be frozen, iced or hot – and he also has a few signature drinks.
One is a Mexican Mocha that’s made with Ghirardelli chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne paper, "so it’s got a little kick to it," he noted.
With what he calls an entrepreneurial spirit and a background in media – his York College degree is in mass communications, and he has marketing, SEO and web-design experience – Yingling is eager to keep expanding his business.
The Susquehanna Chapter of SCORE has been vital to the launch of his business, Yingling also said. He attended SCORE’s business classes and utilized the experience and knowledge of a business mentor, Lou Lavetan, to develop a professional business plan and understand the financial aspects of being a business owner, Yingling said.
"Launching this business really wouldn’t have been possible without them," Yingling said.