As coffee culture grows in Knoxville, we’ve started to get some interesting permutations both in the bean itself and the ways it’s delivered. This may be one of the most interesting: a bicycle pulling a cart with everything needed for a good cup of coffee, hot chocolate or a fancy coffee drink. Andrew Mrozkowski moved from Asheville to Knoxville after receiving a job transfer. His roots grew deeper when he married a Knoxville girl and everything seemed set.
Except it wasn’t. His long-term interest in coffee had begun to spin in the direction of a passion which fueled his interest in developing a unique business based on the bean. He began working with his father to build a cart which could incorporate three burners and propane to fuel them, a re-chargeable battery, a sink, coffee – both fresh-ground and whole beans – refrigerated milk, distilled water, a gray water tank, flavorings, cell phone chargers, a fire extinguisher and hot chocolate as well as cups and napkins. The health department suggested hand sanitizer. They purchased some items, re-purposed others, and fit it all into a 3’x 2′ x 2′ cart that is light enough to be pulled by a bicycle. Bike and all fits into an SUV for transporting.
Andrew’s career in programming didn’t exactly portend a second career in coffee. In Raleigh, North Carolina, he worked for a utility company and later began teaching computer science at Mars Hill University. He has a BA in music from UNC Greensboro and he continues to pursue music, teaching percussion and keyboard percussion. He’s played percussion supporting acts such as Thelonious Monk, Jr. and Ben Folds and currently plays drums with the Marble City Shooters. One of the things he has loved about Knoxville is its openness to new bands.
He sees a growing trend in bicycle cart businesses and notes that there is one in Asheville, though the cart is different. He also pointed out that he has a friend in San Francisco who operates a creme brulee business from a bicycle cart. He said a full food truck seemed like overkill to serve coffee and he’s a life-long cyclist, having ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway with his brother when they were younger, so merging cycling culture with coffee culture seemed obvious.
He set a budget of $1000 to include all equipment, coffee to start and all permits. He went $400 over budget, but relative to the cost of a brick and mortar store front or a full-sized food truck, he thought he did pretty well. He’s also offering, via the Pedal Java website, to franchise or build a cart for others. If the idea catches on, he could imagine his focus shifting in that direction.
For now, he’s been in a quiet period he calls a “soft pedal.” Since getting married to that Knoxville girl about three weeks ago, he’s done a corporate event and set up shop a few times. He’s also served free coffee to veterans earlier this week and got a little spot on WBIR documenting the event. You’ll find him this Thursday night at the Louisiana Style Food Truck Event at Blue Slip Winery, where he’ll be serving, “French Quarter Café au lait with our regular espresso and pour-overs.”
He said the regulatory process has been manageable, with the county being particularly helpful. He’s a bit different from the trucks and even many of the carts since he’s mobile. The fire department required the fire extinguisher. The health department required sanitizer and a dairy certification since he uses fresh milk for steaming.
He’s still sampling coffees trying to determine which roast he’ll ultimately use. He prefers a “sweet, mild roast.” He uses an electric burr grinder for the bulk of the grinding and has a hand-held burr grinder for use on the cart. He feels it preserves the flavor of the bean better than a blade grinder.