Owning a small business has been Nikki Whitaker’s dream for much of her life, although she didn’t imagine her business would be coffee until she became a barista herself.
“I worked at a cafe and loved it and wanted my own,” she said.
In 2020, global coffee sales were down 3.8% from the previous year, according to the National Coffee Organization. Despite this, the number of coffee shops in the United States has increased by 2.4% over the past five years. There are 65,410 coffee shops in the United States in 2022, according to the 2022 National Coffee Data Trends Report.
The stand not only sells coffee, but also tea, candy, cookies, chocolate-covered espresso beans, and other goodies.
Born and raised in Butte, Whitaker was inspired by many facets of her business – from her name to the colors of the booth to the logo – from her beloved hometown.
The once yellow booth at 605 Utah Ave. which houses Copper City Coffee is now painted copper orange, keeping the theme of the stand’s name and Butte’s copper mining history. The logo is the shape of the state of Montana with the stand’s name inside and a coffee cup next to it, where Butte is on the map.
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Whitaker made his vision a reality fairly quickly. She decided she wanted to open a coffee stand, got it, painted it, got the logo, and bought the equipment and inventory in less than two months before it opened on April 24.
She said she loves the stability that owning the Stand can provide her and her family, and is also a good role model for her children.
“I did it to better my family,” she said. “It’s a great way to support them and teach them that they can one day own their own business.
The business also presents opportunities for Whitaker to give back to the community, which she is thrilled to do. She hopes to sponsor school sports teams in the future and has prepared a gift basket for a silent auction held by the parent-teacher organization at Whittier Elementary School.
With a location across from Butte High School, plus the power of social media and word of mouth, business has been great so far. While she sees many high school students before and after school and during lunch, she also sees students and clients from big businesses in Uptown Butte, she said.
“I had no idea Utah was this busy,” Whitaker said.
Competitive prices and local products are important to its business model. She hasn’t had much luck finding the items she needs in Butte specifically, but she sources her supplies from other Montana companies like Lake Missoula Tea Company and Missoula-based Drum Coffee Roasting.
The stand also offers freeze-dried candy, a trend that has recently gained popularity on the TikTok video app, and is from a candy maker in a town in Montana. It offers a variety of freeze-dried candies such as Skittles, taffy, Starbursts, and Jolly Ranchers, to name a few.
She said high school students rated freeze-dried candy and her drinks on TikTok.
“I have two kids going to Butte High,” Whitaker said. “And their friends are on TikTok, so they review my products and stuff there… It’s so funny; they give me stars, like nine out of 10. And I’m like, ‘Keep doing this, because this is hilarious.’
Whitaker said the candies were selling out almost faster than she could ship them.
She advertised her business extensively on social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, but what kept customers coming back was a combination of the quality of the stand’s drinks and its customer service, according to the reviews on Google and the stand’s Facebook. page.
Another thing that has contributed to Copper City Coffee’s popularity is Whitaker’s creative drink concoctions. She regularly offers different combinations of flavors for fruity drinks based on energy drinks.
One Whitaker creation that took off is called the Fish Bowl. The drink is a white Monster energy drink with blue cotton candy flavoring and Swedish fish. The final result ? A large blue drink with floating red Swedish fish.
“So many kids are buying it,” she said. “And I did it as a special day because I needed to get rid of some Swedish fish, and now every day is what they want.”
One thing that surprised Whitaker was the popularity of Boba, a tea drink from Taiwan, among his customers. Although Boba isn’t her favorite drink—her favorite is a white chocolate caramel latte—she serves Boba and Boba popping in a variety of flavors.
Usually, Boba comes with chewy balls made from tapioca, but Boba popping are juice-filled Boba balls that release the juice when you bite into them.
“Everyone went crazy about it,” she said.
She doesn’t plan to slow down business anytime soon. In fact, she plans to open a second location within the next year or two.
Copper City Coffee’s normal hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes her schedules change and she posts it on social media. The stand also offers punch cards, gift cards and delivery on certain days.