A Hamburger Today
Street Food Profiles: HubBub Coffee Company in Philadelphia
Note: It's time for another edition of Street Food Profiles. This week we scoot to Philly to meet a former Wall Street trader who started serving Stumptown coffee from a truck parked in University City.
Name: HubBub Coffee
Vendor: Drew Crockett
What's on the menu? Mostly coffee and espresso drinks using Stumptown as well as pastries (croissants, cinnamon rolls, super big chocolate chip cookies and Rice Krispie Treats). Our truck is really about the coffee.
Location and hours? We are located on 38th Street between Locust and Spruce Street in Philadelphia (in University City). We're open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and closed on Sundays. As the weather gets nicer in the Northeast come spring, we will probably expand our hours.
How long have you been street fooding? We opened in October of 2009 but the idea has been around since 2005. It just took us some time to make the dream a reality.
How has Twitter affected business? It has definitely been a good way to connect with customers and followers and keep them in the loop on what we are up to and what coffees we have. I still think there's much more Twitter potential, but we haven't gotten there yet.
Why a mobile business over brick-and-mortar? I went to college in University City in Philadelphia where street food is part of your normal life as a member of the neighborhood and university community. After college I lived and worked in New York City for four years and was exposed to a whole new level of street food.
I have always been a coffee lover and when I realized you could rig a truck to serve espresso and quality espresso in the right way, my mind immediately thought of my college neighborhood. The area doesn't have very good coffee, let alone good coffee from a truck. So with an idea and some luck, my idea became a reality a few years later.
Who are your typical customers? Coffee is great because it's a social experience, but also a part of many people's daily routine. We get a lot of "regulars" and they are the best! Our typical customers are students, professors, and people from the neighborhood.
Describe a typical day from start to finish. I wake up at 5:15 a.m. take a shower and head down to the truck to fire up the generators. Once they warm up, I turn on the espresso machine and coffeemaker. This takes some time, especially when it's below freezing.
We technically open for business at 7 a.m., but typically have a few customers already before then. I also turn on the music system as soon as I get to the truck. Tunes are key to the whole HubBub experience, whether you are working in the truck or waiting for your cappuccino. Normally we can make any coffee drink you want.
I finish prepping everything (and maybe vacuum or clean countertops if needed) then our baked goods get delivered around 7 a.m. Business begins to pick up around 8 a.m. when our first employee arrives. From there we are rockin' and rollin' until 11 a.m. and also busy between 2 and 4 p.m. At that point, we slowly shut things down for the day. Once students are done with classes, things get pretty quiet and we clean up, prep for the next day (fill up on water, milk, cups, whatever else is low) and head home. Awesome!
What were you doing before this? I worked as a trader at an investment bank in New York City.
What makes your truck so special? Can anything else like it be found in the city? We think that our coffee (Stumptown) is the best, and we want everyone who visits HubBub to leave wanting more. We aim to serve the highest quality coffee and espresso drinks in the most unique environment imaginable—it is about the experience as much as the coffee. We regularly get people hanging out by the truck listening to tunes, talking with friends. The truck has a cafe vibe—and there is nothing like it in Philly.
How would you define "street food"? Simply that: food or drink made and sold on the street. It is the ability to eat or drink from somewhere other than a storefront, but it's also about the experience. Talking with the vendors and waiting in line when it's 30°F out because you are supporting the community. It is taking a food idea that people would never expect to get from a cart or a truck and making it possible.
The best street food city and why. I have heard amazing things about San Francisco, but if I was picking from the cities I have lived in, I would say New York City because of the quality and variety.
Your comfort food after a long day? Pasta. I love anything Italian.
Advice for an aspiring vendor? Persevere. Like starting any kind of business, it can be a very frustrating process, particularly with permits and licenses, but have faith that you have a great idea and dare to be different.