Going to a big event in the Phoenix area? You may see the Junkies Coffee Co. stand.
The world of food and drink trucks, stands, and trailers is competitive. Not only do these small business owners need to create a quality product and maintain health and safety standards, they need to find the customer.
Standard brick and mortar stores have the benefit of a set location, typically with signage visible from the street or sidewalk. Mobile food and drink stands rely on customers discovering them through social media, word of mouth, or just sheer luck or being in the right place at the right time.
Junkies Coffee Co. found a way to always be around large crowds of people, and that’s by working specifically at special events with thousands of people in attendance.
Christian O’Leary, co-founder of Junkies Coffee Co., started the company in 2014 with his wife, Melissa.
Both Christian and Melissa went to college in Oklahoma, where he said they fell in love with the world of coffee. When they moved to Phoenix, they decided it was something they wanted to work with professionally.
“We went through a lot of planning on how we wanted to start [the business],” O’Leary said. “It took us about two years of really planning and putting aside money. We had a goal of not getting a loan. We didn’t want to owe anything. My wife and I worked two jobs at a time and didn’t have much fun for those two years.”
O’Leary said he has family in the special events planning business and was helped by that connection to get Junkies Coffee Co. its first opportunity at a San Diego Padres spring training game in Peoria.
“Getting your name out there takes a while,” he said.
Junkies also relies on its menu of specialty coffees, lemonade, iced tea, and apple cider to bring people in. Their specialty coffees are flavorings mixed with espresso-infused milk. The “Urban Latte,” for example, is brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in espresso-infused milk.
Since working that Padres game, Junkies Coffee Co. has been at several large events like Barrett-Jackson’s auto auctions, the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale, and Arizona Bike Week. They also work home and garden shows, gun shows, and conventions.
O’Leary said Junkies primarily works within the special events and catering spaces.
“There’s a lot of food and coffee trucks in Phoenix. We didn’t really like the competition aspect of the business because there’s so much of it,” he added. “There’s a lot of last-minute booking because there’s so much competition out here. We just fell into the special events side of it.”
One downside of working within that space, according to O’Leary, is the calendar clears up almost entirely in Arizona during the summer.
“Our biggest challenge is staying busy yearly. We work out of state for a good portion of the year. You have about four to five months of the year where it’s too hot out and there’s no events and no types of catering requests,” he said.
Once temperatures start to dip, things start to pick up, though. O’Leary said from October to May he’s busy constantly.