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Springfield, MO

COFFEE CALLING: Sarah and Eric Huie produce $81,000 in 2017 revenue through Dark Stone Coffee.
COFFEE CALLING: Sarah and Eric Huie produce $81,000 in 2017 revenue through Dark Stone Coffee.

Business Spotlight: Reflections Over Espresso

Drive-thru espresso bar and mobile coffee truck owners are playing by their own rules with a greater purpose in mind

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The name Dark Stone Coffee LLC has a deeper meaning for its owners.

“It’s an allusion to the moon,” says co-owner Eric Huie.

But it’s more than that. He intended for the indirect reference to permeate throughout his startup business.

“The moon is not its own light; it reflects light. That’s what we try to do,” Huie says. “I can’t generate any goodness within me. I have to reflect something.”

Since leaving a career in the financial world a few years ago, he never thought coffee would be the means to his personal mission.

But while working over a decade for AG Financial Solutions, Huie watched his wife exhibit freedom running her own salon. He traveled quite a bit for work. He became a little jealous.

“Maybe jealous is too strong of a word,” his wife, Sarah, says. “He didn’t want to play by anybody else’s rules.”

Sarah Huie operated LIV Salon LLC in downtown Springfield for a dozen years. She still runs the salon, but now it’s about 10 steps from Dark Stone Coffee.

The Huies bought a lot on the north side, southeast of the busy Kearney Street and Glenstone Avenue intersection, and they planted there: Sarah’s salon and Eric’s coffee kiosk.

Dark Stone’s drive-thru espresso bar sits smack-dab in the middle of the paved lot, 1826 E. Turner St. Large, white block letters – COFFEE – are secured to its roof so passersby know exactly what’s in store. A mobile coffee truck is parked behind a chain link fence.

“I mostly work the truck,” Eric says.

The kiosk serves busy commuters, and the coffee truck brings espresso drinks to events, parks and even corporate offices as employees arrive in the morning. Prime Inc., American National and Jack Henry & Associates Inc., he says, are on the monthly rotation.

“We want employers to use us as a perk,” Eric says.

Dark Stone charges a minimum fee of $100 per hour on-site.

The most popular order is the Newspaper latte, a mix of dark and white chocolates and raspberry flavoring.

“That one is like it says: It’s black and white and read all over,” says Mardee Thimesch, the barista working the kiosk.

Five employees rotate shifts in the kiosk. Thimesch has worked there two years, following a stint in retail.

Eric says he and his wife invested at least a couple hundred thousand dollars to set up shop. The funds came from a place usually untouchable.

“I helped people build retirement accounts,” he recalls. “I never thought I’d use my retirement account to start a business. This is so counterintuitive. It’s been really hard to watch that number go down.”

But first it was a crash course in coffee. Step one: attending the Coffee Fest trade show on the West Coast. They took beginner barista classes. Then more barista schooling in Dallas, Chicago and St. Louis.

Eric looks back fondly on those 18 months of training “pulling espresso shots and steaming milk.”

Next up was securing a coffee roaster.

“I had no idea Springfield had so many roasters,” Eric says. “They just keep coming.”

He chose Ozark Mountain Coffee Co. in Ozark. Dark Stone orders 30-40 pounds of coffee and espresso beans a week, but that’ll perk up with festival season around the corner, he says.

In September, they plan to bring the coffee truck out to the MO Food Truck Fest downtown, Japanese Fall Festival at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park and the Fair Grove Heritage Reunion.

“It’s pretty much every weekend,” Eric says.

For a former financial guy, Huie doesn’t keep too close an eye on Dark Stone’s numbers. That’s intentional, and it’s based on his convictions. He admits he might obsess over the numbers and lose sight of the daily purpose.

After some close guesswork, Huie accesses his laptop to determine last year’s gross sales: $81,000.

He holds sales forecasts loosely. Dark Stone is trending at 50 percent above last year.

“I’d love to double, but I don’t think we will,” he says. “It depends on how much construction are on the roads out there and how the weather treats us.”

Eric says the business is breaking even now.

“We’re really close to cash flow,” he says.

Thimesch discovered an interesting fact while interviewing for her barista job.

“I found out that the Huies are my neighbors,” she says of their semirural northern Greene County residences. “My neighbors ended up being my bosses.”

Eric doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence. It goes back to his mission with the business.

“People who come here are on their way somewhere – this is not their stopping place,” he says. “They’re going somewhere.”

That means his staff, too.

“I have a chance to help them, wherever they’re going, to make it better,” he says. “Our whole purpose is to reflect light in the world.”

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