Stories Behind the Booze: Sara Aschliman of Wyoming Community Coffee
The day I interviewed Sara Aschliman, the sun had finally peeked out as I strolled down the tree-lined streets of Wyoming towards Wyoming Community Coffee. I stuffed my hands down in the pockets of my coat as I braced myself against the cold air. The week leading up to the interview had been stressful, but as I entered Sara’s shop, I was greeted by the overwhelming aroma of brewing coffee, excited chatter, and Sara’s pink hair. You bet that by the end of our interview, my cheeks hurt from smiling and my belly was full of yummy coffee. I’m convinced there’s no better cure for a bad week than Sara’s inviting shop.
Tell me the story of Wyoming Community Coffee first came to be?
There are sort of selfish and unselfish reasons behind it. My background is actually in architecture. I am a residential architect. I am self-employed. I worked from home, so there wasn't really any place in my neighborhood to have a meeting or get out of my house and get out of my pajamas. A lot of other people in the neighborhood were saying, “We wish there was a coffee shop.” I like to think of myself as an introvert who really wants to be an extrovert. I'm most comfortable being an extrovert when I'm the host. We're always inviting people over…friends, neighbors. I like to connect people to our house. But there's only so much you can do when it's your house.
The sort of unselfish part of it is that I wanted the coffee shop to be a public place. This really grew out of wanting it to be a community space…and coffee was just the way to support that. We're open a lot of hours. Most coffee shops close in the afternoon or early evening, we are up until 8:00 p.m. I tried to model it around what my family wanted and what I wanted as a professional and as a mom. We have gelato and rice krispie treats because Wyoming is a very family oriented neighborhood. Everything revolves around kids and family.
What was the inspiration behind the interior design?
This is the only commercial space I've ever done. I just drew on my own personal style and wanting it really to feel like an extension of the living room. We take advantage of the light so it’s nice and bright. I love color and texture, playing off all of that. I will take credit for the design. The quality of the food and the service, I have to give credit to my team.
Tell us a little bit about your team.
I have Annie with her beautiful red hair. She is my kitchen manager. Because I didn't have any restaurant experience, she came to me as a restaurant consultant. The plan was for her to stay for about six weeks, but she fell in love with the shop and she’s here full time now. She is my artist, she is my talent. She is the driving force behind a lot of our menu. All of our syrups are done in house. Over the course of being here, she has gotten really invested in coffee education. She does our training and loves to talk about everything coffee related.
Shelby is my youngin and she is my assistant manager. She helps train new staff and is starting to take over my management duties, which is fantastic because she’s only twenty years old! She loves to learn so we’ve gotten her connected over at La Terza and she’s actually the apprentice roaster there.
Kate is my really good friend and she was with me when we were researching and trying to plan out what this would look like. She helped me through that process and works for me part-time here. She has an incredible presence, especially with customers. She’s definitely the ‘mom’ of the shop. We have a fair amount of students here and I love seeing how generationally the relationships have been built.
Kate’s daughter Irene just turned sixteen and she is my favorite barista. She’s amazing. She reminds me a lot of myself at that age because she’s a little on the shy side but you put her behind the counter with a great job and a reason to talk to people and she just has blossomed.
What makes Wyoming Community Coffee unique?
We're open so many hours and we just want to be available. Things like the meeting room. It’s reservable so you can host everything from a professional meeting to a book club. We have student groups that come in the evenings. We actually stay open extra late on Monday nights for a particular student group. Especially on Fridays, since we are right next to the school, it will be full of middle schoolers at three o’clock. We have moms and toddlers and a lot of family dates that come in and play games. We’re not all just laptops.
Tell us a little bit about your menu.
We partner with La Terza Artisan Coffee Roasterie , a craft coffee roaster only about a mile away. Our coffee menu is built to feature their single origins. We rotate those about every three months. Currently we have their Café Femenino. It’s a series of farmers that operate under this name in order to help women. Women roasted. Women produced. Shelby, one of our team members, is an artisan roaster so she helped roast it. It’s a woman-owned coffee shop. We also serve Honduras coffee right now, which is made by my friend Alejandra. She is a woman farmer who is opening up a coffee shop in Dayton Kentucky next year. She works for me part-time so she can learn the business here and continue that at her new shop. I feel like I’m giving her the experience that La Terza gave me.
We’re very coffee focused in terms of quality and being a craft coffee shop. We always want to be approachable. We also have sandwiches, salads, gelato, pastries to cater to kids and families. We do have a beer and wine license which helps in the evening hours. But it’s very limited because I never want to be known as a bar.
What advice do you have for women who are looking to open their own business?
Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. We talked to a lot of shops. Not everyone had time to talk with me, but the people that did were a wealth of information. Keep those relationships open so you can go back with more questions. I did go through SCORE, so I had a SCORE mentor and that was really helpful. It’s by county and they offer one on one mentoring and free business classes. For me, it was helpful, because it just reinforced “OK, I can figure this out.” It gave me the confidence I needed to try to pursue it.
Have a tribe of women that help support you. I’m really fortunate to have my team here and my friends outside of the shop.
Who has been an influential woman in your life?
I can't not talk about my mom. I grew up in a tiny, independently owned pharmacy, so small business is in my blood. My dad was the pharmacist. My mom, we called her ‘The Boss’. She was the bookkeeper and the manager and everything else. My sister and I were cashiers. It was the epitome of a family business. The way that she balanced making a successful business, letting my dad do his thing, on top of being a mom. She made it look easy! Which is why I thought I could give it a try. She still gives really great advice. She’s always been encouraging in terms of me balancing work and being a mom.
If you’re in need of a night out of the house, a warm beverage, or a dose of good conversation, join us at Wyoming Community Coffee for our April Boozy Hour! Reverend Abby King-Kaiser will be leading an interfaith conversation from 5:30 - 6 p.m. and mingling will commence at 6 p.m. We hope to see you there!