From the specialty coffee menu, to the house made ingredients and light atmosphere of Thunder Coffee, one-time customers quickly become loyal, frequent visitors of the West Fargo cafe. Since moving into the shop space in 2019, Thunder Coffee has always been centered around good coffee and even better community. Their mission of community driven coffee will only continue to grow with the addition of a second coffee shop located in Brewhalla. The three-in-one event center, market hub, and boutique hotel of Drekker Brewing’s upcoming Brewhalla space will offer Thunder Coffee a greater community impact with the downtown location.
Thunder Coffee cofounder, Skyler Dutton, said expansion is always a goal when owning a business and having a relationship with Drekker Brewing helped affirm that a second location in Brewhalla was the right place to be.
“When Drekker brought the idea of us, it was one of those things that we felt like we needed to make happen,” Skyler said.
Dexter Dutton, co-founder, echoed his brother’s excitement and trust in Brewhalla housing Thunder Coffee.
“Knowing the vision that Drekker has for the space and how Thunder Coffee fits into that, made it a really easy choice,” Dexter said.
As if the trio of founders, Skyler, Dexter and Nicole (married to Skyler), weren’t as confident as they are now, Nicole said that their customers helped them get even more excited for it, too.
“Every time we get someone saying, ‘I’m so excited for you guys to be in that space,’ it affirms things even more,” Nicole said.
Having a second location in the downtown area will make it easier for more people in the FM community to see Thunder Coffee. The trio knows that a trek to West Fargo may not be the most feasible for some, so the downtown location will hopefully open more opportunities for new customers to visit and try—as well as offer existing customers a chance to get to know other vendors in Brewhalla. Brewhalla will house various vendors, from shopping to eating: Blackbird Woodfire Pizza, Cows & Co. Creamery, Duchessa Gelato, Nichole’s Fine Pastries, Unglued gift shop, The Plant Supply store, Red River Refillery and more.
“We’ve already collaborated with some of the vendors that will also be in Brewhalla, so it will be really neat for all of us to be under one roof,” Skyler said. “I think they’re all excited to co-brand with each other even more and do some collaborative marketing. We’ll be able to pull all of our audience’s together which will help everyone grow.”
What are some of your tips and tricks for new business owners or anyone who wants to start their own business?
Nicole: The biggest one that I try to tell people is to utilize your resources. We have so many free resources in the state of North Dakota that a small business or a new business can utilize. It’ll either be someone who’s gone through it before or someone that can give you guidance. There’s a lot of stuff that is free and available for small businesses to use. We’ve been given a lot of help from both the Small Business Association and a few other groups in town that are really helpful.
Dexter: I say just try it out. See if you like doing the entrepreneurship thing. Figure out how you can operate as minimally as possible and see if it fills your bucket enough to keep doing it. After that, chase it like crazy.
Skyler: I would say that you’d have to be adaptable. There will inevitably be some sort of bump in the road. Something’s not going to go the way that you thought it was going to go and you’re going to have to either be able to pivot or maneuver around it to continue to work towards a goal.
What’s changing and what’s staying the same at the Brewhalla location?
The menu you know and love will continue to wow you at the second location, in addition to some new crafted drinks and roast options added on! The new location will also have larger space for customers to enjoy, including conference room areas. The bright, airy atmosphere and vibe of the coffee shop will remain, too, but will feature more industrial, modern design styles.
What is some advice you wish someone would have told you guys when starting a business?
Skyler: Get a lawyer.
Nicole: You want a dream team to surround you as a business owner. So get an accountant, a lawyer, a CPA, a really good insurance agent, a banker or a couple of bankers—just get your bases covered with those key positions.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to open a coffee shop of their own?
Dexter: I’d say try and work in a coffee shop first, again to see if you like it. Just learn. Take lessons from that shop and see what you like, what you don’t like and adapt it to your circumstance.
Skyler: Know your audience because coffee is very broad. You can do a lot of things in coffee. There’s a lot of different audiences you can tailor your product to so know what product you have, know what audience you need to target, and if you have that audience, know where you’re going to put your business.
What resources have you guys used to help grow your business?
Nicole: We use Square as our point of sale, which is common for small businesses. It includes inventory management and is easy for people to use, especially with a large team. We use Homebase for scheduling, QuickBooks for accounting, Slack for communication, Gusto for payroll and more.
Are there certain factors that have helped Thunder Coffee grow the most?
Skyler: The focus we have on the customer experience has helped the most. The customer experience entails a lot of things: what you see when you walk in the door, how your barista makes you feel, the presentation of the drink, whether or not the bathrooms are clean, and more. We want to make sure a customer really enjoys their time here.
Nicole: We focus a lot on high quality products, too. A lot of our syrups are made in house and we get really fresh ingredients. Dexter roasts the coffee beans in house, too, and really focuses on making the best cup of coffee possible.
What has surprised you the most about owning a business?
Skyler: The relationships you get to build are so cool. We get to be a part of someone’s day and sometimes we get to be a part of someone’s forever, we’ve had a couple get married here! There’s always the repeat customers that make it worth it, for instance there’s a grandmother that brings her granddaughters in here all the time. The team has worked hard to create a space where people belong and we’re able to be a part of people’s lives — that’s a unique experience.
Nicole: How community oriented our customers are and have been is always surprising to me. There’s a community here seeking out artisan coffee and willing to support small businesses.
Dexter: From a coffee roasting standpoint, it surprised me how stoked people are to support us. When we’re trying out something new, learning new things, and growing in our craft, people have given us great feedback and support. It’s made things a lot easier.
Thunder Coffee’s second location in Brewhalla is set to open in late 2022. Follow Thunder Coffee’s Instagram (@thunder.coffee) to see updates of the build, new drink specials, community events, and more. Whether you are looking for your regular coffee order or want to venture outside of your comfort zone with a fun cold brew or latte, Thunder Coffee has a cup just for you.