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Couple serves hot coffee warmly at Bradford, Vt., drive-thru

  • Vittles Espresso and Eatery owners Kendall and Travis Gendron chat with one of their regular customers in Bradford, Vt., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Amy Louise, of Piermont, N.H., picks up an order at Vittles Espresso and Eatery Bradford, Vt., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Louise said she stops at the food truck everyday. Kendall Gendron,who owns the business with her husband, is in the window. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Kendall Gendron steams milk for a coffee order at Vittles Espresso and Eatery in Bradford, Vt., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Vittles Espresso and Eatery is set up behind Kinney Drugs in Bradford, Vt., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Travis Gendron hands Staci Thurston, of Orford, N.H., her coffee at Vittles Espresso and Eatery in Bradford, Vt., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/14/2020 6:21:15 PM
Modified: 1/14/2020 6:20:27 PM

It might not be the most telling metric in their database as fledgling small business owners, but there’s one number that Kendall and Travis Gendron are especially proud of: 14. That’s the number of customers in the record pay-it-forward streak at Vittles Espresso & Eatery in Bradford, Vt.

A food trailer tucked behind Kinney Drugs, Vittles is also a drive-thru and, in that sense, reflects the hurried modern American lifestyle. But 14 drivers in a row picking up the tab for the car behind them are evidence that this is more than just a caffeine filling station.

“We’re the only thing like this around. We get to create the drive-thru culture,” said Kendall Gendron, sipping a seltzer in the tiny mobile kitchen where she concocts espresso drinks and sells homemade doughnuts and other locally-sourced goodies six days a week, usually alongside Travis, her husband of nearly nine years. “It’s been really great.”

There are a few other coffee shops in Bradford, and there’s even another coffee cart/drive-thru in Fairlee, but that one’s about 10 miles away and closes for the winter. To Kendall, who grew up in Tacoma, Wash., where there’s a coffee cart on practically every corner, it feels like the right place to fulfill a long-time dream.

Kendall, 31, got her first job at a boutique coffee shop when she was 19 and immediately found her purpose. “I fell in love with it,” she said.

A series of barista and bartender jobs followed, one of which introduced her to Travis, 31, a transplant from Vermont who was finishing a four-year hitch in the Army before entering art school.

The couple moved together to Vermont in 2016, settling in Corinth, where, Kendall points out, part of the movie Beetlejuice was filmed.

“That’s how Travis got me here,” she said, only half-jokingly, rolling up a sleeve to reveal a tattoo of the film’s title character on her forearm.

After working in local eateries, including The Skinny Pancake in Hanover, Kendall secured a food trailer through a rent-to-own business and ran a crowd-funding campaign to pay for the espresso machine. She opened for business in May.

Kendall manages the business, while Travis does a lot of the behind-the-scenes work. Among other things, he makes doughnuts in flavors like English toffee and maple-glazed pumpkin, roasts all the coffee beans, which he buys from fair trade suppliers, and makes pottery mugs, which are on display on a hinged shelf at the drive-thru window.

Primarily a drive-thru, Vittles also goes on the road on occasion. Last summer, the Gendrons catered a handful of special events, and they’d like to do more in the future.

Along with espresso drinks and doughnuts, Vittles sells bagels from Goose & Willie’s of Orford, hand pies from Milk Thistle Farm in Topsham, Vt., and baked goods from Marilyn Covey in South Corinth. The couple make their own flavor syrups and get their milk products come from Berway Creamery in Lyme. For tea drinkers, they offer specialty tea drinks such as the popular Corinth Fog, an Earl Grey latte with lavender and vanilla.

What Vittles doesn’t offer is a plain cup of coffee.

“We’re a bespoke drive-thru,” Travis said with a laugh.

That’s come as a surprise to some customers, but Kendall has appeased most of them with an Americano, which is made by diluting espresso with water.

Customers can also buy Travis’ coffee by the pound to make at home, and in the coming months he’ll be introducing a coffee CSA as well. Each variety is named after a Beetlejuice reference, and the bags bear the Vittles logo: a goat. According to lore, Kendall explained, coffee beans were discovered by goats grazing in Africa. “They started being really hyper and acting crazy,” she said.

With winter well underway, business hasn’t slowed. On a typical day, Vittles does about 80 transactions.

The line of cars can get long some mornings, but rather than obsess over their speed of service, the couple focus on sprinkling a little fun into the drive-thru experience. On the ledge outside the drive-thru window, for example, sit a Rubick’s Cube and a Magic Eight Ball.

And then there’s the “kindness board” that hangs in view of the drive-thru win dow, where customers can designate an amount of money for a friend or for a person in a particular category such as emergency responders, teachers or — Kendall’s recent favorite — people who forgot their wal let.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@ v news.com or 603-727-3268.




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