Smalley Coffee, Jasper’s favorite morning campsite
Photos and Story by Grant Vance
It started with an Airstream camper and the caffeinated dream of a savvy entrepreneurial spirit and materialized into Smalley Coffee, a unique coffee shop located off Newton Street in Jasper, where the staff has been supplying handcrafted brew for the past three years.
Its sleek, rustic look is hard to miss, filling a paved gravel parking lot with more character than a parking lot could ever dream. The camper is surrounded by wood, picnic-looking seating, decorated by eye-catching, hand-crafted yellow signs.
“The sort of tagline here is that everything is handcrafted,” said Josh Premuda, owner and founder of Smalley Coffee. “From the sign you’re sitting next to, which is built with palette boards and painted by hand, to the fence outside, … the chalkboards, signs – everything is handcrafted. Even the drinks.”
Premuda started Smalley to fill the Jasper coffee void established when the staple coffee shop closed. That’s not to say Smalley, named after his mother’s maiden name, was conceived as a result, however.
“If you ask my mom, I still have a business plan from when I was (younger) for something called ‘Basecamp Coffee.’ It was this camper coffee concept,” Premuda said. “At this point, that’s probably like 15 years ago. … It was kind of like the perfect storm. All these things came together into this idea, which is Smalley.”
The sleek Airstream camper, renovated by Premuda over the course of two years, was sitting patiently, waiting for its moment to strike a shelter for brewing. Prior to purchasing the camper, Premuda was working audit jobs and digital marketing, as well as traveling the world, getting a feel for how coffee is done abroad.
“Those jobs allowed me to travel a lot, travel by myself a lot, so there wasn’t a lot to do by myself, so I started exploring coffee shops, kinda really getting into coffee,” Premuda said. “I’ve been to Africa, I’ve been to Europe, Canada, I mean all over the U.S.”
Loving something and creating something have their differences, of course. It wasn’t long before Premuda was gifted a Chemex (a coffee brewing device) by his aunt. The rest is archived in the grinded bean of Jasper mornings.
Smalley’s menu is carefully constructed, offering your standard coffee fair and then some. Premuda emphasizes the “informed but informal” nature of the coffee shop, offering options for experienced and inexperienced coffee gurus alike.
“We can do anything Starbucks can do, but we think better. We can do lattes, cappuccinos, Americanos, plain drip coffee,” Premuda said. “We have a very good chai—my wife really likes chai, so she was picky on chai.
“We use a roaster out of Indiana. … Our regulars sort of establish their own drinks. We do a really nice iced coffee, and we use the coffee to make the cubes, so every drop is (coffee)— (it) doesn’t get diluted. We have people who order a dirty chai everyday, which is a shot of expresso in a chai. (We have) a great hot chocolate. We have our people who get caramel lattes. We’ve got our people who like 140 degree lattes.”
The knack for customer preference does not abide unnoticed, with a strong following of satisfied customers with nothing but good things to say about the eclectic coffee outlet.
“I go there about every day. It’s my usual stop before work, my favorite is their iced coffee. My wife loves the vanilla latte,” Nate Seng, pediatric dentist and Smalley regular, laughed. “(Everyone I work with) we all go there. It’s part of my daily routine.”
Seng is far from the only fan in Jasper. Photographer Mellissa Adams is there so often, she has a white chocolate pumpkin latte named after her.
“I have lived in Jasper 10 years. I’m a coffee addict, and when I first came to town, my husband informed me they didn’t have any coffeehouses here, and my heart broke,” Adams said. “(Smalley) is such a great thing to have in our community. Coffee is the thing that helps many people get going in the morning. So, to have really great coffee right down the road just makes it that much better.
“They’re so friendly, creative and just fun people to be around, and they use their business in such a positive way.”
Adams is such a fan of Smalley, she’ll leave free coffee’s in her charitable wake.
“I really feel bad for anyone that hasn’t tried their coffee, so sometimes I fill up my loyalty card and leave a freebie for someone to try a drink on me,” Adams admitted. “I have about five (drinks available via her loyalty card) in my possession now, so I probably need to host another giveaway or leave one there for someone.”