Drive-through coffee shop now open in Vail |

Drive-through coffee shop now open in Vail

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado
Tanner Gardner, right, has been spending a lot of his spring break working for his mom, Phyllis Walsh, at the new Xpresso Drive Thru Cafe in Vail. While Theo the dog, left, got a treat, his human, Lyn Glenn, got a custom coffee. Glenn's already become a regular at the new coffee stand.

VAIL ” Back in the early 1990s, Phyllis Walsh was regularly late to work. Something always seemed to throw her off schedule when she’d stop for coffee.

With that in mind, and the country’s fancy-coffee trend starting to roll, Walsh decided she couldn’t be the only one who took too much time getting a cup of Joe to go, and the Xpresso Drive Thru Cafe was born. The new store provided people with mochas, lattes and a few breakfast treats, all without getting out of their cars.

Walsh’s first location, in Denver’s Cherry Creek area, was a hit, and over the years the company has grown, with four Denver-area stores, as well as single shops in Evergreen and Glenwood Springs.

But Walsh, who has a place in Vail, had long cast a longing eye toward the drive-through bank in West Vail. After a couple of years of asking, the space became available, and Walsh jumped at the chance.

After negotiating a lease, then jumping through the town’s various approval hoops, Walsh opened her seventh store in March.

After just a couple of weeks, a small plastic box already holds several frequent-drinker punch cards, and even in the middle of an afternoon, a few customers drove up for a post-lunch jolt.

Those new customers have presumably made the switch from other shops. Others need to change their habits for Walsh’s new shop to thrive. And that habit-changing ” often from Starbucks, the big daddy of the fancy-coffee business ” is the tough part of opening a new store, or even keeping an existing store in the black.

“Without (Starbucks) we wouldn’t be here,” Walsh said. “But now they’re everywhere, and opening stores with drive-through windows.”

So Walsh touts the things she does differently. She uses coffee from Vail Mountain Roasters at most of her stores, and all the stores use local bakeries for the sweet rolls and other treats. In Vail, the breakfast burritos come from Debra’s Eagle River Wraps.

Walsh also tries to make sure customers aren’t just greeted with an anonymous hand out the window.

“I like to see people’s faces,” Walsh said. “I try to get to know a little bit about them.”

Walsh expects everyone who works for her to treat customers the same way. That’s why she said she’s picky about who gets hired.

“That’s the toughest part,” she said. “Finding the right people.”

But the people Walsh does hire tend to stick around. Many of her managers have worked for the company for a decade or more.

And Walsh is willing to jump feet-first into a store to make sure things are going well. While helping get the Vail store established, she brought her son, third-grader Tanner Gardner, to help out. During the afternoon interview, Walsh would make the coffee, but Tanner would hand it out the window. Tanner’s also been known to wear a sandwich board on occasion to draw people to a shop.

“It’s fun,” he said. “I like talking to people.” Tanner also said he likes helping with the daily trivia game ” get the right answer and get a punch on your frequent-drinker card.

“We really want this to be a community coffee house,” Walsh said. “And it’s great if you’ve got the kids in the car with you.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

What: Xpresso Drive Thru Cafe.

Where: Vail das Schone shopping center, west Vail.

Hours: 6:30 a.m. ” 6 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. ” 6 p.m. weekends.

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