Drifter Coffee founder Alleah Webb is turning her coffee trailer into a brick-and-mortar shop, and all are welcome.
By Hannah Owen
Photography by Alyssa Lopatin
If you’ve ever dreamt of a cute coffee shop you can go to whenever you need to relax, focus or just be comfortable being yourself, your dreams are about to come true.
Previously a coffee trailer that drifted around Metro Detroit, Drifter Coffee is planting roots at 770 Woodward Heights in Ferndale. The new shop is a dream-come-true for Alleah Webb, 28, the founder of Drifter Coffee. “I have dreamed of opening a coffee shop for 10 years now,” she says.
Webb found the space for her long-awaited shop last September and says she plans to open the doors in late March.
Chatting in the shop under construction, she explains that she studied entrepreneurship at Central Michigan University, but did not have the funds to open a shop after college. “So I decided to start small and start with the coffee trailer,” she says. “The other reason I wanted to start with the trailer was because I wasn’t sure where I wanted to be.”
Taking her business on the road allowed Webb, who lives in Ferndale, to figure out where her target market was and where Drifter would be most successful. “Overwhelmingly, it was Ferndale,” she says.
Webb has already built a following of satisfied customers with the coffee trailer. Detroit resident Frankie Rae says she visits Drifter Coffee often at the farmers market on Wayne State University’s campus.
“They are some of the most considerate and hardworking people in the business. The coffee is great too!” Rae says. “They take great care to make sure each customer feels right at home. (I) love how involved in the community they are.”
Rae also worked in the coffee trailer as an extra barista on Noel Night, an annual holiday event in Midtown. “They always choose local talent and take inclusivity heavily into account,” Rae adds. “They are my friends, but they are also amazing women who are super dedicated.”
Webb says she wants to bring people together under Drifter’s new roof. The first floor of the shop will have a greenhouse where a variety of events will take place. “We’ll be doing a lot of community events here like open mic nights, gallery showings, poetry readings, concerts and it will also be available for rent if anybody wants to use it for a baby shower or a workshop or what have you,” she says.
The cafe will also be on the first floor, where food and beverages will be prepared and seating will be available. Upstairs will be “the get-work-done area.”
“It’s going to be a quiet area,” Webb says, “lots of different types of seating up there: bar, couches, tables, tons of outlets, perfect for meetings, perfect for getting work done.” A bit of Drifter’s charm shines through the pink accent wall on the second floor. There’s also a stage outside that will allow for outdoor concerts during the warmer months.
The 1,600-square-foot shop has about a 50-person capacity. It will be kid-friendly, and Webb says there will be toys for the shop’s smaller visitors and couches for parents.
Webb wants to create meaningful relationships not only with local residents but with other nearby businesses as well.
“What’s really special about what we do,” Webb says, “is we work with local people always; we’re all about the relationships. So that’s really cool because people start to get to know other small businesses other than just us because we’re like a vessel to share other businesses with the world.”
Drifter Coffee is collaborating with Gooseneck Coffee Co., an artisan coffee roaster based in Plymouth. “We’re sharing space with them, and they’re going to teach us how to roast coffee,” Webb says.
She adds that Gooseneck will also make Drifter’s house blend. “It’s called the Divine Goddess blend, and it’s all women producers,” Webb says. “We’re a team of all women right now. Of course, we love men too, but we’re very much trying to lift women up with our business.” Drifter will be selling bags of the Divine Goddess blend in the shop.
Webb says she’s meeting with local caterers as well to bring food items to the menu, such as bagel sandwiches and salads. “I’m trying to craft the menu to be something that starts out small but slowly grows,” she says.
Aside from a focus on local connections, Webb strives to create a “really friendly atmosphere.”
“In my experience, not every coffee shop is like that,” she says. “We decided really early on we are not going to put off an air of being cool. We’re not the cool, hip coffee shop. We are the coffee shop for everybody.”
Creating an environment where everyone feels welcome is part of Webb’s mission.
“I train my staff to be really friendly, to be really silly (and) to be weird and different,” she says, “because the majority of the population is not cool. We’re trying to hit the 95 percent of people who are just normal people.”
Webb’s top priority is for guests to enjoy their experience at Drifter Coffee.
“Basically what we are is we’re bartenders,” she says, “so they come in, and then it’s our job to make them something that they like, how they like it and leave them feeling happier than when they came. So we’re not just selling coffee, we’re selling happiness. That’s my theory, anyway.”
Webb describes the vibe in her shop as “warm and fuzzy” and “inclusive.” There is no expectation for customers to act or dress a certain way. “Just come as you are,” she says.