VW Bus serves coffee and nostalgia
By TRINITY CAREY
Journal Staff Writer
Stella is a red and white 1966 Volkswagen Bus driven by Libby Whittington, a woman with a fierce love for coffee and travel. Together, the two visit Michigan music festivals as The Dream Bean Machine.
The Dream Bean Machine serves a variety of fair trade, organic coffee and healthy smoothies, and is the brainchild of Whittington, who always had a love for VW buses and a passion for entrepreneurship.
Four years ago, while hiking the trails of Isle Royale, Whittington shared her idea of a mobile coffee shop with her mom, who stumbled upon Stella on eBay just two days later. With a general business and food service administration degree from Western Michigan University, Whittington was seeing her dreams of converting a bus into a business come to life.
“I’m a little bit of a nomad, so I didn’t want to have to be stuck anywhere,” Whittington said.
She spent a year converting the bus with her family, installing the necessary plumbing and electrical. Besides learning how to drive a stick shift from the ’60s, there were many challenges that came with turning the bus into a coffee shop, she said.
“Everything fits down to the inch … It was a lot of trial and error. I would put things together and tear it all apart, put it together, tear it all apart,” Whittington said.
Once complete, The Dream Bean Machine hit the road to start selling coffee.
During her studies, Whittington was inspired by her professors who discussed the various problems of the coffee industry. She wanted to be able to provide the public with a sustainably sourced, quality cup of coffee.
“Once you respect the process of growing and picking and washing and dripping and brewing coffee, you respect it,” Whittington said. “I think we have really, really good quality coffee. It’s fresh and prepared properly, so people aren’t just like, ‘Aw, cute, a bus that serves coffee.’ They’re like, ‘This is actually the best coffee I’ve ever had.’ Yeah, we’re cute, but we’re quality.”
Customers come over for the bus, but stay for the coffee, and Stella has attracted quite a following, Whittington said.
“She resonates with everyone,” Whittington said. “Older generations, they’re basically like smiling and crying tears of joy as they tell me how they toured the country and did this and camped that, and everybody had the bus back in the day, or they knew somebody who had a bus. Every senior has a story to tell. It’s just amazing to watch them reminisce and ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ because the bus has been kept alive.”
And Whittington loves the traveling lifestyle that comes with the bus. She stays in a 180-square-foot tiny home on a trailer and a “normal” job, or one that kept her in place, never did sound appealing.
“I think with Stella being a ’66 and the way she drives, she just represents life in the slow lane,” she said.
Whittington hopes that The Dream Bean Machine helps people appreciate a good cup of coffee and spreads the idea that one can do whatever they desire.
“I think the bus is inspirational,” Whittington said. “She inspires me every day that I’m working. She inspires people to get out there and live on the road, if that’s what calls to your heart, and to have some sort of consciousness to what you’re consuming and why.”
To keep up to date on the whereabouts of Stella and Libby, check out The Dream Bean Machine on Facebook and Instagram.
Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is email@example.com.