Photos By Gary Ussery
So you find yourself at yet another company event, weaving through business connections and hoping the man you’ve met many times before but always forget his name will be wearing a nametag. It’s been a long day at work and you’ve been staring at your computer screen since 8 a.m. Your eyes are strained, you wish you were wearing sweatpants and you keep yawning. But alas! A rumble shakes you as you spot what you think is a mirage in the distance: the Thunder Coffee cart. Could it be? Specialty brewed, delicious coffee to wake you up…here? As you order a cold brew from the effervescent barista, there is hope for you yet. The beverage touches your lips and you suddenly remember that guy’s name, you gain a pep in your step, everyone wants to know who you are, you’re glowing!
Whether at a business event, the Red River Market, Creative Mornings or a Bluestem concert, Thunder Coffee has specialized in being the premier coffee pop-up since 2017. Showing their smiling faces and steaming cups of coffee at any favorite event in town, they’ve become a staple in the caffeinated community of Fargo-Moorhead. Consisting of husband and wife duo, Skyler Dutton and Nicole Steen, alongside Dexter Dutton, Skyler’s brother, the Thunder Coffee team is quite literally a family. To better serve the community they grew to love while serving at pop-ups, this family expanded the Thunder Coffee experience into a brick and mortar, opened October 8.
“What really sparked the move was that we really missed building that regular client base and having people that we saw on a regular basis throughout the winter,” said co-owner Dexter Dutton. Thunder Coffee thrives at summer markets and events, but once the weather hits below freezing, the thrill of serving coffee from a cart is less enticing. From the start, Thunder Coffee has always had an emphasis on being community-driven and really values knowing its customers personally. By having a brick and mortar, they now can continue to grow that loyal customer base. “We really wanted a space that we could build a community around. So we are not just serving coffee. We can host a lot more community-based events,” said Dutton. They hope to host some yoga events in the space and they are already slated to host entrepreneur networking group Stampede.
The new location is at 300 Sheyenne St Suite 190 at Pioneer Place in downtown West Fargo. Epic Management is in the midst of a four-phase project to build the area up and create a booming downtown West Fargo. “They are hoping to get more young, fun and lively things happening here and we wanted to be part of that,” said Dutton.
When first approached by Epic Management, the Thunder team wasn’t sure about moving to a physical location just yet. “But all it took was one trip out here and we saw what they were doing and what was going on. And we knew that we really wanted to be a part of that,” said Dutton. Once they saw the location and the potential the West Fargo downtown held, they knew this would be a good spot to spread their reach and plant roots into the community.
While they started with cold brews and pour-overs, they’ve expanded their menu to encompass any well-crafted, specialty coffee drink. With the physical location, they can continue to experiment and try new mixtures. “We are also looking to really push the envelope as far as what coffee can be. […]We do a lot of coffee cocktails. Really anything that is kind of weird and doesn’t taste quite like coffee, we want to expose that to people.”
While the specialty coffees and teas are what keep people coming back, the design of the new location will certainly draw customers in. A large wooden-front bar anchors the space and sits beneath a statement light fixture that—if you look at it long enough—resembles an industrial raincloud. The high ceilings are welcoming and natural light adds the extra kick of energy one desires when going to a coffee shop. Local vintage shop, Shop Lavendar Land, took on the interior design and beautification, incorporating vintage seating, rugs and decor. Another local connection, Ashley Rieck of Tinker, finished the wood of the tables throughout.
The Thunder Coffee family will continue to serve the community at pop-ups and events, but now their set location can be a guaranteed go-to for darn-good coffee. Since their soft opening on September 23, they’ve seen an incredible outpouring of support from the community. “That was crazy to me. Seeing people coming in and hanging out and taking pictures. We hardly told people we were up and running and people showed up and supported,” said Dutton.
Reflecting on the growth of the business and the establishment of a brick and mortar, Dutton said, “When we started designing it, we realized it’s not a coffee shop for you, it’s a coffee shop by you, for the community. I really want West Fargo and Fargo-Moorhead to know that that’s what we are going for. We don’t want to try and make something fit, we want to be West Fargo’s coffee shop and lean into that identity and let the people around us make that space what it needs to be for them.” Even though its doors have just opened, Thunder Coffee is sure to be that asset in the budding downtown West Fargo cityscape.
300 Sheyenne St Suite 190