Coffee on the go: Moose Mountain moves from downtown

The Moose is loose.

Moose Mountain Coffee Bar, a coffee house opened as a South of Downtown Abilene enterprise, is relocating to larger site in a more trafficked area but still on the city's south side.

The business plans to open Saturday - its June 7 opening was delayed because there was work still to do. As co-owner Lindsey Cotton said, there wasn't a rush and they wanted to do things right.

The other owner is her husband, Ben, who is a battalion chief with the Abilene Fire Department.

Ben and Lindsey Cotton, owners of Moose Mountain Coffee Bar.
Ben and Lindsey Cotton, owners of Moose Mountain Coffee Bar.

Another reason for the move is the addition of drive-up service. That was not possible at the previous site on South Second Street. That location, opened in September 2021, has closed.

The Moose Mountain trailer has been open for business outside the new facility in the interim.

It is the latest venture for the building along Catclaw Creek and more or less in the middle of the River Oaks Shopping Center parking lot, at 3365 South 14th St. It once was a savings and loan, then a Quiznos sandwich shop and, most recently, the home of Stillwater, a barbecue restaurant that closed post-pandemic.

The building had been painted red and yellow in anticipation of becoming a new La Popular site, but that venture fell through. Cotton said several business ideas had developed but none played out, leaving the 2,500-square-foot building empty and ready for their move.

It has been painted charcoal gray and doesn't look so much like a financial institution as previous businesses have at that location.

The hours remain the same - 7 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays.

Those needing their coffee Saturday mornings eventually can go inside, where there will be live music for a couple of hours.

Homegrown business

The Moose Mountain venture began in 2019, a project that started in the Cottons' garage.

The name?

Ben Cotton is from northern New Mexico, where there are such things as mountains. Moose sightings are rare, but it's his favorite animal, his wife said.

"Everything in Texas is either a longhorn, buffalo or bison, or deer, so we thought we'd bring our heart for the mountains."

While Ben is not from around these here parts, Lindsey Cotton was born in Abilene and is an Abilene Christian High School graduate.

Both are Abilene Christian University graduates.

Moose merch for those who drink their coffee on the go.
Moose merch for those who drink their coffee on the go.

The pandemic, Lindsey Cotton said, "actually catapulted us because online sales were a big thing."

And winning a 2020 BE in Abilene award, which provided financial support, also helped.

The South Second Street site was chosen, thanks to SodA District entrepreneur Tim Smith. Cotton said Tim aqnd Pam Smith contacted them about putting in a shop in that area.

"It was already kind of on our radar," she said of opening a location. "We were thinking five or ten years down the road, not two."

"We came and looked at their space and we all felt it would be a great spot for a coffee bar in the SoDA District, so we decided to do it," she said.

They leased the building.

She said the Smiths, who were friends before the business venture, have been only encouraging about the move out of the SoDA District. Cotton laughed and said Tim Smith already has plans for the remodeled space.

"Oh, he has plans," she said, laughing. "He already has some great plans to activate the space we just left. We left it good.

"They have so good to us and have been our biggest fans. He is genuinely excited for us."

Advantages of the new space

There are several good reasons to move.

Cotton said customers sought the added convenience of a drive-through area. That was a big driver.

Also, the Cottons envision other Moose Mountain locations. The South 14th space will serve as a model for that effort.

Moose Mountain has relocated to a former banking institution that has been several other businesses over the years at River Oaks Shopping Center. June 10 2023
Moose Mountain has relocated to a former banking institution that has been several other businesses over the years at River Oaks Shopping Center. June 10 2023

"This location will work as a pilot store for that," she said. Cotton is quick, and proud, to say they've learned as they've gone, and that will continue.

"We'll put some procedures in place that can be easily replicated," she said.

"We're not upset about the traffic on South 14th," she said. "We are pumped about it. We pulled the reports and we definitely get a great traffic flow."

The Cottons are not bothered by other coffee stops being nearby. After all, they were one of six downtown.

To the east of their new site are Starbucks and Dunkin' locations. To the west on South 14th is Tim Fox's coffee hut.

Cotton said they are fans of other coffee enterprises. They are closed Sundays but if they need coffee, they go to Summer Moon, which is in the Allen Ridge retail development.

She joked - or perhaps she wasn't kidding - that half the backed-up, drive-through line at Starbucks "is welcome to come to come down this direction.

"We're not looking to put anybody out of business."

Their building is owned by a California investment group, which owns River Oaks. They hope at some point to buy the building, which had been vacant for more than two years.

"We've really had good luck, first with Tim and Pam and now this group," Cotton said.

"We love renovating things and remodeling," she said of the Cottons being up for another fixer-upper opportunity. "We love having a vision for what a space could be.

"When this came up, we fell in love with it."

Ceramic coffee cups with Moose Mountain branding.
Ceramic coffee cups with Moose Mountain branding.

It has the space to expand what they offer.

"We can reinvent our menu a little bit," Cotton said. "We are going to be adding a whole new signature cold brew menu.

Cold brewing is using cold water to extract the coffee flavor rather than hot water.

"There are some cold brew concoctions and other fun drinks we've been able to come up with," Lindsey said.

"It's like we're in a science lab."

In the world of coffee, why go with the Moose?

"What we want to be known for and be apart from the other amazing coffee places here, I would say first and foremost is our team," said Cotton,

"We have a rock star team," she said of her employees, who range in age from 15 to 26. "They are the kindest, most joyful and friendly group you'll ever meet. That's what we want to be known for."

The Cottons employ 20, and all of them, she said, have been on board with helping in the transition. They are ready to rock at the new site.

Three of the Moose Mountain staff - Julie Blount, Blake Ware and Mya Rogers - wo-manned the trailer, which is serving as a temporary drive-through at the coffee business's new location on South 14th Street.
Three of the Moose Mountain staff - Julie Blount, Blake Ware and Mya Rogers - wo-manned the trailer, which is serving as a temporary drive-through at the coffee business's new location on South 14th Street.

"Way more than being a barista," she said. "We want to open the doors and have great conversation."

She said Moose Mountain "has a ton of regulars" and, like the TV sitcom "Cheers," they know their names.

"We do hope that if somebody just swings by, they become a regular," she said.

To push that, if you bring a receipt from another establishment, you get 10% off your order

OK, but what about the coffee?

"Obviously, we think our coffee is great," she said, laughing. "Our cold brew, I would put it up against any other cold brew in Texas. It's definitely something we're known for."

Cotton then dropped a bomb.

"I didn't drink coffee until about a year ago," she said.

Ben's big on coffee. She's not.

"Coffee is his passion," she said. "People are mine, coffee is his. He told me about a year ago that if you're going to run a coffee company, you need to drink coffee."

Maybe her taste buds changed, "but now I love it," she said, laughing. "You've got to put a lot of stuff in it when you start.

Moose Mountain now is offering blended, frozen drinks, just in time for summer, Cotton said. They offer the Sasquatch, a healthy Keto hot drink, she said, and now the Yeti, an iced drink.

"Lots of sweet, lots of sugar," she said.

Abilene is a coffee town

Cotton said coffee is here to stay in Abilene because it mixes with the city's sense of community. Coffee and conversation go together like cream and sugar.

"I think that's why coffee shops across Abilene are supported," she said. "People are looking for a place to sit and be in community.

"There is enough business for everybody."

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Coffee on the go: Moose Mountain moves from downtown