Bees Knees Coffee Bringing A Caffeine Buzz To All Of Centre County
Think of your favorite coffee shop. It’s located on a corner downtown or standing alone back in your hometown, right? Centre County’s up-and-coming coffee shop, though…well, it’s on wheels.
Bees Knees Coffee was established in 2019 by Bellefonte native Bromlyn Fitzgerald. She graduated from Penn State in 2013 with a degree in dance and, after a relationship that didn’t quite work out, found herself still in Centre County.
Looking to move onward and upward, Fitzgerald started a part-time position as a barista at the Cool Beans coffee shop located in the former Geisinger Gray’s Woods location (now called the Geisinger Healthplex).
After only working there for nine months, the owner of the store approached Fitzgerald and asked if she wanted to buy the shop. Even though she didn’t have any food industry experience, Fitzgerald agreed. With the help of friends and family, she was able to create a menu of baked goods and quick breakfast and lunch items. Fitzgerald also changed the coffee shop’s name to Daily Dose Cafe.
Of course, she also crafted her coffee-making skills, too, attending Coffee Fest in Chicago in 2016 and continuously working with local coffee roasters.
In 2019, changes to the Geisinger corporate structure led Fitzgerald to step away from Daily Dose Cafe.
“It made it difficult for me to feel like I was autonomous and running my own business,” Fitzgerald said.
After watching her friend Megan McCracken operate out of the Nomad Kitchen food truck and being able to choose her own hours and the locations she wanted to be at, Fitzgerald came up with the idea to create a truck for coffee.
Coming up with a name for her business may have been the easiest part of all. With a unique name like Bromlyn, she said that instead of trying to get people to remember it, she would tell them to just call her “B”.
And, Fitzgerald just likes the term “bee’s knees,” so when she saw a trailer for sale that was white, yellow, and black, she knew that things were falling into place for her new business.
Though COVID-19 did hold Bees Knees Coffee back a bit, by May 2020, the business made its debut at the Boalsburg Farmer’s Market, along with other local farmer’s markets.
Once the winter of 2020 rolled around, farmer’s markets were finished for the season and it was too cold for Fitzgerald and her employees to work outside. She decided to switch to delivery during the winter months so she could keep the business open year-round.
Fitzgerald was making 50 deliveries each week and writing each label by hand. Delivery is a facet of Bees Knees that has been permanently incorporated, even when farmer’s markets are going on.
That got to be a lot for one person to handle, so over the past two years, Bees Knees has built a hive of people that help keep the coffee trailer running.
All of the trailer’s coffee comes from Cafe Lemont, while the milk comes from Meyer Dairy and Hidden Rock Farm. The honey used in their signature Bees Knees Latte (made with honey, vanilla, milk, and espresso) comes from Spring Creek Honey.
Fitzgerald said that pretty much anything that can be done through local people is, whether it be her bookkeeping and taxes or printing merchandise and stickers. Due to receiving grants from the state during the pandemic, she wanted to ensure the money she was given was going back into the State College community.
Most importantly, though, are the employees of Bees Knees. Fitzgerald works with “four really badass ladies.” She has watched them each gain confidence since they began to work there, whether it be from customer compliments, achieving some really cool latte art, or feeling the power that comes with driving the trailer around and doing minor repairs in it.
Fitzgerald gushed over each of her employees, talking about how they all brought something unique to the table in terms of experience and personality. She explained that each woman has had their own struggles in life, but that allows them all to support each other like best friends rather than coworkers.
“Somebody may be having a really bad day, and we’ve rallied around them to make them feel like they’re seen, they’re heard, and they’re wanted. And we try to do that with our customers, too,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said that when you’re feeling down or need to be hyped up, the ladies at the coffee trailer are your go-to girls. Any customers (and their pets!) become automatic friends with Grace, Buffy, Reagan, and Ally.
If there is one thing that Fitzgerald has learned from having a mobile business, it’s that things rarely go as planned. She had to learn how to let go of some control and structure because there are some things you just can’t anticipate.
“You say, “Okay, that happened. We’re going to deal with it. We’re going to be okay, and we’re going to laugh about it, and we’re just going to figure it out,'” she said.
Regardless of her crazy and unpredictable schedule, it’s clear that Fitzgerald is passionate about what she does. She loves coffee, of course (she drinks at least two cups a day), but she might love serving it even more.
“Just seeing how excited people are to get their favorite coffee or find out their favorite muffin is back, that is the best thing about being a business owner,” Fitzgerald said. “What we’re doing is giving somebody just a little bit better of a day than they may have already been having.”
Fitzgerald acknowledged that having a mobile business is absolutely challenging. But to her, at the end of the day, it’s incredibly rewarding because she gets to travel and share her product with even more people.
Bees Knees Coffee provides baked goods and customizable coffee that you can get from their its or via delivery. To find out where the trailer is each day, check out its website and follow the Bees Knees Coffee social media pages. And yes, we asked — the business can deliver to apartment complexes, as long as its delivery service recognizes the address.
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Our photographers were on hand to capture the sights of Penn State basketball’s return to Rec Hall.
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“I’ve just been super interested ever since that first year trying to grow my personal THON story, get more connections to it, help as many people as I can, and be that person [my mom] is for other people.”