“Come and Drink It,” is the slogan Billy and Kristen Lewis use to promote sales at their mobile coffee trailer, but it identifies with who they are personally. The husband-and wife-team chose to dedicate their business to coffee because it has always been a means of introduction to new places.
The Lewises are veterans who have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq multiple times. After deciding to leave the military in 2011, they planned to enter corporate America.
Billy earned a doctorate in executive management and climbed the ladder. What brought Billy here a few years ago was a position as director of operations at SEMO Milling. The next stop was Jackson High School, where Billy teaches entrepreneurship and business management.
“When we moved around we always found the new coffee shop,” said Kristen. “We’ve always kicked around owning our own business. My husband is more of a risk taker. But we researched it,” she said.
Mobile coffee is popular on the West Coast where the cost of real estate is high. “We thought, How can we do this and make Dave Ramsey proud? We wanted to get it off the ground and make it ours,” said Kristen.
Saving to move upwards instead of being in debt from the beginning seemed appealing enough to start acquiring equipment like the signature two horse trailer that sets them apart from other food trucks.
From October 2019 to April 17, 2020, plans were in full swing for the “coffee slingers.” Customizing the trailer and purchasing the equipment was important, but the couple also saw the name of their operation to be pretty important too.
Molon Latte was changed from Spartan King Leonidas’ shout, “Molon labe!” in response to Persia’s command to throw down their weapons. The term “Molon labe” means come and take them.
Molon Latte is about being an American and standing proud just as veterans do.
Having been elsewhere, the Molon Latte entrepreneurs feel that “this new identity is an open door to tell people we should show respect and stand firm in our freedom. The name we chose spoke to both of us,” said Kristen.
Molon Latte began while COVID-19 was a weight on everyone’s minds. The only advertising they implemented was launched the day before on their Facebook page. They offered folks the opportunity to get out of their house, still maintain 6 feet of social distancing, visit City Park and get something delicious.
“That first day we had people lined up, with 6 feet between them,” said Kristen. “We were the only coffee venue open.”
What started out to be a summer job has sprinted into plans for a year-round business. Kristen is a stay-at-home mom. The couple’s children are 15 and 16 years old and don’t need the supervision younger ones do.
At this time, being open is merely meeting the demand. “We need to keep it going, People count on us. We have a fan base. People call or text in orders. We have it ready for them when they get there. Businesses are asking us to set up for their employee appreciation days. We will be at Jackson’s Touch-A-Truck in October. New McKendree has asked us to set up for their Back to Youth Group on Sunday nights in July.”
Visiting with folks while their latte, coffee, hot chocolate, espresso — the list goes on — orders are filled is uplifting. They all seem to spend a few minutes outside — even though it’s in a parking lot — patiently waiting before they have to hop back in their cars to reach another destination. They want to talk.
Michelle May of Gordonville gets her order while her husband, Rev. Jacob T. May waits in the car. “It’s a treat and we like to support veterans,” she said. As for places to get food and drinks, she added, “I like options.”
The Molon Latte team also supports causes they think are especially important. Signage on their trailer supports the Travis Mills Foundation. Mills was in Bravo Troop 4/73 Cav 82nd ABN along with Billy. Now a quadriplegic, Mills identifies himself as a recalibrated warrior and his foundation aims to help other wounded warriors recalibrate.
The never-give-up, never-quit mindset of Kristen and Billy is part of the West Point benchmark they uphold. That is, “The ability to adapt and overcome, assess; take resources, make the best of a situation and always find solutions,” said Kristen.
The couple met at West Point Military Academy and graduated in 2001 (Kristen), and 2002 (Billy). They were married in 2002.
Ronna Kramer said she only liked hot chocolate but now has expanded her palate to frappes. She and her kids try new items off the menu because they can trust it’s going to be good. “They always seem to be where we happen to be,” she said.You can find Molon Latte at Jackson City Park, Cape Riverfront Market, Jackson Farmer’s Market, Jackson Food Truck Rally, Och’s Parking Lot on Jackson Boulevard.
Check their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MOLONLATTE.
Jackson Food Truck Rally is 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays at Saint Louis Iron Mountain and Southern Railway. The lineup includes L.T. Street Tacos, Straight Line Barbecue, Gabriel’s Food and Wine, Molon Latte, The German Cook and The Whistle Stop Cafe, open for visitors to dine inside with air conditioning and ice cream available.