ESSEX JUNCTION – Nomad Coffee is open and full of sound: customers chatting as doors continuously open, the screech of the espresso machine and the soft rustle of pastry bags.
Nomad started as a mobile cafe and espresso bar in 2016 and has since expanded to two permanent locations in Essex Junction and Burlington, and a seasonal location at Sugarbush Resort.
From day one, Nomad’s biggest goal was to be a gathering environment, Nicole Grinstead, co-founder of Nomad Coffee, said in a June 3 email to the reporter.
“Five years later, I’m still amazed every time I walk through the doors of the South End or Essex and see people getting together for coffee and croissants, or working on their laptops,” a- she declared. “I’m grateful that people choose us to be part of their day.”
The founding of Nomad began when Andrew Sepic and Grinstead fell in love while attending university in Canada. After graduating, Sepic and Grinstead moved to Montreal where they lived for six years enjoying the croissants and espresso the city had to offer.
After six years, the couple decided to move to the United States, Grinstead’s home country.
The two began a five-month road trip filled with tasting coffee and the cultures of the states they passed through. Eventually they settled in Vermont and decided to bring specialty coffee to areas outside of Burlington.
With the purchase of a 1971 Go Tag-a-long trailer, Nomad began to take shape.
Founders and Partners
Owning and operating Nomad is one of the biggest challenges Sepic and his wife have faced together, but he could never have done it without her, Sepic said.
“We’ve definitely held together over time,” Sepic said. “Nicole is the person with the idea and the creative force and I’m the ‘how we get there, how we get there’ person.”
Sepic and Grinstead liked the idea of having a nomadic unit when they started, but as the business grew it became difficult to stock the supplies they needed to keep up with their demand.
When they settled into permanent spaces, Nomad was able to add baked goods to their menu, a goal they had been working toward from the start.
“When my wife and I lived in Montreal, we loved having our Sunday espresso and croissant experience at our favorite bakeries,” Sepic said. “Now to be able to offer something like this really fulfills that purpose.”
What is on the menu
Nomad’s baked goods are overseen by Chris Johnson, the head baker who joined in 2021. Johnson was trained by celebrity pastry chef Dominique Ansel and Thomas Keller, the first and only American-born chef to hold three Michelin stars.
“[Johnson] really upped our game in terms of baking and making great items,” Sepic said.
In addition to high-quality pastries, Nomad offers specialty coffee, supplied by Brio Coffeeworks, a specialty coffee roastery that brings a new kind of coffee experience to Vermont, Sepic said.
“Brio was really a natural fit for us because they’re also a husband and wife business owner,” Sepic said.
To determine if coffee is “specialty coffee,” professional coffee scientists score it based on a 200-plus-point checklist that includes measures such as aroma and taste, Sepic said. . Coffees that obtain a score of 80% or more are classified as “specialty”.
Sepic acknowledges there’s a big jump in 0.99-cent coffee and their $3.50 drinks, but says Nomad customers pay for the higher-quality coffee brewed by staff trained to brew a balance between sweetness, acidity, chocolate, hazelnut and tannic.
Say goodbye to ‘Tiny Nomad’
Nomad is now looking to sell their mobile unit following the official opening of their Essex Junction location. The cafe held a “celebration of life” on May 29 for community members to say goodbye to the mobile shop.
Customers were invited to take photos inside “Tiny Nomad” and leave written messages on a notice board.
“Small store, big flavor!” We will miss the charm of the little cabin but we are delighted to see you staying and growing, ”wrote a customer.
Tiny Nomad will be missed by Grinstead and Sepic but they are delighted with their new chapter.
“I’m a little sad to see him go but even more excited to see him have a new home and a new community,” Grinstead said.
Looking to the future, Nomad hopes to host more events and gatherings, including book clubs, poetry readings and open mics, Grinstead said. They would also like to expand their bakery department.