Mark and Beth Gouge are among the vendors who perform an essential service at the Durango Farmers Market: caffeinating market-goers who aren’t naturally morning people.
Their business, Cardinal Coffee, is the mobile, retail arm of Rocky Mountain Roastery, a Durango-based coffee roaster that does most of its business direct to consumers from its website, Mark Gouge said.
“When I moved down here, I ran into (Wade Wilderman) an old buddy that I raced mountain bikes with together in Winter Park,” he said. “He’s the roaster, and he’s been roasting for over 25 years. So him and I connected more on a mountain bike level and then I started doing some sales for him ... expanding his footprint around the Durango area.”
Gouge said one day he was at the high school National Interscholastic Cycling Association state championships at Durango Mesa Park when he saw a trailer that, at the time, belonged to Chris Lopez of Singletrack Café (which has since set up a brick-and-mortar shop on Rivergate Lane).
“We saw that and started talking ... about maybe taking the show on the road,” Gouge said. “People have to taste the Kool-Aid, so to speak, before they’re going to invest and change over. The idea was to get people to buy consumer-direct.”
He said they interpreted the fact that it was a vintage Cardinal trailer as a sign – leading to the name of the mobile coffee shop.
“We have some deep meaning with the cardinal,” he said. “My dad was a pilot ... he had a Cessna 177 Cardinal. And then when my mom died – they say if you see a cardinal it’s some kind of meaning that they’re OK. We saw a cardinal in Winter Park in a snowstorm, so the cardinal has always been kind of important to us.”
Gouge bought the trailer right before the pandemic, he said, and as such, didn’t have many places to take it during the first year in business.
“All the events got canceled, and that was the whole idea – just to go to events,” he said. “So we just started parking in neighborhoods – up in Durango West and Edgemont and Three Springs. We were just trying to figure it out.”
This year, the Durango Farmers Market has been the coffee trailer’s marquee spot, he said. Cardinal Coffee also followed cyclist along the Ride the Rockies route and will be at Telluride’s Blues & Brews Festival this month.
“We’re finally getting our feet on the ground, and we have a lot of repeat people that the first thing they do at the farmers market is come and get their coffee,” Gouge said.
Cardinal Coffee sells hot and iced coffee, chai and tea.
Gouge said Wilderman is known as the “master of the dark roast.”
“It’s super cool because the Rocky Mountain Roastery coffee is unique in that he’s an old-school dark roast guy, and it’s just super smooth,” Gouge said. “It’s a very unique way of roasting, whereas a lot of the shops in town and nationwide have kind of gone to this light roast, nutty, fruity flavor.”