In the revitalized neighborhood of Liberty Heights is a small grocery store peddling locally-sourced, organic food and, just outside, locals were drawn to an unassuming hand-built coffee cart—Three Pines Coffee—that operated there for the last several months. A labor of love from Nick Price (formerly of Handsome Coffee Roasters and Blacktop) and his partner, Meg Frampton, Three Pines Coffee was born out of two musicians’ adventures in Los Angeles and their decision to take those adventures back home, to Salt Lake City.
Frampton and Price originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue their musical careers. Price started working in coffee—at the now defunct Handsome Coffee Roasters—after his handyman skills landed him a job offer. Frampton hand-crafted jewelry and sold it at local art and craft fairs. Both continued to play music, but as Price got deeper into coffee, he and Frampton started to notice that a specialty coffee scene was budding back home each time they returned to Salt Lake City.
Pointing to The Rose Establishment as one of the places pushing the coffee scene forward, Price recalls, “I was like, man, this is so cool that this exists in Salt Lake…the coffee scene must be catching on here!” Price made the decision to found Three Pines in Salt Lake, rather than Los Angeles, noting that L.A. had already watched the coffee scene progress well beyond the incubation stage. “Salt Lake seemed like a good idea. It seemed like a place where I could make a mark and sort of do my thing—which is essentially the Handsome way, but bring that here [where] that would be a really cool and fresh new thing—and it is.”
The duo started out catering at events. Their mobile setup serves strictly espresso-based drinks for now—exclusively using beans from Heart Roasters. The Three Pines cart, crafted by Price in his father's auto garage with the help of his brother, sports a La Marzocco GS3 and a Nuova Simonelli Mythos One Clima Pro Grinder. After about a month, the owner of Liberty Heights Fresh approached them about establishing daily hours outside his high-end organic grocery store. The pair felt the store, its clientele, and the cart were a good fit, and their business has rapidly grown from there.
Price and Frampton have joined the specialty coffee scene in Salt Lake before it’s completely taken off, which comes with its own rewards and challenges. Pioneering a food or drink movement before it’s fully caught on somewhere is exciting, but there may be a heavier onus to acclimate customers to a new approach. “It was kind of tricky to ask people their opinions but at the same time kind of educate them,” said Price.
Price welcomes the friendly dialogue he has with his customers and is confident that SLC is prime for good coffee. “This city is so ready for it. People are so curious about it and so intrigued. Every time they come to the cart they’re like – You’re weighing everything? What does that do? What’s that thing? Everyone’s just really interested.”
That Salt Lake City is now jonesing for good coffee, having had its first few tastes, is evinced by the overwhelmingly positive response Three Pines has received. In mid-November, they shuttered their regular stint at Liberty Fresh to focus on fitting-out a brick-and-mortar shop to open in 2016. Price would like to be able to offer drip coffee and food options in a warm space where customers can relax. He also wants to run with the educational aspect of his business.
“I want to do public cuppings and brew classes,” said Price, musing on plans for his future space. “I want to be able to offer more.”
Rachel Grozanick is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Grozanick has contributed previously to Bitch Magazine, 90.5 WESA in Pittsburgh, and 90.7 KBOO in Portland. Read more Rachel Grozanick on Sprudge.