Road Trip to Lion Head Coffee: The Not-So Drive-Thru, Drive-Thru Coffee Shop

“Lion Head is a small drive thru and sit down coffee shop in the heart of Grand County, Colorado.  We specialize in a small selection of craft beverages and made from scratch baked goods.” – Lucas Harville and Erin Bolte

By Colorado Coffee Zine

Just a few years ago Lucas Harville was trying on the new hat of delivery driver for his then employer, the Barista Pro Shop. The midnight shift brought Lucas to all corners of Colorado, including through the renowned Winter destination town of Granby. It was there that a small coffee shop with a For Sale sign caught his attention. After giving it some thought and making the offer that ended up landing him the shop, Lucas found himself tossing around name and logo ideas with his business partner Erin Bolte.

“Erin ended up just drawing it on a bar napkin, it was a little more vicious initially…but that’s not really me…so she dialed it back,” recalls Lucas about that brainstorming night with friend, fine artist and co-owner Erin Bolte.

The duo had gone through some other names for the coffee shop, including a tribute name for Lucas’ grandfather who had done cattle ranching in Texas. Eventually, they settled on an old nickname Lucas had in college, a reference to his hairstyle at the time.

With those basics down, the team went on to reinvent the space by kicking off a series of artistic experiments that continue even today. The philosophy from the start, however, was to be forward thinking, responsive to the shop’s needs, and uphold sustainability as much as possible. Lucas’ experiences providing customized guidance and direct support to coffee shops across Colorado has helped him turn Lion Head into a memorable place for Granby locals and visitors all year round.

“Basically the thing is to do everything we can from scratch” says Lucas about the common theme in every project around the shop. The Do It Yourself (DIY) approach goes into everything from the syrups, fresh baked goods and in-house chai to the furnishings. Lucas even developed a penchant for repairing and refurbishing espresso machines, which he attributes to both necessity and sustainability.

“I had this little one group Rancilio Epoca that we started with…we’d steam one 16 ounce drink, all the steam would be gone, you could pull 4 shots in a row…then the steam wouldn’t steam as well” says Lucas about the early frustrations that led him to explore repair options and ultimately grow into his other role of “espresso machine repair guy”.

Another role that Lion Head fills in Granby is in coffee education. One of the biggest challenges of operating a shop in a market that is new to specialty coffee is introducing it to new customers and explaining the reasons for its higher price points. Lucas admits that Lion Head anticipated resistance but that the community has enjoyed the transition and shown a growing curiosity for specialty coffee.  “So we expected people to kind of freak out, but we’ve had a great reception overall and we have lots of great locals who are regulars now. They come in everyday and now we see their tastebuds are kind of changing.”

In the year ahead, Lucas will take on the project of some small batch roasting to continue pushing Lion Head to a more sustainable approach as a local business. In fact, he is already brushing up on the roaster’s anatomy and mechanics. “I want to find a giant, 4 group Linea that is just trashed, just trashed…” Lucas says longingly.

That’s right, despite having his work cut out for him on a few espresso machines he is repairing, he can’t shake the farfetched hope that he will someday stumble across the mothership of all Marzocco’s in desperate need of a good repair.

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