How to Open and Run a Coffee Bar... Inside a Skatepark


With a performance stage, regulation skatepark, art gallery, and new gourmet coffee shop, The Bay has a little something for everyone. Located in the heart of Lincoln, Nebraska, what started off as an empty warehouse has turned into a community of its own. As a place where the whole town gathers, it makes sense to have its own coffee shop where everyone can catch up the good ol’ fashioned way. We spoke with Austin Bonk, the Head Barista, about opening the coolest coffee shop Nebraska’s ever seen.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

How did The BAY’s coffee shop come about? What role did you play in creating The BAY’s coffee experience?

The Bay always knew they wanted to start a coffee shop. It’s the perfect platform for letting people relax, enjoy conversation together, and make memories. I started the coffee craze at The Bay (mostly because of how much I love to talk about coffee.) I sat with people, told them about different types of beans and the farms they came from. I talked about how much chemistry goes into coffee, and that the best part of coffee is the conversation that it sparks. People meet, come together, and build true relationships over coffee- and that’s the best part about it!

What’s it like to open a brand-new coffee shop? Can you take us through the process?

In order to make a great product you need the right tools. Investing in the right equipment is the first and most important step in opening a coffee shop. From there, you start choosing your decor and layout, picking out the coffee, building a menu, picking the operating system you want to use, and finally, choosing your staff. All the while, you want your customers to feel like they are getting a unique experience and better cup of coffee than they are elsewhere! It’s a lot of work but worth every hour!

How did you develop the drink menu? What’s your favorite recommendation?

I developed the menu by just having fun playing around with concepts and flavors. My favorite drink is “The Little Sappy,” it’s a maple latte that tastes like a liquid pancake breakfast!  My trick is simple… mix the flavors you like most together, then add coffee.

What does an average work day look like for you?

I open up shop and drink a lot of coffee (to make sure it tastes good, you know?!) I balance out the cash drawers, and then throw the pastries in the oven and fill The Bay with tasty smells! From there, I have to take inventory, order coffee, milk, dry goods, make sure food is freshly rotated, and finish all food prep. I am constantly trouble shooting problems and making sure the cafe is clean and being run to my standard. It’s important to have lots of facetime with guests. I try to get to know all of our customers- many I consider good friends!

What is your favorite and most challenging part about your job?

My favorite part about my job is the conversations and friendships I get to have. The most challenging part for me would have to be the office work (not my personal strong suit.) It can be a lot of work keeping up with ordering, scheduling, answering emails, meetings, keeping inventory, and developing new recipes. This role pushes me to get better at all of these things- and that keeps things exciting!


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