If you have been looking for a different kind of coffee shop close to campus that serves the “snarky side of coffee,” then Aunt Helen’s Coffee House is one to consider. The coffee house is a seven minute drive from the University Center, and serves a variety of coffee with a bit of sass.
Aimee Hutson, co-owner of Aunt Helen’s Coffee House, and her husband met at the University of Northern Colorado. After they graduated, they moved back to the Denver area, which is where they both are from. When their daughter was about three years old, they decided to move back to Greeley. Hutson said they liked the community better in Greeley, rather than Highlands Ranch, which is where they were living.
Hutson has a degree in education and before owning the coffee house, she ran school-age programs before and after school, as well as a summer camp. The programs were for educational enrichment and had 12 locations and a staff of about 40; Hutson’s programs aligned with the school standards and continued student’s education after school in a more hands-on, creative way to learn.
According to Hutson, she has wanted to own a coffee house for about 10 years. After her two children got out of college, they had the opportunity for more income.
In August of 2016, they began working on the business plan for Aunt Helen’s Coffee House. In March of 2017, the coffee house was up and running.
Hutson decided to center the theme of the coffee house around her 105-year-old great aunt, who still lives in downtown Greeley. According to their website, Hutson’s aunt Helen is a “no-nonsense person who tells it like it is, appreciates practical people and is a ‘get to the point’ kind of person.”
“Just because she was, she is, still, just kind of a very unique, snarky person, and we thought that rather than one of those coffee shops that it’s like ‘Oh, have a great day, you know, we love you,’ we thought it might be fun to sort of be like, you know, ‘Don’t let the door hit you where the good lord split you,’ that kind of stuff,” Hutson said. “Kind of have more of an attitude.”
Their website also reads “In her honor, we ask you, ‘Come to Aunt Helen’s, have some coffee & mind your own damn business.’” Hutson said her great aunt was very excited when she found out she was the theme of the coffee house. She thought it was funny and she has a really good sense of humor.
The sign outside of the coffee house says “Aunt Helen’s Coffee House” with the words “Coffee, Food & Attitude” beneath it. Inside, the words “The difference between coffee and your opinion is… I asked for coffee,” are printed along the wall above the front door.
Aunt Helen’s Coffee House also sells men and women’s t-shirts with that same quote, as well as T-shirts with the shop’s logo that says “Aunt Helen’s Coffee House, The Snarky Side of Coffee.” Customers can also purchase coffee mugs with a picture of Aunt Helen and advice quotes from her.
According to Hutson, the menu items are named based on actual phrases her Aunt Helen said to her while she was growing up. Some of the menu items are called “The Cold Shoulder-Cold Brew,” “Happiness is Temporary,” “It’s OK to be Average,” “Not as Sweet as I Look,” and “Foam Mustache-Cappuccino.”
“Our waffle wraps are definitely our most popular just because they’re so unique and you can’t get them anywhere else,” Hutson said.
The waffle wraps were Hutson’s son’s idea. They are eggs, cheese, and a choice of breakfast meats wrapped up in a thin waffle; similar to burritos, but also with a hint of sweetness. The waffle wraps are baked in house and made fresh.
Aunt Helen’s Coffee House is a community gathering place in the morning for downtown business people, and a lot of business meetings happen there. The mayor comes in a lot, as well as the president of the Chamber of Commerce.
“And then in the afternoons we kind of turn into more of a college crowd, people studying or meeting with friends,” Hutson said. “It’s a very, very nice, comfortable environment.”
Katie Tecklenburg, a UNC finance major, has been working at the coffee shop since they opened last March. Tecklenburg used to work at The Human Bean and Bears Mo’Jo in the University Center.
“It’s kind of more like family-oriented I guess,” Tecklenburg said. ”I worked at two other ones besides this, and it was kind of more corporate.”
According to Tecklenburg, although they can’t be “snarky with people customer service-wise,” she thinks the coffee house does a good job of representing Hutson’s aunt.
According to Allie Rodd, a barista at the coffee house, this is probably her favorite job she’s ever worked. Rodd likes the relationships with coworkers as well as her bosses.
“I just love working as a barista,” Rodd said. “I think it’s a lot of fun, seeing all kinds of people. Yeah, it’s just great to kind of work together with other people to accomplish one goal.”
According to Hutson, they get complimented most on their customer service and how friendly they are.
Hutson said her favorite part about owning her own business is the opportunity to do things that she wants to, and to try new things without a committee overseeing it.
Aunt Helen’s Coffee House is a very spacious coffee shop with floor to ceiling windows along two walls. The coffee house has plenty of seats and tables inside, as well as patio seating. One corner features comfortable seating surrounding a coffee table.
The coffee shop also hosts events such as the Art Walk and the Round Up for Down Syndrome. The Art Walk was on March 2, in which Aunt Helen’s Coffee House had art on display from Madison Elementary School and Frontier Academy’s Key Club. The Round Up for Down Syndrome was a charity event, in which all proceeds were donated to the Northern Colorado Down Syndrome Association.
“It’s pretty exciting, it was part of our business plan to be a community-minded business,” Hutson said. “We really feel like it’s important to, since we are local, to offer a community experience for everybody and part of that is getting involved.”
According to Tecklenburg, it’s refreshing to know that the coffee house is helping the downtown area with the community events, because it can be kind of slow down there.
Aunt Helen’s Coffee House was also voted the best coffee shop in Greeley within their first year of opening. Hutson said they were honored to win that award within their first year of business and that it was very exciting.
Hutson said it’s surreal knowing the coffee house has been successful within the first year of business. According to her, it’s a lot of work and it’s exciting, and it always feels like there’s more they could be doing.
The word is spreading about their coffee house, but Hutson said they would love to see more students from UNC.
Aunt Helen’s Coffee House will be holding a one-year anniversary celebration from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7. The event will include live music, giveaways and drawings. The coffee shop is located in downtown Greeley at 800 8th Ave; they are open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and are closed on Sundays.