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Ten years into his corporate career, Michael O’Neal Hargett was asked what his favorite job ever had been. Bookstore coffeeshop barista was his answer. That got him thinking about how he could live out that passion.
In October of 2019, Hargett launched a mobile coffee truck — Detour Coffee Bar. Roughly one month later, he quit his corporate job.
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“I try to ensure that our menu is not snobbish,” Hargett said when asked if he was a coffee snob.
Detour Coffee Bar’s menu includes lattes, Americanos, frappes and any coffee lover’s favorite drink, but it also has lots for non-coffee drinkers, including apple cider, chai tea and even fruit smoothies.
The truck also serves specialty drinks that are seasonal, like the Hazelnut Holiday, a hazelnut white mocha with allspice that “whispers Christmas,” Hargett says. His own favorite menu item is a simple black, cold brew. “It took me a while to get there, but once you go black you don’t go back,” he joked.
Detour’s most popular drink is the Hey Honey, a latte that includes local honey, ground cinnamon and salted caramel. Originally meant just for Valentines Day, customers never stop asking for it.
Finding funding was the biggest challenge for Hargett when he first started working on his coffee bar business. He found it hard to convey the business model in a way funders could grasp, “It’s not like I’m sitting there doing a Keurig!” he said. However, once Detour Coffee Bar got its wheels moving, the calls haven’t stopped.
“Just this morning I’ve gotten six to eight emails requesting the truck,” Hargett said. He currently works seven days a week, and because the truck opens each day at 7:30 a.m., Hargett must rise by 4 a.m.
“I’m in bed by nine. I never see midnight. Do they still have those?” he laughed.
Since the pandemic, many apartment complexes have started hosting food trucks on their properties. This has become a huge part of Detour’s business. Hargett also does private events, such as teacher appreciations, staff socials and weddings. At those events, he said, the menu is customized to match the theme.
Hargett, like many small business owners, has had difficulty attracting new employees. However, he’s still hopeful to open another food truck soon, preferably a smaller one that can go inside.
When he’s not drinking his own coffee, Hargett visits other small business roasters, including Central Coffee Co., Queen City Grounds or Enderly Coffee Shop.