Lena, Ill. — Business owner Micki Becker of Lena is carving out a unique niche for herself by operating the only mobile coffee shop in the Stephenson County area.
“Whole Latte Java,” as it is known, opened on April 18 and is located at 9300 U.S. 20 West, just outside Lena. Similar to a concession trailer at a fair, this mobile kitchen offers drive-thru service to motorists traveling along U.S. 20 who are in need of refreshments or a meal. The business also offers carry-out service for customers who call and place an order ahead of time.
Becker said her coffee shop carries a wide variety of coffee drinks, smoothies, and other refreshments. In addition, the shop serves muffins, cookies, pies, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, paninis, hot dogs and brats, and soups.
“Everything we do is homemade,” Becker said, adding that she’s thrilled with the positive feedback she’s received from customers so far. “I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s exceeded my expectations.”
Becker said the closest mobile coffee shop she is aware of is in Brodhead, Wis., which makes Whole Latte Java quite unique in this area. Thousands of motorists travel on U.S. 20 every day, and a drive-thru eatery is ideal for travelers or commuters who may not have time to stop at a restaurant, she said.
“We’re trying to entice the local people, as well as the people traveling,” Becker said. “The location is really convenient. You don’t have to go into a town. We’re right off the highway.”
Becker grew up in Pearl City, and has lived in Lena for nearly 20 years. She owned her own hair salon for a number of years, but had to close it four years ago after she was diagnosed with cancer. Becker was still working out of her home, but missed running her own business. She has fully recovered from her illness, and decided a mobile coffee shop would be a great fit for this area.
Prior to opening her shop, Becker had to obtain a special-use permit from Stephenson County.
This permit received unanimous support from the Stephenson County Zoning Board of Appeals and the Stephenson County Board.
High Traffic Volume
Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county, said Becker’s shop has the potential to be very successful, considering the high volume of traffic on U.S. 20. He added that the number of motorists traveling west and east on U.S. 20 annually has continued to rise.
“It’s an excellent location,” Groves said. “Once she gets some visibility and people know she’s there, I expect her to be successful.”
Whole Latte Java is open from 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The shop is closed on Sunday.
At this point, the shop is only a drive-thru establishment. However, as the weather gets warmer, Becker said she might place some picnic benches outside the shop for customers.
For more information or to place a carry-out order, call (815) 291-5377.