It’s a sun-splashed Saturday at Southern Roots Flower Market and Stephanie Brantley is all smiles while working with her crew in a horse trailer-turned-mobile coffee bar.
Her happiness matches the sunshine. The self-described people person welcomes customers to the Match Made Coffee bar, an Edinburg-based business. Match Made goes wherever events call for brews and teas to be made by an experienced barista with a Starbucks background who has struck out on her own.
“This is such a fun job,” Brantley said of her just over year-old business. “We’re mobile. We go wherever the wind takes us.”
On this day it’s a flower market in McAllen where Match Made is one of various vendors that have set up shop in front of Southern Roots. As always, Brantley is offering a tasty variety of coffees, lattes, macchiatos and teas. She knows her way around the machinery and procedures of coffee-making.
“I always loved the vibe of coffee shops,” Brantley said, referring to her time as a Starbucks barista in San Antonio. “There’s always an energy to those places. There’s never a dull moment.”
It was at a Starbucks in San Antonio where she would meet her fiancée, a medical student at the time. They would move to the Rio Grande Valley and then decided to marry. A New Year’s Eve wedding in 2019 was planned and set to go except for one thing. A vendor who had promised to work the event backed out and last-minute efforts had to be made to find another coffee bar operator.
The cancellation stung Brantley. It would serve as the impetus to start Match Made.
Brewing A New Business
Brantley had never owned a business.
In fact, the possibility of doing so never appealed to her. The difficulty she experienced finding a coffee bar for her wedding changed everything.
“I thought, ‘if they can’t serve the masses, we will,'” she said. “We’re going to serve coffee for everyone.”
It turned out that starting a coffee bar business during 2020 was good from one standpoint. There was plenty of equipment on the market. Many businesses had shut down or scaled back due to restrictions imposed. Brantley purchased what she needed and got started.
Coffee trailers, she said, were “all the rage across the country,” but were not plentiful in the Valley. Match Made started out with small events in the spring and summer of 2020. Before long, Brantley’s coffee trailer was setting up outside in front of hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities as administrators treated nurses and other essential workers to a special treat for all of their hard work.
Public life then began to crawl back to normal as 2020 progressed. With it, Match Made’s business picked up. Banks contacted her to set up as they welcomed back customers. Schools called as they sought ways to say thank you to teachers and other employees who were making it through a tough school year. A well-crafted latte and an iced Thai tea will get the job done in showing employee appreciation.
Keeping Busy & Moving Ahead
“It’s a passion project for me,” said Brantley, who grew up in a military family and who herself worked as an educator.
She has two jobs today – her business and working as a regional sales manager for a large candy company. Busy she is as witnessed by the 28 events she and her Match Made crew worked in May. Brantley is actively booking back-to-school events across the Valley, with the converted horse trailer for larger crowds and a new indoor cart for smaller gatherings.
“I love the vibe we have with our customers,” she said.
The feelings are mutual.
“They’re so much fun to talk to and we’re always treated with great care,” Luci Rodriguez said in a Facebook post. “Keep it up!”