Barista Takes His Coffee Business on the Road

brentmurrayBrent Murray is taking his coffee business on the road. His new venture, a mobile coffee stand, is so portable that it can go pretty much anywhere he can — even through doors for inside events.

Murray, a 31-year-old Southeastern University grad, moved back to Lakeland last year from Camden, S.C., to start Westbrook Coffee. The small-batch roasting business specializes in a method that approximates the taste of coffee from wood-fired beans that kindled his love for java when he was a student in Israel.

Meet Brent Murray and try his beverages at a Summer Pop-up that will also include products from Born & Bread Bakehouse and Patriot Coffee Aug. 20 8-11 a.m. at 1113 S. Florida Ave.

But the solitary venture of roasting and packing beans for shipping didn’t satisfy the side of Murray that loved connecting face-to-face with customers when he was a barista.

So he started a new business, appropriately named Prodigal, that lets him wander and serve coffees, teas and other speciality drinks from a portable cart he built.

While food and beverage carts are becoming more common at local farmers markets — think Tonic by Creative Juices and Patriot Coffee at the downtown curb market on Saturdays or Cow Named MOO at the Dixieland Village market on Wednesdays — Prodigal is focusing more on special events, such as business meetings, weddings and festivals.

Brittany and Brent Murray
Brittany and Brent Murray

Murray plans to serve several types of coffee and espresso drinks, and is partnering with fellow Lakeland roaster Chris McArthur at Patriot Coffee for some of his beans. He’ll also serve tea blends (a passion of his wife Brittany, 25, also an SEU grad), herb drinks, matcha lemonade, cold-brew teas, and other beverages — “anything that’s new or healthy.”

He prepared for the business by consulting with other mobile coffee vendors, such as Justin Bannister of Out and About Coffee in Sarasota.

“I’ve been helped a lot by local businesses and hope to be a resource for other entrepreneurs,” Murray said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it if others didn’t help me.”