ROCHELLE – While on vacation with his son one year, Ken Foss saw a little coffee shop with a drive thru.
Then, he owned McKendrie Street Cafe in Mt Morris.
“I told my son we don't have anything like that in Illinois,” Foss said, “I told him when he graduated from high school, I was going to open a drive thru coffee. He graduated in 2019 and I closed the restaurant the week after he graduated and opened this.”
Black Pearl Coffee Shop is open in the Hickory Grove parking lot Monday through Wednesday from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. Foss set up shop for the first time last month.
Black Pearl offers various coffees, hot chocolate, slushies and smoothies. Muffins and cookies are also on the menu along with Hub City-branded cups and mugs.
The shop is housed in a mobile trailer, which Foss uses to sell in other towns when he’s not in Rochelle. The Stillman Valley resident formerly lived in Rochelle for 21 years.
"The community has been awesome,” Foss said. “They love me being here. There's times in the mornings where traffic is backed up. And I'm just getting started. There's things I know I can do to speed up the process. It's all trial and error."
When Foss had his Mt. Morris restaurant, he worked on the concept of Black Pearl with his customers in his parking lot and got feedback from customers. Before COVID-19 he participated in a lot of fairs and festivals. During the pandemic he was able to operate due to being licensed as a drive thru.
Foss also sells his own line of coffee in both ground and whole-bean varieties. Customers can purchase redeemable pirate-themed coins to use later or give to others. Gold coins are worth $5 and silver ones are worth $3.
"I named it Black Pearl because coffee beans look like little black pearls,” Foss said. “Instead of a ship on my logo, I use the coffee cup. The sail has the name on it.
Foss’s goal in the next year or two is to have more trailers to sell coffee in. He hopes to have a second by the end of the year. He also has his eyes on selling in Rochelle more days per week.
"We live in a convenient world,” Foss said. “Any drive thru is convenient and people don't want to get out of their car and get anything. I am the only license in five counties that I have participated in activities in that is a mobile drive thru coffee. There's coffee trailers. But I'm the first to do anything like this."