CASPER, Wyo — When Sean Peverley took over Metro Coffee Company with his partners in September 2017, he wanted to “change the attitude” of the downtown coffee shop. He said there had been a perception in the community that Metro was for “outsiders.”
“I wanted it to be a place for everybody,” Peverley said.
To Peverley and his partners Krisinda Taylor-Wilcox, Lexi Anderson, and Zach Taylor, that meant keeping some things the same. Since opening in 2002, the art-house decor and mixed arrangement of chairs and couches has catered to an array of clientele: downtown businessmen debriefing over lunch, meetings of book clubs and performance groups, families on a downtown weekend walkabout, and, of course, high school and college students studying long hours with laptops and headphones.
One of the first additions was the long benches and tables up front to accommodate more single visitors. The back wall behind the stage and the bathroom areas have gotten a new paint job this year. After some discussion, the majority of the lime green walls remain.
But some things did have to change.
“We found out early on that we were not at the top on any game,” Peverley said.
“We took it on thinking Metro was an established business with a lot of clientele that come in regardless. But that wasn’t true.”
He was surprised to hear that some people weren’t coming in because of concerns about cleanliness and customer service.
“Me and Krisinda [Wilcox] being from health care, our customer service and quality will always be first. Those are the two things that are going to keep up going.”
It’s taken 3 years of turnover and training, but now emphasized the quality and consistency of his current staff, all of whom have been working there at least a year.“Right now we’re at a pretty high level of performance,” Peverley said.
The strategy has worked. Peverley estimates that sales have roughly doubled over the 3 years since taking ownership.
“We didn’t realize there was so much room to grow,” he said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed down public spaces, “It forced us to think about how to be different,” Peverley said. On March 19th, the day of the closures, Peverley and his son Carter, a senior at Kelly Walsh High School and Metro barista, designed a web site to take online orders and immediately began curb-side services.
Though business has been down overall roughly 45%, Peverley and his staff say they are still seeing new customers drawn in by social media and listings on online business directories.
Another recent adaptation has been the in-house production of bagels for Metro’s breakfast sandwich menu and bulk sales. When Peverley heard of The Flour Bin Bakery’s closure last fall, he made an executive decision to purchase to their bagel-making equipment. Flour Bin owner Nick Noblitt taught Peverly to use the dough press and belt conveyor. Now making the bagels is one of his favorite parts of the job.
Peverley is optimistic about the expansion of the business model and thinks that businesses and customers alike will carry over beyond the era of COVID-19. He said that David Street Station and the upcoming Nolan Development are helping draw “more of the downtown action” his way.
Singer/songwriter and open mic events were part of the plan early on. Peverley purchased a PA system from a musician who was leaving town and began hosting the events in the fall of 2017.
The open mics provided an invaluable jumping-off point for several local musicians to hone their craft. One was Laura Podjun, whose jazz and folk stylings on ukulele and piano, combined with a powerful voice, led to a third place win at the 2019 Wyoming Singer Songwriter Competition. Another was 19-year-old Quinlan Valdez, a Casper native who performs on guitar in the folk and Celtic traditions, and has toured extensively.
“They’d show up week after week and they got used to being on stage, talking into the mic, looking into the crowd; they got used to people staring at them and being silent and being ignored. Those are all huge things if you want to be a performer,” said Peverley.
At open mic night, musicians performed for friends and peers. “The best part was nobody cared if you were great or not great. We were all trying to be buddies listening to music.”
Joey Detrick, frontman of local alternative rock band 10four10, said Metro was the perfect venue to hone his catalogue. “Metro is alcohol-free and family-friendly and you’re required to play original music,” Deitrick said. “And you’re playing to other musicians that are actually listening.”
Detrick added another chapter to his personal and musical journey last November at Metro’s Small Business Saturday, Big Business Music event. After a day of hour-long sets by regular contributors, Detrick and his band were the last act. Before the last song, he proposed marriage to his girlfriend and drummer, Traci Raymer, who enthusiastically accepted. They celebrated afterwards by attending the lighting of the Christmas tree at David Street Station.
The singer-songwriter scene has both thrived and faltered, sometimes week-by-week. One thing Peverley didn’t expect was that some higher-level performers would come for a few weeks and then pursue opportunities at other venues. “It’s not a bad thing at all,” Peverley said, “but for some reason, in my head, those people would consistently stay at Metro and build the program. I didn’t know how to keep them around.”
“I’m kind of sentimental like that,” he added.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic closed down public spaces, Metro had just launched the On Stage concert series, which would feature a new artist every month and include online interviews and promotions leading up to a showcase performance. Casper-native Charlie Benson kicked off the series with a blues/rock set in January. Quinlan Valdez’s February showcase has been postponed until venues are allowed to open again.
When music venues are able to operate again, Peverley said he’ll try to strike a new balance between featuring established artists for surefire entertainment and providing open-mic opportunities for amateur musicians.
As a kid growing up in Green River. Peverley wanted to be star athlete and played basketball. He scored high in science aptitude tests and earned bachelor’s in Medical Technology at UW, and became a lab technician at Mountain View Regional Hospital for 10 years.
Peverley said the methodical nature of laboratory work and the importance of relying on a well-trained staff translated directly into taking over the coffee shop.
“I knew walking in that whether [Metro] was a coffee shop, a T-shirt shop, a gift shop, that no matter what, you work on performance and high-quality. Those are the two key indicators on anything that you do.”