Alan Hebertson and Dieter Sellmair operate one of the oldest coffee shops in Salt Lake. Coffee Garden opened its doors in May of 1993 and is still going strong. For the first 13 years they were located across the street from their current location at 9th and 9th. It’s no wonder they’ve stayed open so long. With fantastic locally sourced Ibis Coffee, and treats made onsite from scratch, they have been a staple in Salt Lake’s coffee community for nearly 30 years.
Back then, according to Hebertson, “Coffee didn’t have the reputation it does now. It was a little bit edgy for Salt Lake. There were a few places that were run by some odd characters, and some of those shops didn’t stay around very long. I had spent some time in Seattle after losing my job and had the idea to start a coffee shop. I actually contacted Starbucks corporate to ask them if I could start a franchise here in Salt Lake. They laughed at me and told me all their stores were corporate-owned and that they had no plans to come to Utah. Thirteen years later, our landlord asked us to sell our lease to Starbucks who wanted to take the space over for a corporate training facility. We said no, and they said, ‘get ready because we’re opening across the street.’ We ended up getting so busy that it almost put us out of business because we were the little guys and people came to support their local coffee shop.”
When asked if coffee had more of a stigma then or now, Hebertson explained: “Not to the people that were coming to Coffee Garden after we opened. The stigma existed to people outside of the state who had a very superficial view of Utah and thought that no one drank coffee because everyone was Mormon.”
Twenty years ago, Hebertson continued, “we tried to bring Seattle-style coffee into Salt Lake … a lot of milk-based drinks. Pretty quickly we realized that there was a big vegan community in Salt Lake and that we needed to bring in milk alternatives, Chi, and other drinks that have made their way into Coffee shops.”
That was when Hebertson and Sellmair realized they had to really start thinking about what else they could add in addition to coffee and food.
“Originally we did not know how much food people were going to be interested in,” Hebertson said. “Now, we are essentially a bakery with a coffee shop attached. Almost everything is made in-house except for the gluten-free products. We have too much flour floating around in the air. We do a lot more with tea these days as well. We also try to follow the trends. Give people a taste of whatever the new thing is while still keeping the classic drinks everyone has always loved on the menu.”
Coffee Garden is located at 878 E 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT
Hours: 6am to 8pm Monday through Saturday. Sundays 7am to 8pm