If you asked Lexi and Lauren Bates of Two Sisters Coffee Co. for a coffee recommendation, the sisters would give you completely different answers: Lexi prefers an Americano with a splash of milk and a dash of cinnamon, while Lauren is partial to an iced vanilla oat milk latte. Lexi says their differences bring the perfect balance to their family business.
Lexi and Lauren run Two Sisters Coffee Co., a coffee truck based in Culpeper. It’s an almost entirely two-woman show. Aside from hiring an accountant, they run nearly every aspect of the business themselves.
In May 2020, Lexi graduated from James Madison University after completing the end of her senior year taking online classes from her parents’ house. She applied for jobs related to her degree in public relations and nonprofit studies, but many companies simply weren’t hiring.
“I just kind of felt lost,” the founder says. “I had all these plans throughout college about what my post-college life would look like.”
She imagined that after college, she would be living in a new city, sharing an apartment with friends, and working for a public relations firm. Although she always dreamed of owning her own business, she figured it was a goal better suited for later in life. But, with her future uncertain, Lexi started to wonder: Why not now?
Lexi explained that although she had never worked in coffee, her fondest memories from college involved meeting up with friends at a coffee shop and swapping stories over lattes. She decided she wanted to take the leap and enter the coffee industry. Opening up a traditional coffee shop was too much of a financial risk, so Lexi decided to aim for a mobile coffee truck instead. She brought in her sister Lauren, who was a high school senior at the time, to help her.
The elder Bates sister attended a specialty coffee school called Bellissimo Coffee Advisors in Portland, Oregon, to learn the ropes, receiving a two-day crash course in all things coffee. The JMU graduate mentioned she was surprised to learn how complex coffee could be.
“[It takes] so many different people to make one cup of coffee, and that’s what I find really cool about it,” Lexi says.
She then had to find her wheels. After a few months of searching, Lexi found a listing on Facebook Marketplace for a truck that seemed promising. She drove to Ohio to check it out, and she knew she had found the one.
She fell in love with the truck because it was vintage and different than any other she’d seen. She named the truck Stevie.
“There’s no significant meaning behind it, I just feel like every woman I’ve met named Stevie has been so cool, so it seemed like a fitting name for her,” Lexi says. “We just ran with it.”
Stevie is almost always parked at the Ole Country Store in Culpeper. The spot at 18019 Country Store Dr. receives a lot of foot traffic and has a large parking lot, making it an ideal spot for the sisters to operate. In the spring and fall, the duo drives the truck to sports complexes to cater to young athletes and their parents, but aside from that, they don’t travel much due to the age of the truck.
However, the Bates sisters have managed to expand into events, despite the truck’s limited driving capabilities. Two Sisters Coffee Co. has become an option for weddings and bridal showers. Lexi says a coffee truck is a great choice for people seeking alcohol alternatives for special occasions. These events have become her favorite part of the job because they introduce her to new people.
“I think that’s the best part of the job, just getting to meet people from all over,” Lexi says.
Social media has been an important instrument in gaining exposure for the business. Two Sisters Coffee Co. is active on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
“[Social media] is just such a powerful tool,” Lexi explains. “It’s amazing how it’s free to use and you can reach millions of people for zero dollars.”
@twosisterscoffee.co That morning glow 🌞 #twosisters #coffee #virginia #coffeetruck ♬ original sound – veggibeats
Word of mouth advertisement and community support have done wonders for the business. But the elder Bates sister says she’s incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support they’ve seen from their hometown.
“There’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes, but the positive words of encouragement have really kept us going,” she says.
Two Sisters Coffee Co. changes its menu every season, aiming to create new drinks every time they rotate their offerings. The Bates sisters are currently working on developing their spring menu, which Lexi hopes will include seasonal flavors like lavender and raspberry. A recent menu favorite has been a dark chocolate blackberry latte that the sisters released for Valentine’s Day.
While many have asked the two whether they want to open their own brick and mortar coffee shop, Lexi notes that’s not where they’re headed. She’s more interested in remaining on the mobile side of the coffee industry, whether that means opening up a second truck or advising other people on how to open their own coffee truck. The educational side of the coffee world appeals to Lexi because of how expansive it is.
“I like to compare coffee to wine — there’s just always more you can be learning,” says Lexi.
Feature image courtesy Two Sisters Coffee Co.
For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine’s Food newsletter.