Asheville — The mobile yellow coffee truck that’s been on the move across Asheville will soon have its first brick-and-mortar coffee shop.
Bridge and Tunnel Coffee Co. is getting a permanent address at 10 Fernihurst Drive. The café will open at an undetermined date in place of the Coman Student Activity Center at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.
“They’ve bent over backward to make this a comfortable place for us and to serve as an incubator for a fledgling business, which is a high risk-reduction for the business,” said co-founder Greg Fulcher, who started the company with Phil Tillotson in 2020.
More recently, Bobby Nagelberg joined the team as partner and head chef whose responsibilities include curating and introducing a dining menu for the café.
Bridge and Tunnel Coffee’s Bobby Nagelberg left, and co-founder Greg Fulcher at A-B Tech, October 19, 2023.
Bridge & Tunnel will open with a ready-made customer base of faculty, staff, and students who have patronized the business for nearly a year and a half since the coffee truck has been a guest vendor at the college.
Bridge & Tunnel’s coffee shop will be open to the public with the perk of a customer parking lot out front.
“We’re thinking about this as being an oasis in a food and coffee desert, which is how it is up here on the hill,” Fulcher said. “There’s really nothing. Mission Hospital, Asheville High, and all the businesses that surround it. I think it will be a good fit.”
Bridge & Tunnel Coffee Co.’s breakout
In 2020, Bridge and Tunnel officially launched the coffee truck, servicing Asheville area events and neighborhoods.
Fulcher said he was looking to shift gears from the film industry to a career that took him out into the community, and he determined coffee was the way to go.
“As a filmmaker, I relied heavily on coffee. I’m a car guy, as well, so building a coffee truck seemed like a great blend of hobby and craft," he said. "And just the desire to connect with the community in a more meaningful way than just sitting behind a desk editing in a dark room.”
Bridge and Tunnel Coffee’s Bobby Nagelberg left, and co-founder Greg Fulcher in front of the Coman Student Center at A-B Tech, October 19, 2023.
The Bridge & Tunnel name was inspired while Fulcher was in traffic driving to his former home in San Francisco, and fit the company’s philosophy from coast to coast.
“It’s the connection to communities and people and the metaphor of bridges and tunnels connecting because that’s what we do through the coffee, what we want to do through the food,” Nagelberg said.
In late 2022, Bridge & Tunnel expanded with a second mobile coffee bar to keep up with the growing demand ― a van ideal for residential areas and smaller catering events.
All roads lead to A-B Tech
Initially, Bridge & Tunnel was conceptualized as a brick-and-mortar but scaled back as a mobile unit for feasibility. It allowed the business to become better established and grow with intention.
“The stars are finally aligned, and we’ve looked at several locations over the last year, and each one had some peculiarity to it or something that made us uncomfortable, and our gut told us, ‘No, this is not the time or the place,’” Fulcher said. “This opportunity here at A-B Tech comes in such an organic, comfortable way that we’re all in and the college is all in, as well. It’s been a great relationship we’ve been building with them.”
Bridge & Tunnel’s first campus appearance was in spring 2022.
Bridge and Tunnel Coffee co-founder Greg Fulcher opens the window to one of his vehicles at A-B Tech, on October 19, 2023.
It was an “instant success,” Fulcher said, and a deal was negotiated for the coffee bar to serve on-site in the mornings, four days a week when class was in session. Soon, it will be a permanent fixture.
“Bridge & Tunnel’s coffee truck has been a delightful, greatly appreciated addition to A-B Tech’s Asheville campus,” A-B Tech spokesperson Kerri Glover said in an email. “For years, employees and students asked for great coffee on campus, so Bridge & Tunnel is already a campus favorite. We can’t wait until their cafe with coffee and food opens.”
Inside the coffee shop
The Coman Student Activity Center requires little work to adapt to the café, as it is an underutilized space with a built-in kitchen area and counter that will be used as a point-of-sale. The venue is being fitted out with kitchen equipment and a roasting room, Nagelberg said.
The dining room will be enhanced for comfort and has about a 100-person capacity and may be used for special events.
The existing patio’s built-in tables will be outfitted with umbrellas.
Bridge & Tunnel’s menu
Nagelberg intends for the food and beverage program to be “plant-forward” with healthy options.
Bridge & Tunnel’s coffee program uses a direct-trade model wherein the local business purchases coffee beans straight from growers from places, including Panama, Guatemala, and Ethiopia, to ensure product quality and direct, fair pay to the farmers, Fulcher said.
“There’s no blending. The beans speak for themselves – it’s one farm, one crop, and you know exactly what you’re getting and it’s consistent,” Fulcher said.
The café will be open for breakfast and lunch service with menus featuring egg sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, bagels with cream cheese, muffins, veggie burgers, and other dishes made in-house.
Additional traditional sandwiches will be sourced from a local provider so there's something for everyone.
Smoothies will be a new addition to Bridge & Tunnel’s menu, which will have the added convenience for customers to grab a meal or snack on their way to class or work.
“I personally love smoothies and feel they’re the healthiest way to get all the nutrients into your body,” Nagelberg said.
The partners plan to roll out an in-house delivery service that cuts out third-party companies.
Bridge & Tunnel’s coffee truck and van will continue operating across the area as normal. Prepared food items, like pastries, will be added to the mobile trucks' menus.
“It’s a way of interfacing with all the neighborhoods and bringing great coffee to the people,” Fulcher said.
Bridge & Tunnel Coffee Co.
- Where: 10 Fernihurst Dr., A-B Tech Community College, Asheville
- Opening: To be announced
- Info: For more, visit shopbtcc.com and follow us on Instagram @bridgetunnelcoffee