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Aut-To Mocha | The daily grind was never better

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Mocha Girls from left, Sierra Slatta and Alyssa VanDoren make drinks at the Aut-To Mocha stand at Chelan Avenue and Fifth Street on June 25. They estimate regular customers account for about 90-percent of business at the location. Slatta has worked for Aut-To Mocha for three years, VanDoren for six.

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Aut-To Mocha has been serving the Wenatchee Valley their morning espresso since 1997. Since then, this one-stop mocha shop has expanded into its current five locations, and as of recently, changed ownership to two bright and brimming Wenatchee locals.

Kristeena Spence and Haylee Holland, alongside their respective husbands Whit and Kory, bought the business from the Zebreznik family in October 2013. Spence and Holland where no strangers to the business at that point however, with both having experience as barista and manager in the history of the coffee stands.

With Spence and Holland’s experience serving coffee and sitting behind the managerial desk, as well as the successful business model already put in place, the coffee grind at Aut-To Mocha continues to do well.

The last owner set up well for success,” Spence said about the Zebreznik family. “When they retired it was an easy transition. We just kept doing what we had already been doing.”

But don’t let the humility fool you. Between 35 baristas, 5 locations, and a growing number of drive-thru customers; Spence and Holland stay busy all day to keep the coffee beans percolating. But like many successfully run businesses, they don’t do it alone.

While their husbands handle the larger legal issues, Spence and Holland also rely on their office support to keep things running smoothly. There’s Lily Passmore who picks up the phones, responds to requests, and is the all-around answer person in the office. Passmore has been with Aut-To Mocha for three and a half years and has worked under both owners.

Spence and Holland were also quick to mention the hard work of Kady Johnson. Johnson, who fills a similar role with Spence and Holland as a manager, is responsible for training every girl that works at the coffee stands. And with currently 35 girls on staff, that’s a big responsibility.

As for the training, this is the most important part of my job. I teach each new employee the same exact information about preparing espresso drinks as well as providing background info and knowledge about espresso, this way they are experts of their trade. I also teach the importance of consistency because this is what Aut-To Mocha was built on. Consistency of great drinks, our pace, and our friendliness,” said Johnson.

And on any day you can find one of these friendly coffee creators at any of five locations in Wenatchee, East Wenatchee and Cashmere: 536 Mission St. where Chelan and Mission streets meet; 407 Fifth St., sharing a parking lot with Jack in the Box; both 795 and 200 Grant Road in East Wenatchee; and 603 Cotlets Way in Cashmere.

And whether you drive-thru one of these stands for your classic Americano, an original Redbull Rev, or even an ice cream cone on a hot summers day, you can take comfort in not only the taste, but also the fact that what you’re consuming didn’t travel thousands of miles to get there.

Aut-To Mocha strives to provide freshness to their menu and receives all its ingredients from the Wenatchee and Washington region. The donuts are from Glaze Bakery in East Wenatchee (delivered fresh daily), the cookies from Bellingham.

When asked about their secret to continued success, Holland was quick to answer.

The first thing that I would have to say is our espresso. We’ve been getting the same coffee from the same distributor since the very beginning.”

And that espresso, which Aut-To Mocha customers have grown so accustomed to, comes from Cravens Coffee in Spokane.

Cravens Coffee, established in 1993, is a coffee wholesaler and supplier with strong ethical ties to fair-trade practices and farmer-roaster relations. Aut-To Mocha has an exclusive agreement with Cravens, so don’t expect to find the blend anywhere else in the Wenatchee Valley. And as for the quality of the blend, one must ask the owner himself.

The Aut-To Mocha blend has a sweet, bright, clean, snappy, yet full and round flavor. When you taste the coffee as an Americano, the blend will enliven your taste buds immediately, but not attack you in the aftertaste. As a milk-based beverage, the coffee winds its way through the dairy for a creamy, cocoa-y coffee flavor,” said Simon Thompson, owner of Cravens Coffee via email.

Aut-To Mocha receives its coffee shipments every Wednesday, and the beans don’t see the grinder until the moment you pull up and make your order.

But of course, high quality espresso beans are only one of the bricks that build the foundation for success in the highly competitive coffee industry. Spence also attributes the steady lines of cars outside their drive-thru window to her dedicated fleet of dependable baristas.

Recently, the two owners packed up utility vans full of their employees and headed to Spokane to see where their coffee came from. At Cravens Coffee, the Aut-To Mocha girls had lunch with Simon and participated in an educational field day to learn about the produce they serve.

Our girls are really knowledgeable on our coffee and our blend, as well as where it comes from and the process it undergoes to reach the consumer,” said Holland.

And Stemming from their own experience in the stands, as well as their weekly shifts serving coffee, Spence and Holland run under a “happy employees, happy customers” management philosophy.

We’ve always been pretty open with our employees and take their needs into consideration. We were once baristas, so when our employees express concerns, we’re pretty apt to listen,” Holland continued.

Aut-To Mocha hires primarily college girls because of their easy to adapt to schedules. And with the convenient scheduling, as well as the emphasis on employee satisfaction, Aut-To Mocha sees a relatively low turnover rate. And if you’re like Sammy Carlson, the job opportunity is too good to turn away.

It’s a big family, that’s why I stay. They (Spence and Holland) are always there for us and treat everyone with so much respect. It’s great to have job where they will work with your schedule so much and to have a job where it really feels like everyone cares for one another,” said Carlson, who has been with Aut-To Mocha for three and half years.

Another key to Aut-To Mocha’s success is the appreciation and loyalty they’ve received from the community.

Ever since we’ve taken over, we’ve had so much support from the community, it’s been amazing. We’d like to thank the community for all that they have given and for making this so awesome for us.” Holland said.

As for the future of Aut-To Mocha, the community will have to wait to see what’s next. Spence and Holland couldn’t elaborate any further, but both said to keep eyes open for the next big step in the Aut-To Mocha story.

And while they hinted that it’s something new and something different, they only smiled with sealed lips.