We had the good fortune of connecting with Sophie/Holly Fearon/Huebner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sophie/Holly, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Holly: Work hard, play hard – this has always been something that I’ve said to myself. I reward myself with fun when I’ve worked hard, and when I’ve had fun I reward myself with work. Since taking over the Coffee Bear it’s been all about going with the flow and adapting to whatever the day brings… busy season to slow season, over staffed to short staffed, adventuring to putting my head down and working. The first few months of being a business owner felt like a constant tornado of “to-do’s” swirling around me. Now, being over a year in, I feel like I can get ahead of the game and stay on top of work so when it’s time to play, I can truly play. Buying a coffee shop, for me, wasn’t about making the most money or honestly even about owning a business at all, but more so an investment into a lifestyle that I wanted to live. A life filled with just as much adventure and play, as work. Of course, this balance would seem nearly impossible if I didn’t have an awesome business partner who also believed in working hard & playing hard herself. Balance is really important for my personal mental and physical wellbeing and also the wellbeing of our staff and business. Sometimes I have to tell myself “it’s okay if I go snowboarding for a couple hours this morning” or “this can wait until tomorrow and right now I am going to go for a bike ride”. When our staff asks us for time off, we try to give them that time to reset and recharge so they can come back excited and inspired.
Sophie: The balance for me is always changing, sometimes it’s time to work and you just put your head down and do it, and sometimes the balance is completely up to you. I would never be able to achieve any kind of balance without Holly. Our conversations leading up to buying this business were about the lifestyle this opportunity could allow us to live, not how much money we could make. It’s important to both of us to get out and enjoy this beautiful place we are so fortunate to live in, to travel and to visit family. I feel so lucky to have a partner I trust so much and also encourages me to do the things I love. Summers are busy and we work a lot, but we both take advantage of the slower winter months to get a lot of skiing in. We use the shoulder seasons to plan trips and travel, we cover for each other when our families come to visit, and hold each other accountable for taking days off no matter how busy it is. I would struggle logistically and mentally to do any of these things without her. I think making a schedule and keeping track of how much you are working is important, even if it’s changing all the time.
What should our readers know about your business?
Holly: The Coffee Bear is an incredible space plopped right into the heart of the San Juan Mountains. Our shop has the only rooftop patio in Silverton – I think this is the most unique part of our shop (and my personal favorite part). Sophie and I worked together at The Bear. When it went up for sale in the summer of 2020, I asked Sophie if she would buy it with me and she said yes! (Thank god). We grew up on different coasts and studied opposite things in college. I had worked tons of service industry jobs at restaurants, breweries and bars, while Sophie’s first restaurant job was at the Coffee Bear. Our different backgrounds and different skill sets paired nicely to make the transition from staff to owner very fun! Easy is not a word that I would use to describe the transition but rather I’d say exciting. The learning curve was steep, but we tackled that challenge with caffeine, laughs and long nights.
Sophie: Silverton is such an improbable little town, during the off season, when the summertime businesses are closed, the Coffee Bear feels like such an improbable little hub. We pride ourselves in carrying on an ‘open every day no matter what’ policy. People trust that we’ll be open in the middle of a storm, or during the dead of mud season, a place to come and connect with others even on the most desolate feeling days. We really value using the space as a gathering place, we’ve enjoyed hosting events like pumpkin-carving contests, Christmas parties, and movie nights to bring the community together. We love coffee and good people, we hope to facilitate these joys of life for others. The transition from barista to owner wasn’t easy for either of us, and I’d say we’re still finding our stride as owners but it’s been a great journey so far. The constant learning and progressing every day is incredibly fulfilling, I am proud to run this shop and excited to build a future for it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Holly: My bestie just landed on a Friday in Durango (the closest airport to Silverton) for a winter weekend in town. First we are stopping for lunch and a beer at Steamworks Brewing Co so we can get the Fish Tacos and drink a Sultan of Stoke IPA. Then we are going to head north to Silverton. We will stop at 81301 Coffee Roasters on the way out of town to perk us up for the drive. The drive will be beautiful and scenic. The mountain tops will be dusted with snow. The next day we’ll wake up early and head out for a backcountry ski tour. We’ll spend the whole day in the mountains, playing in the snow. When we are done we’ll stop at the Wyman Hotels Apres Ski bar and have a corn dog and a Fenceline cider. Later that night we’ll gather with some friends and play some dice or card games. Sunday we’ll head over the million dollar highway to Ouray and go for a soak at the Wiesbaden vapor caves. We will get some Thai food for dinner and head home. The next day we’ll head back down to Durango and return to the airport. This doesn’t even cover a quarter of all the fun to be had but it was a short trip.
Sophie: We’ll pretend it’s spring so you can do all the things. I pick them up in Durango and we go to Steamworks Brewing for fish tacos and a Sultan of Stoke. On Monday we ski easy laps in the sun at Purgatory resort, there are no lines and no crowds, after we get a beer and fried green tomato sliders at The Nugget. Tuesday we go for a backcountry ski tour, get in a big day then ski right to the grid of town and walk to Avalanche Brewery. Wednesday night it dumps snow and we ski blower pow on an all day heli at Silverton mountain. Per usual, the wind ruins the snow so Thursday we go back to Durango and rock climb at East Animas in the afternoon sun. In the evening we make the short 3hr drive to Moab and spend the weekend out there. On our way back we stop in Mancos and visit Absolute Bakery and Fenceline Cidery before they catch their evening flight from DRO.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Holly: Holy cow…. how do you dedicate a shoutout to specific people when you’ve felt so supported and encouraged by everyone!? I guess I’d like to give credit to my family – my mom, John, my siblings, Kiki, every one of them! They’re my absolute biggest supporters. The Steamteam at Steamworks. Brewing Co. who taught me so much about business, restaurants and myself. My sweet honey, Jack – he’s got patience like no other and I’m eternally grateful for that. My partner in not only business but also adventuring and life, Sophie…. I literally couldn’t do this without you and I wouldn’t ever want to.
Sophie:. To my parents Matt and Mary, I’d be nowhere without their love, advice, and support. And of course Holly, for dreaming the crazy thought up in the first place, her spark embodied true entrepreneurial spirit and invited me on-board with the biggest welcoming arms. My boyfriend Carl for being the steadiest rock for me through those first few months and continuously offering so much excitement and support despite all the early mornings. All of our friends from the community who have offered kind words, tall ladders, plumbing advice, hulk strength, good laughs, and so much help, I am so thankful.