David Seward and his brother Brian wanted to bring quality coffee service to music festivals. To do this, they decided to build a customized coffee shop on wheels.
“We customized the van ourselves,” says David, co-owner of The Grateful Grail. “It was a bit of trial and error. We have basic carpenter skills, but we learned as we went along.”
After purchasing a brand-new 2015 Ford Transit cargo van, David and his brother got to work on installing an electric system.
From there, they made measurements of the area and did a blueprint of how they wanted to set up their mobile coffee shop, including where to put the equipment and how it would work with the power system.
When not traveling to music festivals throughout the mid-Atlantic, the brothers operate their mobile coffee shop at a food truck park in downtown Baltimore during the workweek. Centrally located near Baltimore’s city hall, The Grateful Grail serves coffee, espresso and baked goods starting at 7 in the morning.
“The Transit is a great fit for us because we can park in smaller spaces,” says Seward. “It’s not a huge, bulky vehicle and it has more maneuverability. It fits our needs as a coffee shop.”
The planning, designing and building process took the brothers about two months. After purchasing a standard Transit van last May, the Seward brothers did all the installations themselves. According to Seward, it gave them more flexibility and open space to make the mobile coffee shop a reality.
“We designed and built the setup and had some help from a plumber and electrician,” says Seward. “It was a lot of long nights and days, but it’s our own personal endeavor. The van was ready for business last July.”
After creating the van’s blueprint and deciding where to place the equipment, the Seward brothers started acquiring the different pieces of equipment. The van features an espresso machine, coffee machine, sinks, a refrigerator and a kegerator for nitro cold brew.
The Transit’s full sliding door has come in handy for The Grateful Grail. During operation hours, they place bakery cases within the sliding door space. The clear cases contain assorted baked goods, including muffins, desserts and pastries like Danishes and turnovers.
The van's wide sliding door is also helpful when trying to load larger pieces of equipment into the van, according to Seward.
All the equipment is powered through an on-board generator. “We have a breaker box in the van,” says Seward. “The generator is quiet; you can’t hear it while we are running our coffee machines.”
An interest in music influenced the company’s name — The Grateful Grail pays tribute to the Grateful Dead band. The Seward brothers wanted to bring people a product that embodies the whole spirit of the Grateful Dead, according to Seward.
When looking to design the company logo and the outside of the van, the Seward brothers looked to a local graffiti artist for inspiration. They had a few ideas but gave the artist creative freedom when designing the van with aerosol paint.
“We wanted our van to stand out,” says Seward. “We didn’t want to have a screen-printed vinyl wrap. The aerosol artwork brings it all together.”
The Seward brothers hope to add more large-scale music festivals to the company’s schedule this summer. Last year, they traveled to Magna Ball, a Phish music festival in New York.