FORT BENTON — Community support is what’s on tap in Fort Benton, where business is picking back up at Wake Cup Coffee House, where they have been serving up meals, mochas, and more for the past 17 years.
“I can’t imagine not having it. It's kind of the community living room or something,” said customer Bethany DeBorde. “Where you just count on it being here.”
Owner Amanda Bedford says she can’t thank customers enough for their support, especially through the Covid-19 pandemic. “I missed my customers so much, the bantering, just hearing about their lives,” she said. “During the shutdown people were buying gift cards from us because they knew it was only a matter of time before we were not gonna be able to pay the next energy bill.”
The business isn't a stranger to change; they’ve moved locations around town and added more menu items and options over the years to meet community demand. Bedord said, “A local breakfast place closed, so we started offering breakfast. And then when the local pizza place closed, we started serving pizza." They also developed a dinner menu to serve in the coffee shop.
Now back at full capacity, the business is once again ready for a new venture that wasn’t able to fully take off before Covid shutdowns began: The Wake Cup Late Public House. The addition brings new cuisine options and Montana craft brews to the area.
“My brother-in-law built a smoker in 2019, so he started doing barbecue and we launched our smokehouse menu three weeks before shutdown,” she said. “So it was kind of unfortunate timing.”
The newly-added public house and coffee shop closed its doors to in-person dining shortly after Covid cases began to rise, but reopened last spring in limited capacities. “We got people back in here enjoying the space and it's really taken off,” she said. “It's been super successful.”
Wake Cup Late showcases historic pictures of the area, including prints of the old bridge located across the road from the pub. Benches in the public house are even built from the bridge.
Coffee and Montana craft beer now flow on both sides of the building, filling up mugs and morale alike.
“I’ve been brought to tears by customers coming back in, saying, ‘This is my first year lunch out in over a year and I wanted to come here,’ or reunions like they haven’t seen each other in so long. I think we all missed that so much and that's something I will never take for granted again,” she said.
Now they're hoping to hire more help as they look to a busy summer. Bedford says the combined venue will also host community gatherings like bingo night the first Thursday of the month, live music and a storytelling night.