Mocha Memories03/01/2021 03:50PM ● By Rachel Miller
Photo courtesy Molly and Von Wils
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – February 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of Mocha Molly’s Coffee Saloon and Bluegrass Bakery, once located at 635 Lincoln Ave. in Steamboat Springs. Though it closed in 2006, the shop still holds a special place in the memories of Steamboat locals, who once lovingly referred to it as “Mocha’s.” Steamboat Magazine asked Von and Molly Wilson, the original owners of Mocha Molly’s, to share their experiences there.
SM: What was the opening like at Mocha Molly’s? How was it received by the Steamboat community?
MW: The day it opened – and we had been working like dogs for months to get it open – was the day I got airlifted out of Steamboat for a horrible virus. I had double pneumonia. It was a mess, but Von got it running.
VW: We were brand new to town. People from Soda Creek cared for our kids for weeks during that time. This community rallied and bought coffee just knowing they were helping our family out.
MW: I’ve been in my bonus round ever since then.
SM: What was Steamboat like back then?
VW: Sort of a slow, sleepy little town. Dead during mud seasons. We got in trouble a lot from the city – they were new at regulating anything, but we were there blowing coffee smoke and smell downtown. “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission” was sort of our motto.
MW: (Laughing) It’s hard for anyone to stay mad at you when everyone in the community drinks your coffee. We had sign boards out on Lincoln Avenue, and they weren’t sure how to deal with those. We had the first coffee roaster in town for sure, and the first espresso bar. Back then, no one knew how to make a cappuccino or a mocha, so we were training a bunch at the beginning of every season. People weren’t prepared to pay a dollar when you could buy a cup for 49 cents across the street, so we were constantly educating people on why it was worth it.
SM: What was the group who worked there like?
MW: We were a big, wide group of coffee lovers. I worked the coffee bar and Von managed it and did a bunch of other stuff. We were just a small group of entrepreneurs, business owners. Our core group of friends today come from that era. Any time we needed something done they would walk through the door and help out, whether it was with work or childcare. We made our own community at Mocha Molly’s and found our place here.
SM: How did you decide to move on from it?
VW: The formula for success is not complicated – it’s just a lot of work.
MW: We had three little kids and managed to keep that pace up for six years, then sold it. Von became chiropractor, and I went to massage school – ended up doing massage for 17 years.
SM: What are your favorite memories from the shop?
MW: We had one couple that met and got married while working there – Mary Pat and Kurt.
Von had bands, too; he was a bluegrass banjo player, and they would practice and play there. We had a house band, they would get together down there and jam and play. It really drew a crowd in the later afternoon and evening.
VW: “Quartermoon” was the first band there, and we had a bunch of other incarnations. I also bred and raised draft horses, which we kept over on Strawberry Park Road. We got this buggy, and we would drive it around town and have a coffee cart and ride around town in it. People would ask us to do events all the time.
SM: What do you think made Mocha Molly’s so special to the Steamboat Community?
VW: First and foremost, I think it was community. Especially this year, everyone is craving community. It was a time when you had real down-home people of every age standing in line. It was a great meeting place to jump off your day; you could get a quick breakfast or pack a sandwich for your lunch and meet up with incredible people.
MW: There was a big table in the front where a bunch of men would gather and they called it the “Round Table.” They solved the world’s problems there from both sides of the aisle. We all need the connection of a group of people. It was always a really wonderful, warm feeling in there, like home. People would come from everywhere and many of them missed home and missed their family and friends and we helped create a community for them. I have dreams of starting a pop-up again because people ask about it constantly and get really excited about it.
Mocha Molly’s Famous Molasses Cookies Recipe
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cloves
1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup vegetable shortening
3 ½ cups sugar
½ cup unsulfured molasses
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 325 F and lightly grease 2 large baking sheets.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves and cinnamon.In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter, shortening and 3 cups sugar until light and fluffy and beat in molasses. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture and combine well.
In a small shallow bow put remaining ½ cup sugar. Form dough into 2-inch balls and roll in sugar. On baking sheets arrange balls about 4 inches apart and flatten slightly with bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. (Cookies should be soft.) Transfer cookies with a metal spatula to racks to cool. Makes about 25 cookies.