Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

    UA grads start coffee shop


    It has been a dream for two University of Alabama alumni to open a shop in Tuscaloosa and sell coffee. This fall, Audrey and Paul Vermilyea will open a coffee shop in downtown Tuscaloosa called Monarch Espresso Bar. 

    During their time as undergraduates, the two were constantly thinking about what would make the town better for both the students and the community. Upon moving to Nashville after college, they realized what Tuscaloosa had been missing all along – a great cup of coffee. 

    “We have the resources to be able to learn what we need to learn to run this business and we are at the age where we have a lot of energy, so we want to put our full hearts into this,” Audrey Vermilyea said. “We know we will work crazy hours, but this is the time in our lives where we are like ‘we should go for it!’ ” 

    Starting with only an idea six years ago, the couple have since prepared for their endeavor by working closely with entrepreneurs, taking classes and meeting with successful coffee shop owners to find out what works and what doesn’t. They have also built a team of people who know the craft better than they do to help them along the way.

    The name for their business came to Audrey Vermilyea while on a hike with her two friends from college. They were in the middle of discussing potential names when Audrey saw a monarch butterfly. 

    “We spent probably a year and a half brainstorming names, but when I saw the monarch butterfly it immediately clicked,” she said. “Monarch is such a powerful word and it really embodied what we wanted.”

    Ironically, Alabama designated the monarch butterfly as the official state insect in 1989, solidifying the name even more. 

    Although Audrey and Paul Vermilyea had enough funding for their startup costs, they needed an additional $50,000 to cover buildout expenses. On Feb. 26, the couple launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising the money within 35 days. 

    Kickstarter is an all or nothing deal, so if their goal was not met within 35 days, all donors would be fully refunded. If their goal was met, those who helped back the project would receive rewards depending on how much they pledged. For example, pledging $10 to Monarch will get you a free cup of coffee and pledging $2,000 will get you a lifetime supply of coffee. Other rewards vary and include handmade mugs, having a specialty drink named after you and receiving free coffee on gamedays for life.

    With the donations of more than 200 people, Audrey and Paul Vermilyea were able to meet their goal of $50,000 just three days before their deadline of April 1. Over 1,500 people viewed their Kickstarter campaign and they reached hundreds more through their social media handles and email marketing campaign.

    “I heard about Monarch Espresso Bar through social media,” Maggie Dunn, a senior majoring in telecommunication and film, said. “One of my friends shared their Kickstarter campaign on Facebook. I love that the owners are getting the community involved before they even open.”

    Monarch Espresso Bar will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a heavy emphasis on the dessert menu. Beer and wine will also be available and their coffees and espressos will come from Lyons, a local roaster in Florence, Alabama.

     “I’m really excited for Monarch to open,” Katie Vallely, a senior majoring in business, said. “Right now, it seems like the only place to grab a cup of coffee is at Starbucks, so I’m really looking forward to switching it up and trying something new.”

    When it comes to the overall vision of the place, Audrey Vermilyea hopes to create a relaxed atmosphere where people will feel comfortable coming as they are.

    “I want it to be a meeting place and not be limited just to where you study or get a drink,” she said. “I want it to be a good place for business meetings, first dates or even just relaxing with your friends. I want people to come and make it their own.”

    Monarch Espresso Bar is set to open in the early fall at 808 21st Ave. For more information, visit their website at

    More to Discover