Charlotte’s first drive-thru-only craft coffee shop opens this month


Charlotte’s first drive-thru-only craft coffee shop, Cuplux Coffee Drive-Thru, is set to open June 26. Just look for a bright burst of purple on Freedom Drive between I-85 and West Morehead Street and you’ve found it.

The building is still being renovated, but its products are fully formed in co-owner Ian Kolb’s mind.

“It should be reflective of what you see in your local coffee shop,” said Kolb, formerly a barista at Amelié’s French Bakery & Café and Julia’s Café & Books.

Except he and his business partners (his father Phil and brother Phillip) have curated a menu around convenience to cater to commuters.

The menu, which will balance convenience with quality, will include drip coffee, espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, nitro cold-brew on draft, Lenny Boy Brewing Co. kombucha, and sweet and savory hand pies by Craft Cakes Clt. Possibly even espresso mocktails.

The coffee beans will be sourced from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, with a rotation of featured local roasters from the Carolinas. Enderly Coffee will be the first featured guest roaster, with their Heirloom Ethiopian beans.

“Hopefully that first sip will make your commute better, your day better,” said Kolb, 27. “Our goal is to make people’s day better, really, with delicious coffee.”

He first encountered the drive-thru coffee concept when living in Portland, Ore., and working a corporate job he didn’t love. But he fell in love with coffee when he came across a Stumptown single origin from Panama.

“I was like, whoa, this is amazing,” he said.

He followed this new curiosity, meeting with roasters and coffee shop owners to pick their brains. And he noticed how popular drive-thru coffee seemed in the North.

“There was nothing in Charlotte here at the time,” said Kolb, who interned in Charlotte in 2011. His brother has been living here since 2007.

Kolb wrote his business plan for Cuplux out in Portland, then took the plunge and moved to Charlotte two years ago to start working as a barista.

The name “Cuplux” hints at the luxury that goes into craft coffee making — and drinking. It’s short for the original name he was exploring for the business, Cupping Luxury.

“That was born out of that romantic phase of coffee,” he said, “learning about where coffee came from, how far it traveled, how many hands touched it along the way.”

One thing you can get your hands on at Cuplux: The Cuplux Bloc Card. The loyalty card has a $5 annual fee to support the coffee shop’s community philosophy. Card holders will get 10 percent back on purchases to use on a future visit, and the card fee will help fund urban conservation efforts in and around the shop’s FreeMoreWest community. The first community effort Cuplux wants to give back to is TreesCharlotte, which is working to preserve and improve Charlotte’s tree canopy.

“My goal is to really leverage the business to do some good,” said Kolb, who has a strong love for nature.

But you want your coffee now.

When you make your way to Cuplux, you’ll be directed into the drive-thru express lane to have someone run a coffee out to your car, or into the regular drive-thru lane for a more complicated order. Baristas will be on hand to discuss ingredients, style selections and brewing methods.

“And we send you on your way with a ‘drive safe,’” Kolb said.

Cuplux Coffee: 3115 Freedom Dr.

Hours: Daily, 6 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Photos: Rémy Thurston, Katie Toussaint


  1. Looking forward to this! It will be nice to have another coffee drive-through option that isn’t a huge chain and gives back to the community.


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