The cattle still need to be fed.
That’s how Greeley, Colorado, entrepreneur Aimee Hutson remembers her rancher grandparents responding whenever she complained about early mornings as a child. Life doesn’t stop moving, they’d suggest, even when it’s tough. There’s always work to be done.
“I come from a long line of very motivated people,” she says with a laugh. Another one in that line of significant familial influences is her great aunt.
Aimee’s great aunt, of course, is Helen Ingle. Aunt Helen, as in the inspiration behind Aunt Helen’s Coffee House, the downtown Greeley business known for offering “the snarky side of coffee” to its customers.
She Had an Edge
Helen Ingle was born in Chamberlain, South Dakota, in 1912. She graduated from university in 1932 with a degree in elementary education, but she quickly decided the career wasn’t a long-term match. Not one to wait around and expect life to happen to her, Helen packed up a typewriter and hopped on a bus to Washington, D.C.
The typewriter landed her a job, as she was the only woman in a long line of applicants who came with her own office equipment. She went on to work as an auditor in Washington for three decades.
“Helen was spirited! Independent, strong, and probably just one of the most competent people I’ve ever known,” Aimee says. “It was good for me to witness that as a little girl.”
Helen was married for just 10 years, and she never had any children. She waited until she was nearly 90 years old to move to Greeley, Colorado, to be closer to her extended family. Her independence became a running family joke, as everyone says her choices probably contributed to her extraordinarily long life.
“One of the reasons I think Helen lived so long is because she didn’t stress about things. She didn’t internalize things,” confesses Aimee. “Helen just told you what she was thinking—whether you wanted to hear it or not.”
The most famous example of her candor comes from the Greeley Tribune. On the occasion of her 105th birthday, a Trib reporter asked Helen the secret to living a long life. Helen didn’t skip a beat.
“Minding your own damn business. You should try it.”
That quip has become a tagline for the eponymous coffee shop.
“She had an edge about her,” adds Bob Hutson, Aimee’s husband and business partner. “But she was also one of the most easygoing people who never worried about anything.”
A century of experiences will do that to a person, he says. “It was like, ‘I’ve lived over 100 years; I know everything’s going to be just fine.’”
A Role Model in Life and in Business
When Aimee saw a need for a downtown coffee and lunch spot in Greeley, she and Bob simply decided to open their own. It’s something Aimee had always wanted to do.
“I’m blessed to have Helen’s genes, and to be kind of molded with that kind of personality too, ever since I was a young girl.”
Today, the family’s personal histories are present throughout the business.
From jokes on the walls and the merch—one coffee cup sleeve reads “Being polite is extremely exhausting”—to the giant Volkswagen mural above the register (that’s Helen in front and Aimee in back), to the name of the business itself.
“When it came time to open the coffee shop, I knew I wanted to name it after her because everybody has an Aunt Helen. We all share that story.”
Another familial touch? Aunt Helen’s Greeley Grub menu item, the signature waffle wrap. Inspired by a go-to Saturday morning meal called a Bowl of Awesomeness, the waffle wrap was invented side-by-side with Bob and Aimee’s children.
Grow Where You Are Planted
When Aunt Helen moved to Greeley in 1999, she became a bit of a local celebrity. Aimee and Bob Hutson hope they have a similar impact on our downtown community in the years to come.
“We have been so embraced by the Greeley community. It’s unbelievable,” Aimee says. “I can never get over that aspect: how much people support us here and how much they want us to succeed.”
Bob agrees: “Once we opened this space [in 2017], and we quickly became a part of the community, we realized how tight Greeley’s community is and how much they help each other to give back. Greeley has a personality that reflects a giving and caring place.
“We’re a small community in a big town—it’s the greatest community you’ll find.”
Aunt Helen’s Coffee House is part of the city’s Greeley Grub menu, a program highlighting Greeley originals—such as products for sale, ingredients or specialty menu items, and beverages—that a customer can only try in Greeley businesses or because of Greeley creators. What Greeley Grub will you try next?