The Billings Outpost

Coffee, movies match up

By CHRIS CIOFFI - For The Outpost

A family-run theater in Laurel is giving moviegoers new and tasty options to snack on while they take in a flick.

Film buffs need not fret. There’s still popcorn and soda, but how about a latte and a slice of cheesecake while the new Spiderman movie is screened? The Vue and Brew Theater, located at 101 W. First St. in downtown Laurel, has a fully operational coffee shop right in the lobby.

The “brew” part of the Vue and Brew is open weekdays from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. and serves any coffee concoction customers can dream up. There is also a variety of locally baked lip-smacking confections to try.

“It’s what Laurel needed,” according to resident Joslyn Kaufman. Ms. Kaufman and her friends had no intention of seeing a movie as they nursed their caramel cappuccinos at a table by the window on Tuesday evening. “We just came here to chill,” said Kaufman’s friend, Jordan Ocejo.

“A place to chill” is exactly what owner Kris Vogle hoped the coffee shop would do for his business. Vogle had watched the previous owner attempt to compete with larger theaters in Billings, and he didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes.

When Vogle took over, he installed a coffee shop with booths and tables in the lobby. He also installed state-of-the-art digital projectors in the theaters. “We still have a small-town feel, with the high tech gadgets,” Vogle says.

By going digital, the theater can get the most recent Hollywood films in the first or second week after their release. Theaters with the older 35mm projectors sometimes have to wait months for new movies. The projectors can also run films by request, for parties or other special events.

The theater has already gone from just showing movies on weekends to showing a film every day of the week. “I think we’ve gotten our feet under us now,” says Vogle.

Business has picked up as more residents have begun to find out about the theater’s reopening in early February. Sixteen people are now employed at the Vue and Brew, and it’s still hiring for daytime shifts at the coffee shop.

Vogle, a native Montanan, moved to Laurel a decade ago after returning from a stint in Pennsylvania. According to Vogle, he didn’t like coming home after a long day of work and being too tired to enjoy being a parent and a husband.

He figured that if his family worked where he worked, he could spend more time with them. The whole Vogle clan has become a part of the business.

“We got all the kids working here,” he says. “As long as my family can be involved with me. That’s what I’m most interested in.”

It’s a family business for more than just the Vogles. Connor McKany, 16, said he applied for his ushering job after being encouraged by his mother, another theater employee. The 16-year-old student at Laurel High says, “It’s nice to come here after track to wind down, I like it.”

Good after-school jobs for young people in Laurel are hard to come by. It’s an important part of the theater’s mission to get them to work. “It’s been fun getting high school students involved. We’re able to employ a lot of local kids, which is needed,” said Vogle.

Kaitlyn Kerr, a sophomore at Laurel High School and one of the newest baristas, is glad to be part of the team. “The environment is nice. It’s a lot nicer than most teenage jobs,” she says. “I could be working fast food.”

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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