Vending machine full of local art finds a home at Black Ring Coffee Roasters

When Black Ring Coffee Roasters co-owner Juliette Simpkins discovered Moonlight Vending, a creative vending machine business recently started by Long Beach local Katie Kelly, and found that Kelly was looking for a home for her first repurposed machine, “Luna,” it was a no-brainer. Simpkins had to have it for the shop.

“We love local art and artists and try to be supportive of people trying to make it happen,” Simpkins said. “When we heard about [Moonlight Vending] we reached out right away, it was a pretty quick turnaround.”

Full of ‘cool, weird stuff,’ Katie Kelly launches creative vending machine business in Long Beach

The pastel purple machine, instead of snacks or drinks, is stocked with small artworks and other wares by local artists, including scrunchies and earrings, embroidery and gemstones, mystery packs, stickers and more. Founded by Kelly just last month, Moonlight Vending was inspired by a creative vending machine business in Portland, The Venderia, founded in 2013 by Taylor Valdes. “Luna,” has been sitting in her Belmont Shore garage just waiting for a business to want it.

“I’m overjoyed, but also kinda feel like a mom who dropped her kid off at kindergarten,” Kelly posted on Instagram last week with photos and video of “Luna” being delivered to Black Ring Coffee Roasters.

Kelly said that Moonlight Vending will begin work on its next machine once she finds her next business to partner with: “I would love to cater the artwork on the outside of the machine to the ambiance and esthetic of the next venue.”

Located toward the back of the North Long Beach coffee shop, Simpkins said people have come out just to see the machine.

“A lot of buzz has been made about it.”

Even coffee customers unaware of Moonlight Vending, are excited when they stumble upon Kelly’s ’70s repurposed Craigslist find and, while they wait for their drinks, are eager to see how it works.

With Small Business Saturday right around the corner on Nov. 28, being able to host Moonlight Vending’s first machine at the shop gives Black Ring’s avid supporters just one more reason to support not one, but two small businesses. Simpkins said since the start of the pandemic, those that used to go to Starbucks now come to them for their coffee, that the shop is “surviving through our community rallying around us.”

When Simpkins and partner Trevor Moisen opened their brick and mortar about three and a half years ago—they started Black Ring Coffee in 2014, initially selling beans and cold brews out of then small business incubator, MADE in Long Beach—having a rotating gallery of local art was their dream. Over the years they’ve featured works by local artists in their shop, some of which have their art inside the vending machine now.

Moonlight Vending is a way for them to continue supporting local artists, just in a new and different way. While Black Ring Coffee Roasters and Moonlight Vending both take a small percentage of the profits, the majority goes to the artists. The machine, still owned by Moonlight Vending, will be located at Black Ring Coffee Roasters for at least a year, Kelly said, “but we love it there and plan on staying there for a while.”

Black Ring Coffee Roasters is located at 5373 Long Beach Boulevard and is open weekdays 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more info on Moonlight Vending (and if you’re an artist wanting to apply to place your wares in the machine) visit the website here

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.
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