84 Highway 105, Palmer Lake
Number of employees: 14
Owner: Caroline Bilodeau
When Caroline Bilodeau finished college several years ago in her native Montreal, she took a road trip to the United States — and never went back.
Her travels led her to 28 states before she ran out of money and decided to get a job. She moved to Colorado Springs and Palmer Lake, where she first owned two Curves exercise franchises and then about a year ago bought the Speedtrap, a struggling Palmer Lake coffee shop that sometimes had live music on the weekends.
The decision to purchase the Speedtrap was “spur of the moment,” she said.
“We came in on a Friday night and just looked around,” she said. “And I thought — we could do so much more with this place. I have a passion for food, and I thought there was a huge opportunity to serve food here.”
Bilodeau has turned the sleepy coffee shop into a bustling business — open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with specialty nights and live music Thursday through Sunday.
“We’ve increased business about 100 percent a month for the past year,” she said. “We’ve been struggling to keep up with the growth. The response has been overwhelming.”
So instead of making the coffee and the crepes, as well as booking the bands herself, Bilodeau has 14 people working for her. She views them as part of her family.
“I don’t think I could have done this without them,” she said. “I would have liked to have procedures in place, a way of getting things done. I like things black and white. But with what we inherited here — it was quite a mess — there just wasn’t time. We just had to jump in and go to work. It’s been quite a ride this last year. And I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
All the work has paid off — the Speedtrap boasts a full-service menu and full bar. On Wednesday nights, locals bring their old records for “Vinyl and Martini” night. It’s been really popular, she said.
But the most popular thing from the Speedtrap: the French onion soup.
“People call ahead, just to see if we’re going to have it,” she said.
Bilodeau relies on her French Canadian background to create the dishes at the Speedtrap. All the menu items are made from scratch, she said.
“We’re a place you can eat every day,” she said. “Not greasy or bad for you. And it’s Montreal cuisine, that makes it a little different — that French Canadian influence — especially in Palmer Lake.”
The influence can be seen in the menu items: eggs benedict on crepes, pain au chocolat, buffalo bratwurst.
“We have things you can’t get just anywhere,” she said. “I’m pretty proud of that.”
She’s also justifiably proud of the meeting place the Speedtrap has become. Locals gather on bar stools and around tables to talk, listen to music and catch up with town news.
“It’s a small town, and we’ve become the destination,” she said. “We have people come in, some of them every day, and they always bring their families. We have people here from 10 to 20, any given night of the week.”
Its live music scene tends to attract more than the local crowd, however. When area favorites like Grant Sabin or Mike Clark perform, the room is filled to capacity — which is about 30 people.
“That’s part of its charm,” she said. “It makes us who we are — very small, very intimate venue.”
Building the Speedtrap into a “go-to” place for locals and tourists alike means Bilodeau works 16 hours a day.
“This little place, it’s kicking my butt,” she said. “But I’m not going to whine. I’m just pleased we’ve had the demand, and the community response. But the growth — it definitely took me by surprise.”
Bilodeau isn’t content to rest on her laurels. She has big plans for the Speedtrap’s second year — including a dance floor and bigger stage for performers.
“We’re going to roast our own coffee too,” she said. “That’s a big plan for us. We’re going to work on getting that done — sell it by the bag. I think it’s something that will work in Palmer Lake.”
Bilodeau has an acute business sense — and has several successful businesses under her belt. She says the key is not to do it for money.
“You have to be passionate about what you’re doing,” she said. “Some people think they’ll start their own business and get rich. That’s not really the way to be successful. Instead, you should build something from things you love — and you’ll be successful. “
There’s another thing small business owners should take pride in, she says. That’s being able to provide jobs for local teens and residents.
“It’s a little place, but I’m hiring people,” she said. “And that’s pretty awesome. We’re growing as a family, together, and that’s my paycheck.”