The holiday season is officially upon us, and with it comes the hustle & bustle of planning events, parties, and get-togethers with your family and friends. While exciting, it can sometimes get overwhelming to ensure you’re providing the best experience to accommodate all of your loved ones’ needs.
That’s where local curators like Melissa Stoll & Claye Cochrane come into the picture. Their mobile cocktail catering service, Movin’ & Shakin’, has taken the Monterey Coast by storm with its high-end bartending and award-winning cocktails. After working in the restaurant industry for decades, Melissa & Claye started Movin’ & Shakin’ to not only provide exceptional service and recipes, but to foster connections and make memories within their own community year-round.
Lookout’s Christian Abraham spoke to Melissa & Claye to learn more about how Movin’ & Shakin’ got its start, and the exciting future ahead for this small but mighty local business.
Lookout: Hi Claye & Melissa! To start off, why don’t you both give me some background on where the idea for Movin’ & Shakin’ came from, and just how it all got started?
Melissa: For me, this has been almost 10 years in the making. I’ve had this dream for a while but never knew if I’d see it come to fruition just because of the laws and regulations surrounding liquor businesses. But, I really wanted it to happen. We’re also a female minority-owned business, which is great. Not to mention, we get to be our own bosses!
Claye: So, we ended up finding a trailer that we bought and converted into a bar. It all fell into place pretty quickly this past spring. We named the trailer “Betty” after both of our grandmas. We’ve both been in the restaurant & bar industry for years, so it’s a bit of a different avenue to explore in comparison to your traditional brick-and-mortar bar.
Lookout: What types of work did you both initially embark on? Were you both bartending, or doing other work in the food & beverage industry?
Melissa: We’ve both been bartending & bar-managing for a combined 35 years. I used to run a nightclub in Los Gatos called Mountain Charley’s for a long time. I’m currently the bar manager at the Parish Publick House in Aptos, as well.
Lookout: How long ago did Movin’ & Shakin’ start?
Melissa: We got our LLC this past April, so we’re still a baby business. But we’re lucky to have a lot of amazing relationships in the industry- including with the local bars, restaurants, distilleries and breweries in our area, so we couldn’t have asked for a better location to create our own business.
Claye: Right now, we’re really just starting to get our feet wet, but we’re hoping for Movin’ & Shakin to really take off during next summer’s wedding season. Currently, we primarily serve clients in the Monterey, Carmel, Santa Cruz, Los Gatos and Saratoga areas, but we’d love to cater to people all over California. We also have two stationary indoor bars that we built to be around six feet long, so those come in handy for events where we can’t get the trailer to somebody’s backyard.
Lookout: What sorts of services do you offer customers, in terms of custom menus, various spirits, or hosting special events?
Melissa: Essentially, we’re able to do a fully-catered menu for whatever our client wants. If you want the most extravagant menu with house-made shrubs, homemade simple syrups, fresh juices, we can do all of that.
Claye: We’re really looking to focus on putting all of our experience & cocktail knowledge to the best use. Instead of serving up generic vodka sodas, we aim to curate a unique menu of four to five custom cocktails that feel much more personalized for the client. We also do beer & wine events, whiskey-tasting events, and food-pairing events, as well.
Melissa: Right now, we’re seeing a lot of people gravitate towards things like Sober January, so we can also curate mocktail menus with the same exciting ingredients & feel of our normal cocktails. We also have some really great connections with other industry professionals, which helps us get specialty pricing on items for our clients. For example, we have great relationships with Alfaro Winery in Watsonville, as well as Humble Sea Brewing and Alvarado Street Brewery.
Claye: We can do anything from a tiki-themed party to brunches with mimosas & Bloody Marys- you name it. Because we have all of this knowledge from our combined prior experience, we’re able to really go above & beyond when it comes to presenting the client with a unique menu.
Lookout: What sets Movin’ & Shakin’ apart from other mobile catering businesses? What do you believe makes you special?
Melissa: In our industry, there are a lot of people you can hire to make you cocktails. For us, we really strive to make your experience much more individualized & singular. We want to create something that you can look back on happily because it was specifically designed for you and whatever your party entails. We don’t want to be the average Joe where you can just go & get a random cocktail. We want to create the cocktail that you’re gonna remember for the rest of your life.
Claye: I think another thing that sets us apart is all of the knowledge, experience, creativity & customer service that we’ve gained through the years of doing this.
Melissa: Exactly. We’ve been in this industry for so long, so it’s refreshing & exciting to embark upon a brand-new experience through every single event that we do. Particularly, for events like weddings, it means a lot for us to be a part of people’s lives in that special way by helping provide them with something that’s unique.
Clay: Yeah, as opposed to working a normal bar job which can quickly become mundane, our work with Movin’ & Shakin’ feels much more special.
Lookout: How has Movin’ & Shakin’ evolved since its conception? Have you faced any significant obstacles or challenges along the way?
Melissa: We’ve encountered some challenges surrounding ABC (Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) and obtaining liquor licenses. But, we’ve gotten help from a couple amazing bars who we partner with. So it’s been an obstacle, but it’s also been great in the way we’ve learned how we can rely on our community and the friends we’ve made through the industry to be able to utilize various tools.
A lot of the people that we’ve had the pleasure of working with are people who know us, or referrals, and we want to make sure that everyone’s taken care of and everyone’s budget is respected. We want to be a part of, take care of, and work within our own community.
Lookout: What does the division of labor look like between you two? Is any one person in charge of any certain roles or is it largely a team effort?
Claye: Melissa is the majority shareholder since she owns 51 percent of the company. That being said, we split all the responsibilities, and continue to learn together on how to tackle everything and how to drum up new business. Except I’m the one who has to tow the trailer!
Melissa: It’s a team effort, for sure!
Lookout: What are your goals or hopes for the future of Movin’ & Shakin’? Any plans to expand the business, open up a brick-and-mortar bar location, etc?
Claye: We’re still very much in our beginning stages, but soon, we’d love to be the first business that comes to people’s minds when they’re planning an event. Down the road, we’d love to eventually expand to a second trailer, as well.
Melissa: Absolutely. We would love for this to expand and see all of our dreams for it come to fruition.
Lookout: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a mobile commerce business like Movin’ & Shakin’?
Melissa: Ultimately, the advice I would give is to do the research about the business and customer service, reach out to people who are already doing a similar operation (like us), and just get all your ducks in a row. Talk to liquor companies, industry professionals, and anyone with knowledge. Utilize the resources that you already have and don’t be afraid to reach out to people.
Claye: We did a whole bunch of research years ago on everything we needed to know to legally run this business, like getting a seller’s permit, an LLC, and insurance.
Lookout: Is there a bestselling cocktail or fan favorite that you can share with our readers?
Claye: Anything with mezcal is really hot right now. Whenever we create a menu, we usually try to make it pretty diverse, so try to include a gin cocktail, a tequila cocktail, a whiskey cocktail; just switching it up to make sure there’s something for everybody.
Lookout: What’s been your most memorable experience at the business so far?
Claye: Our first event was pretty memorable. It was a meet-and-greet fundraiser that we hosted at our house. It was great to invite our friends, neighbors, as well as other local business owners to get the word out about Movin’ & Shakin’. I think it was at that event that I realized, “Wow, this can actually be done. We can do this!”
Melissa: Learning how to tow a trailer was also pretty memorable!