A girl purchased a broken-down faculty bus in Iceland for $800 and spent 2 years and $36,000 reworking it right into a espresso store. Have a look inside.

When Holly Keyser moved from the UK to Iceland in 2017, she did not assume she’d find yourself shopping for a run-down faculty bus and changing it right into a espresso store.

Holly Keyser as a glacier guide in Iceland, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800."

Keyser labored as a glacier information in southern Iceland.

Holly Keyser

After working as a police officer within the UK for nearly 10 years, after which shifting to Australia for six extra to work in advertising operations administration, in 2017, Holly Keyser realized she needed a change of tempo, she informed Insider.

So she moved to southern Iceland to develop into a glacier information. Taking vacationers to hike and discover glaciers was her strategy to see extra of the world, whereas nonetheless being near household within the UK, she stated.

And whereas she rapidly fell in love with Iceland’s outside, Keyser stated she additionally started to overlook the native coffee-shop tradition that was a staple of her social life in Australia.

“The one factor I actually missed after I got here to Iceland was small espresso retailers, the place you were not made to really feel responsible for taking on a complete desk only for a espresso,” Keyser stated.  

That lacking piece impressed Keyser to make use of her financial savings to buy a former faculty bus in 2018, a 12 months after she moved to the nation, inside which she finally opened Skool Beans Cafe, a espresso store in Southern Iceland.

This is a better take a look at how she did it, and the bus’ transformation, which took two years to finish.

Keyser informed Insider that she selected a meals truck-style store as she thought it might contain fewer obstacles than a brick and mortar. She discovered an old-fashioned bus that had been sitting in a area for 2 years.

School bus engine, Holly Keyser, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800"

The college bus was low-cost due to a damaged engine.

Holly Keyser

Keyser checked out horse trailers and fireplace vehicles earlier than discovering a broken-down faculty bus on the market.

Keyser stated the bus’ proprietor informed her it as soon as belonged to an American airbase close to Reykjavik that closed in 2006. It was later utilized by a river rafting firm to tow boats and shuttle passengers, earlier than being left in a area unused for 2 years on the firm’s base camp close to the Golden Circle, a preferred vacationer route near Reykjavik.

She stated she purchased the 38-foot-long bus for 100,000 ISK, or roughly $800 on the time, although it had a damaged engine and the interiors had been caked in 20 inches of mud.

Keyser stated she went to select it up with a mechanic good friend, who was in a position to rapidly restore the engine, and so they drove it away the identical day.

Keyser informed Insider she then left the bus parked in her driveway for 2 years whereas she renovated it. The very first thing she did was clear 20 inches of mud to see the state of the ground.

Side by side of bus before and after clearing seats, Holly Keyser, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800."

The bus with its authentic seats (L), and the bus after it had been cleared (R).

Holly Keyser

With the bus parked in her driveway in Kirkjubaejarklaustur, a village within the south of Iceland, Keyser instantly started the method of renovating it to finally develop into a espresso store.

She stated she began by cleansing out mud buildup and ripping out the outdated seats. She then used sandpaper to file off rust earlier than coating the inside partitions in three layers of white paint. 

Keyser stated she knew she needed to maintain the varsity bus exterior, however totally redesigned the inside to resemble a comfy espresso store.

Holly Keyser, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800."

New linoleum flooring and seats (L), and an indoor wood-burning fire (R).

Holly Keyser

Midway via the renovation course of, Keyser moved to Vík, a small seaside city on Iceland’s southern coast. She informed Insider she was permitted to park the varsity bus within the parking zone of a hostel close to her new dwelling to proceed renovations. 

At that time, she stated she imported black and white linoleum flooring with brass trim, which value her $470, and a wood-burning indoor fire for about $1,000, to assist in giving the cafe a comfy really feel. Keyser informed Insider that chairs had been sourced from a neighborhood restaurant.

The ultimate steps had been repainting the bus’ exterior with anti-rust ship paint and including the Skool Beans Cafe signal.

Keyser and her boyfriend repainting the bus' exterior, Holly Keyser, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800"

Keyser and her boyfriend repainting the bus’ exterior.

Holly Keyser

Since Vík is near the ocean and salty air could cause rust, Keyser stated she painted the bus’ exterior in two layers of weather-resistant paint. 

She informed Insider she enlisted her boyfriend’s assist for the job, and thought it was one of many simpler steps of the renovation course of. Though, “the surface portray was quicker, and extra enjoyable,” Keyser informed Insider, “we had to make use of [days] the place it was sunny, heat, windless, and no rain. This was like discovering an elf in Iceland.” 

As soon as the paint was dry, she connected heavy obligation stickers with the phrases “Skool Beans Cafe” to the bus’ sides.

Even with sourcing repurposed supplies, Keyser stated prices added up.

Holly Keyser working on school bus, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800"

It took Keyser two years and roughly $36,000 to transform the bus right into a espresso store.

Holly Keyser

In line with Keyser, the entire renovation, together with buying the bus, espresso store permits, and supplies, value roughly $36,000.

She stated she imported nearly all the pieces from overseas, because it was cheaper than shopping for in Iceland. The store’s largest ticket merchandise was the espresso machine, which Keyser stated value $4,500, plus one other $1,000 from a 24% import tax. 

To afford the renovation, Keyser says she labored full time as a presenter at a lava demonstration present, a vacationer expertise that recreates a volcanic eruption by tremendous heating precise lava. She labored on renovations in her free time, and informed Insider the time constraints of ready for imports lengthened the renovation course of to 2 years.

Keyser lastly opened Skool Beans Cafe in July 2020 in a nationwide park.

Inside the bus "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800"

The within of the bus as soon as it was accomplished (L), and Keyser inside her espresso store (R).

Holly Keyser

In the summertime of 2020, Keyser parked her bus off the primary street in a secluded area within the shadow of Katla, one of many largest, glacier-covered volcanoes in Iceland.

She informed Insider that she selected the situation as a result of it granted the bus entry to employees bogs. However, Keyser stated that getting permits to park within the nationwide park was an advanced course of. “I wanted to use for permission from the land proprietor, then the municipality [of Vík], then well being and security,” she stated.

She determined to park the bus away from the primary street to mitigate visitors. “I did not need the 60-seater coaches all piling in, the place we would not be capable of deal with that form of visitors,” she stated. “I needed individuals to search for and discover Skool Beans.” 

On the primary day of enterprise, Keyser’s father and stepmother flew in from the UK and her boyfriend helped help with clients. They took orders via the espresso store’s Instagram direct messages, and served clients who got here on foot to the bus window.

Except for being closed through the winter months, Skool Beans is open six days per week, and Keyser works on the espresso store each day.

Holly Keyser's cat Jeffrey on a counter (L) and with the president of Iceland (R), Holly Keyser, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800"

Keyser’s cat Jeffrey sitting on a counter (L) and Jeffrey with Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson (R).

Holly Keyser

Keyser works within the store full time with three staff and says her “yellow field of insanity” has seen proposals, music video shoots, and bagpipe concert events.

Though tiring, she says that operating the store is numerous enjoyable. “I find it irresistible. It’s a actually summary world that I’ve discovered myself in beneath a volcano in Iceland.” She stated celebrities like Brian Cox, Bob Odenkirk, and Bjork have visited, and musicians and mimes have placed on impromptu exhibits within the bus.

Keyser’s three-legged tabby cat, Jeffrey, usually goes to work along with her, and his reputation with clients has made him Skool Beans’ mascot. Keyser stated she now sells mugs together with his image, and that her clients, a mixture of locals and vacationers, will usually convey cat snacks and toys for him. 

Jeffrey was even successful with Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Girl Eliza Jean Reid, who visited Skool Beans in March 2023 to pattern some drinks, and took a photograph with the tabby.

“The president had fairly the entourage with him — safety, photographers, and assistants — however he was essentially the most laidback of all of them,” Keyser informed Insider in regards to the day Jóhannesson visited her cafe. “It was a fairly cool day. He and his spouse had been simply beautiful.”

Within the three years since opening, Keyser constructed a menu of drinks with distinctive flavors, and has continued to enhance the house.

Inside Skool Beans Cafe, Holly Keyser, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800"

Inside Skool Beans Cafe, as seen from the again of the bus.

Holly Keyser

Keyser stated she imports, domestically sources, and travels to decide on her merchandise. Her teas, for instance, are sourced from everywhere in the world, and she or he purchases many from an independently-owned enterprise in Belgium.

She informed Insider that concepts for a few of her signature drinks come to her in desires, whereas others are echoes of her travels. A brand new menu merchandise referred to as “Dragon’s Breath,” for instance, a scorching chocolate made with Nepal white chocolate infused with cayenne pepper and dragon fruit powder, was impressed by a current journey to Bali, Indonesia. 

She’s additionally continued to improve the house. In late 2021, Keyser stated she changed the tables within the bus with one other counter so as to add extra seating. She stated she additionally constructed out of doors benches out of scrap wooden for patrons to take pleasure in on hotter days, and painted them yellow to match the bus’ exterior.

The cafe additionally has a lending library and sells merchandise from native artists, like magnets, posters, and woodwork.

Mini lending library (L) and wood-burning fireplace (R), Holly Keyser, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800"

The mini lending library (L) and the indoor wood-burning fire (R).

Asia London Palomba/Insider

Keyser named the bus Evelyn in honor of her grandmother, and informed Insider she added particulars to remind her of household within the UK, like a bowl owned by her grandmother holding pins on the market. “Wherever I look, there’s bits of them in there,” Keyser stated. “It was, and is, a labor of affection.”

Close to the counter, there’s additionally a mini library with a “take one or go away one” coverage. Keyser informed Insider she began the apply as a result of “it was a strategy to have some interplay with the neighborhood, and provides again a bit.” When President Jóhannesson and First Girl Reid came over, they introduced a handful of books from their non-public assortment to donate.

Moreover, the store sells cleaning soap and lava jewellery handmade by Keyser, in addition to postcards, magnets, posters, and woodwork from native artists. “Vík is a inventive hub” Keyser informed Insider. “We simply attempt to assist native as a lot as we will.”

Except for drinks, Skool Beans sells bagels, muffins, Icelandic cream cheese, and three sorts of jam made by a good friend of Keyser’s, who forages for the berries herself, Keyser stated.

Keyser informed Insider she’s at the moment within the technique of constructing her personal roasting lab within the hopes of increasing the enterprise.

Skool Beans Cafe school bus, Holly Keyser, "A UK woman moved to Iceland and bought a school bus for $800"

Skool Beans Cafe seen from exterior.

Asia London Palomba/Insider

General, Keyser informed Insider that she’s not in a rush to make too many extra modifications, as Skool Beans continues to be a younger enterprise and she or he needs to benefit from the course of.

Although she stated she does hope to finally open a roasting lab for beans. Skool Beans has two customized roasts, which she sometimes roasts herself and provides to a espresso store in Reykjavik. 

Though opening a brand new enterprise out of the country and through a world pandemic was difficult, Keyser stated the method solely made her extra inventive. 

“I do not prefer to remorse issues as such. If one thing did not go precisely as deliberate it is simple to make use of that as a studying expertise,” she informed Insider. “The important thing to success isn’t just the thought, it is the assist system you will have in place that can carry you thru to the end line that issues.”