Springfield, MO

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2019 W. Curtis Strube Small Business Award Finalist: The Coffee Ethic LLC

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The Coffee Ethic has modeled its business as the “third place” for customers, which Michelle Billionis describes as “a safe place where people can go, aside from work and home, that is welcoming, stimulating and restful.” The shop was designed to encourage creativity and spark conversation. The walls are lined with local art, and the wood fixtures are made of reclaimed walnut wood from the 2007 Ozarks ice storm.

Billionis says she is squarely focused on The Coffee Ethic’s mission: “Cup. People. Earth.” That means coffee beans are sourced through direct trade and roasted in-house; employees, customers and farmers are treated fairly and valued; and its practices are committed to sustainability and protecting the environment.

2018 was the shop’s most profitable year, Billionis says. That growth came after years of hard work following her husband Tom’s death in 2016. “If Springfield didn’t walk through those doors every day after tragedy, we would not be here,” says Billionis. Longtime employee Nathan Murphy became head roaster in 2017, and led the shop to win high marks for its beans.

June 21 is a special day at Coffee Ethic. It’s not only the first day of summer, but also its founder Tom Billionis’ birthday and when the twisted, brown steel art sculpture called the Tumbler gets rotated on the downtown square. The Tumbler is across the street from the shop and incorporated into its marketing. Since 2017, Coffee Ethic has donated all proceeds that day, giving over $6,000 to nonprofits.


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