You and your husband purchased the coffee roastery business in 2021. How did that opportunity come about?
It was a total God story. I was a substitute teacher before this. We had been drinking the coffee for about three years but could never make it in with the hours. We finally made it in and hit it off with the owner. I asked him, “Hey, do you need any help for the summer?” He said, “No, but I just have one lady who’s going on vacation for two weeks. Would you like to work for four hours a day?” It was supposed to be a two-week thing, but week one he asked me to stay for the summer and week three he asked us to buy it. That was May and Oct. 1 we owned it. It was faster than we could have ever imagined. We’re thrilled about it. We love coffee, we love people. I had done the roasting and handled a lot of the accounts, so I got to know the customers, so, it was a really easy transition because they were familiar with me. John and Patty Merritt started it in 1994 and Larry and Kathy Gifford have owned it since around 2006. We’re the third couple to own it.
What have been some of the changes you’ve made since the purchase?
Ozark Mountain Coffee had a well-known name in the Ozarks, and we’ve just really expanded on that name and rounded out the brand. We’re in the heart of the Ozark Mountains [in Ozark], we have a passion for the outdoors and the Ozarks, so we were really trying to translate that into the branding. We found a local artist that could just really put our ideas to work. We’ve also tried to get out in the community more and let people know we’re here. We’ve started doing some of our own private events, like coffee cuppings.
Where and how do you source your beans?
We actually use Cafe Imports. We can still pinpoint what farm they come from and have those relationships, but instead of buying a pallet of Ethiopia, a pallet of Costa Rica, a pallet of Columbia and so forth, we can pick and choose our pallet every couple of weeks on demand. That’s really important to us. We’re only going to buy the current harvest and use it within six months of purchasing to ensure the freshness of the green beans before it’s roasted. Cafe Imports allows us to do that because they’re basically the middleman where the farmers can send everything there; they hold it, and we get to pick it as we need to. Right now, we have 12 countries of origin, and we’re always looking to expand there.
With those countries, have you faced supply chain challenges or other challenges sourcing product?
Yes, there’s still shipping charges and challenges with that. Brazil had an early frost, and Brazil produces 40% of the world’s coffee. That’s a big deal if their crop isn’t what it should be. That also changes the commodity price and the market price. We had to change our region for Brazil for a little bit. Ethiopia had a war awhile back, and that changes things. Anything can change the price of coffee because it is a commodity. We’ve been thankful to not have a ton of issues with it. We’ve just been able to just change a region for a little bit. We have had to implement a yearly price increase to keep up. Our last price increase was in October, and it was a little less than 5% across the board.
You have both a wholesale and a retail presence. What’s the breakdown, and what are some of your wholesale clients?
When we took over, we were about 55% wholesale and the rest retail. We are getting closer and closer to 50-50. We had about 51.5% growth within our first year. That was organic. Now that we’ve set some more of that groundwork, we are looking to expand our wholesale because that’s our bread and butter. We opened as wholesale only, from 1994 to 2006. As far as wholesale, we have gift shops, coffee shops [and] we do white labeling. Everything is customizable, whether it’s the roast level, the blend, the label, the packaging. As far as retail, we’re open to the public Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. We’re kind of like the Subway of coffee roasters because you come in and you can pick and choose, mix and match flavors, origins, and we package it right there.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities within wholesale?
Now that we have some more packaging options, we would love to get into some more local shops like MaMa Jean’s. I think Branson could be a pretty big opportunity. There’s been a lot of coffee shops that have opened in the area, and we are fortunate (to have) a wonderful coffee scene, but really up until recently, they didn’t know we existed. We’re really trying to set that groundwork now to where we’re found by some of those new coffee shops. Dark Stone Coffee on the north side of Springfield, they use our beans, and Vintage Coffee here in Ozark. We have some in Mountain Grove and Galena, one in Branson, some in Arkansas.
Do you have plans for your retail space?
As far as this location, we wouldn’t open a coffee shop for sit-down. If capital allowed, we would love to open a tasting bar in this area because we do have ample space and we have so many people that want to come in and try coffee, but we don’t brew it.
Owner Caleb Arthur sheds role to build solar panel manufacturing business.