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Business Spotlight: A New Brew

KeenBean Coffee is eyeing new shops this summer

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A 20-year-old Mount Vernon-based regional coffee business is on the verge this year of spreading its wings in multiple directions among three southwest Missouri communities.

KeenBean Coffee Roasters LLC in the next few months plans to open two new shops and move from one Springfield farmers market to another. Husband-and-wife owners Darrell and Tracy Bradshaw say a second Mount Vernon coffee shop should roll out in May at 701 Hastings St. It’s currently under construction across State Highway 174 from the town’s high school and intermediate school.

A third shop is expected to debut this summer in Monett, while KeenBean’s mobile coffee truck plans to set up in April at Metro Eats, a new farmers market and food truck park venture under development in west Springfield. The truck previously operated at Farmers Market of the Ozarks.

“It’s blowing up all at once,” Darrell Bradshaw says. “None of this stuff happened until we decided we wanted to build that other shop.”

The Bradshaws, who started KeenBean as a home-based business in 2001 before opening their first shop in 2005, say the second Mount Vernon store, dubbed KeenBean CoffeeWerks, signals a greater commitment to the Lawrence County town.

“We’re thrilled with where we are,” he says. “The community is very supportive and encouraging.”

Darrell Bradshaw estimates startup costs for the new 1,600-square-foot shop will land under $100,000, which includes renovation of a former three-bay car wash building. Contractor Jason Prater of All About The House is handling construction work.

“The same thing that drew me to that location on the other side of town was it has high visibility,” he says of the couple’s longtime 1031 S. Market St. shop, which also formerly was a car wash. “The linear concept of the building works well. … It was very conducive to a usable space. Plus, we’re repurposing stuff.”

Small beginnings
A shared passion for coffee initially brought the Bradshaws together in the 1990s. Both were working for Montana Coffee Traders in Whitefish, Montana, before a move to Missouri over two decades ago led to the start of KeenBean. A brick-and-mortar shop wasn’t originally part of the plan, they say.

The couple began roasting and selling their coffee door to door to retailers in southwest Missouri in 2001. For nearly four years, they operated KeenBean’s wholesale side from their 10-acre property near Stotts City. Retail sales were generated from Mount Vernon’s farmers market and the company website.

“The garage that was the coffee roastery is now our master bedroom,” Tracy Bradshaw says.

Revenue was slow to develop, hitting around $25,000 in 2003 and $40,000 in 2004, she says, noting the coffee shop’s opening in 2005 changed the financial trajectory.

KeenBean revenue reached a record $600,000 last year. The Bradshaws are convinced there’s more room to grow.

Roughly $40,000 last year was generated by KeenBean’s 10 wholesale clients, Darrell Bradshaw says. He’s focused on boosting that number.

“I would love to see our wholesale get to about 20% of total revenue,” he says. “That’s what’s so exciting about this new location. We’re going to have more space and more capacity to be able to accommodate wholesale effectively.”

The longtime shop’s roasting operation will move across town, opening up around 20 seats to its current 50-seat capacity. KeenBean roasts around 400 pounds of coffee a week.

“That roaster is running all the time, and you’re kind of impeding on the chill coffee shop vibe,” he says. “It’s a fair amount of coffee, nine pounds at a time. We pride ourselves on our small roasters.”

Diversifying decisions
While roughly 75% of KeenBean’s revenue is generated by retail and wholesale coffee sales, Tracy Bradshaw says the company has diversified in recent years, adding food and other drinks to its menu, along with retail merchandise.

One of those offerings is kombucha. KeenBean started selling all four canned drinks from Spring Branch Kombucha, which the Springfield brewery began producing last year.

Spring Branch co-owner Jessica Ollis says she connected with KeenBean around a year ago as both were vendors at Farmers Park. It’s the eighth coffee shop Spring Branch has selling its kombucha either on tap or in cans.

“It’s something that’s local and craft brewed, similar to specialty coffee, that you can get and tastes more like a soft drink,” Ollis says.

Since selling Spring Branch in September, Tracy Bradshaw says KeenBean goes through about two cases per month, which retail for around $66, according to its website. She expects that sales number to increase as summer arrives.

The arrival of warmer weather also means KeenBean’s new shops near their opening dates.

Its third shop is still in development in Monett, the couple say, as they’ve agreed to share space with Flying V Mercantile LLC. The boutique retailer is relocating in town this summer and recruited KeenBean to fill a portion of its storefront, Darrell Bradshaw says, adding financial details are still being worked out.

The Bradshaws admit they’re not sure if the new Mount Vernon shop will pull some customers away from their current location. Still, the need for added retail space and desire to grow wholesale are primary motivators.

“The main benefit for us there is the space,” Tracy Bradshaw says of the new shop, noting it will have a drive-thru and walk-up window. “It would be kind of silly for us to have everything we’d need and not have a drive-thru there.”


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