In an earlier blog post, we made mention to our wholesale accounts--those businesses that buy our coffee and either sell it as beans or brew it at their shops & restaurants. We are extremely grateful to these various businesses and consider ourselves very lucky to be a part of their world. More than that, we think what many of these small businesses are doing, what they value and strive to accomplish is worth noting and promoting. To this end, you'll start to see blog posts featuring a handful of these folks from around our neck of the woods and beyond.
We are pleased to have our first feature come to you via a thriving little shop in Flint, Michigan. Wildroot Coffee, co-owned by Luke & Karli Leffel and Chris Szumowicz, is dedicated to good coffee and strong community. We sat down for a little fika-skype with Luke a few weeks ago and have this story to share:
Luke didn't even like coffee when his adventure in the coffee industry began. "I volunteered at a little place in Columbus, Ohio," he said. "Eventually, they hired me on."
Intrigued by coffee's uncanny ability to draw people together and forge a sense of community wherever it's served, Luke began looking for any opportunity to learn more. He worked part-time for a coffee shop at North Market, a public market in Columbus and was later hired on by one of the shop's roasters, One Line Coffee. "One of their roasters let me learn from him," Luke said. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Luke and his wife, Karli, who happened to have a knack for pastries and baked goods, took their love for coffee, their passion for community and Luke's growing coffee knowledge, to Flint, Michigan. Or, more accurately, back to Flint, Michigan where Luke had grown up. Hoping to put the community-enhancing benefits of coffee to work in the hard-hit town of Flint, Luke & his wife began looking for retail spots. When a small space opened up in the neighborhood where they were living, they went for it.
"It's been really well received," Luke said, "especially among the people living in the neighborhood. Flint sees a lot of businesses come and then suddenly fall apart. It's hard, but the town has learned to deal with it. It's made the town [and its residents] super resilient. It can be really cool when people come together and make good stuff happen."
It's in this unusual community climate that Wildroot Coffee has found its niche. Hoping to not only be a business that sticks around but also a catalyst for people to come together and make that "good stuff happen", Wildroot is living out the good it desires for the town of Flint. Open Wednesday through Saturday, the shop is a meeting place for everything from game nights to lunch meetings to gatherings aimed at community involvement and improvement.
And whether you're showing up for a leisurely game of chess or flying in on your way to work, customers at Wildroot are welcomed as more than people looking for a good cup of coffee; they are welcomed as friends.
Still, good coffee remains at the crux of what Wildroot does. Customers can choose between a number of coffee beverages and a fresh selection of sweet treats, all made in-house by Karli. Drink offerings include the classics: both drip and pour-over coffee, lattes (maple & mocha) as well as more adventurous options like cold brew, coffee soda and tea. And while they'll serve you a cappuccino if you ask for one, you won't find it on the menu. "We intentionally left things like the cappuccino and macchiato off so people don't get intimidated" Luke said. "We want people to feel comfortable."
And it's clear that people do. With a growing number of customers, Wildroot has started to see evidence of the environment they believed coffee would help them create. "We're seeing people on a regular basis, creating a space of hospitality & becoming a part of the neighborhood," Luke said. "We're hopeful for the future."
Part of that hopeful future involves plans to roast their own coffee. Currently, Wildroot brews coffee from both Fika Coffee and Populace Coffee out of Bay City, MI. When asked what draws Wildroot to a particular roaster, Luke stated that "we want to brew coffee [that is roasted] as locally as possible, from Michigan and the mid-west." But they don't want to leave it at that. "We hope to be roasting our own coffee in the next month or so," he said.
We here at Fika Coffee certainly hope that's the case for Luke and all the crew at Wildroot Coffee. We are proud to have our coffee served at their establishment and feel pretty lucky to be partnering with people who recognize coffee's capacity to promote the deep, authentic relationships that community depends on.
And because we love adventure and road trips, we asked Luke about his favorite outdoor activities. According to him Flint's cycling and camping culture is really growing. So, of course, we recommend grabbing your bike, a tent, your family or a few pals and heading on over for a weekend adventure. Make a pit-stop (or two) at Wildroot Coffee. We're confident it'll be more than worth the drive.
Thanks to Twokin Photography for some great photos.