The coffee is always on at Leelanau Coffee Roasting Company. Not just at the cafe in Glen Arbor, but at restaurants and in stores across the state and the Midwest. The company’s continued growth has led to the expansion of its facilities, which now includes two buildings on Kasson Road outside Maple City. The new 3,400-square-foot roasting and processing facility opened just three months ago, allowing the company to quadruple its hourly roasting capacity.
That’s a necessity as the company’s client base continues to expand. “We have 85 Meijer stores in five states, two ski resorts (Crystal Mountain and Boyne Resorts), all the Staffords restaurants,” Jody Arens says. The wife of co-owner John Arens, she is in charge of outside sales. The company’s clients also include Spartan Stores and Kroger in metro Detroit, Oleson’s and the Grand Traverse Band, among others.
The project was in development for over two years, due to the need for specific zoning and mechanical requirements that were only available in a handful of locations in Leelanau County. The company put tens of thousands of dollars into retrofits and upgrades in the buildings, along with the purchase of a Sivetz roasting machine, the largest fluid air bed roaster in the state. “It’s like a giant air popper,” Jody says.
Leelanau Coffee Roasting Company took shape 23 years ago when Steve Arens decided to return to his home state. The native of Mason brought with him his experience as a roaster and delivery person for Montana Coffee Traders, a coffee company out west. A year later his brother John joined him—Steve focusing on the roasting and John on the wholesale customers.
While the wholesale end of things remains key, retail took off in a way John and Steve never expected. They soon outgrew their original location and moved to the current site of the cafe at 6443 Western Ave. in the heart of Glen Arbor. Jody says her husband and her brother-in-law complement one another. “Steve is the bean counter, and John thinks big,” she says.
The new facility comes at a perfect time, just in time for Christmas, allowing for not only more roasting capacity but also packaging for mail order for the holidays. Moving the roasting from Glen Arbor to Kasson Road has provided room for further growth, adding freezers for storage as well as packaging. The operation is fully licensed, Kosher and organic certified. The company has added four new, full-time employees to support the expansion.
Since its inception, the company has embraced what it calls honorable and principled business practices, with fair trade, shade grown and organic coffees at the heart of its business. Jody says they use the highest-grade Arabica with no chaff or skin in its coffees. The company also received its share of accolades: Wandering Educators, a global community of educators sharing travel experiences, named it one of 50 Midwest coffee shops to visit, while the Petoskey store Grandpa Shorters named it one of four to visit in the region. Even Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has stopped in the store a couple times, according to John Arens.
What’s next for the company? While Jody wouldn’t comment on the possibility of additional retail locations, that seems a safe bet, though there’s no hint of location or timeline at this point. In the meantime, she will continue to pursue other restaurants, stores and organizations, to convince them they need one of the company’s proprietary blends. Maybe 45th Parallel Blend (Medium Bodied, with a touch of vanilla) or Leelanau Espresso Blend (Italian roast with dark Indonesian coffees perfect for smooth and sweet espresso drinks). Or perhaps you favor the company’s organic coffees, like organic fair trade French Roast or Guatemala or want to try an exotic brew like Jamaican Blue Mountain. Don’t forget the flavored coffees, like Chocolate Cherry Festival or Manitou Blueberry. After all, as Arens says, “Good coffee boosts morale.”
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