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Duluth Coffee Company expansion underway

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Duluth Coffee Company is expanding its footprint on the 100 block of East Superior Street with plans for a major upgrade to its roasting operations and more space for events and education.

The coffee roasting business and over-the-counter java shop has occupied 105 E. Superior St. since 2012. Owner Eric Faust recently took over the former BB Makeup location two doors down at 101 E. Superior St. and renovation work there is underway. When the project is completed, Duluth Coffee will move its roasting operations into the new location on the corner of the block while retaining the original coffee-shop space.

Faust got his start roasting green beans at home with a popcorn popper. About six years ago he started selling his coffee out of the back of a truck at the Barker’s Island farmers market. Soon Faust was providing coffee for clients like Red Mug Coffeehouse and Lake Avenue Restaurant and Bar.

In December 2012 he opened the storefront on Superior Street. The business initially operated with a 3-kilogram roaster and eventually upgraded to a 17-kilogram model to keep up with demand.

In the beginning, Faust was focused primarily on wholesale roasting; the coffee shop was secondary. To his surprise, the café became a beloved community space. After the expansion, Faust says the café will remain the same but will be “less burdened” by the wholesale business.

The roaster is currently situated right in the middle of the shop, which gives customers a window into the process but can also detract from the café experience.

“We view it as a community place. We’re inviting staff to help in developing the café. We’ll have more signature drinks and events and more opportunity to connect on a community level,” Faust says.

Customers can expect more art showings and tastings. The shop will host a parklet this summer as well.

The current roaster will be used for small specialty batches but the new corner space will house a custom-designed 70-kilogram roaster. Faust says this increased capacity is way beyond what Duluth Coffee Company needs but will cut down on time spent roasting and improve consistency from batch to batch.

The new roaster will easily quadruple the roaster’s output. But Faust is quick to point out Duluth Coffee Company’s roasting methods aren’t computer driven. He and one other roaster will maintain the handcrafted, small-batch quality people have come to expect.

Less time spent on the process of roasting means there will be more time to devote to cerebral tasks, like educating people about coffee. The expansion adds second floor office space and a training and education area for wholesale clients.

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“For us it’s about making sure coffee is represented in the best way possible—we see ourselves as cultivating a coffee culture. By educating we’re elevating the demand for high quality coffee,” says Faust.

The additional space will have a garage door that opens onto Superior Street. It will host occasional public events and tastings when the roastery isn’t operating. It will even have beer on tap, likely the Cold Press Black from Bent Paddle Brewing, which incorporates Duluth Coffee Company java.

Faust says the Duluth coffee scene has changed a lot in recent years. He says people are approaching coffee differently, and notes his customers want to know where the coffee comes from, where the beans are sourced. “People want to connect with what they consume.”

In this way, customers have helped push Duluth Coffee Company’s evolution. The company is pushing back, challenging people to explore the rich diversity of coffee and—in particular—its seasonal variability. Many coffee consumers are satisfied with drinking the same type of coffee every day, despite the fact that it may not be at its peak freshness.

“The seasonality of what we consume—what we eat and drink—has been lost. We want to revitalize that,” says Faust.

When he talks about coffee, Faust sounds more like a philosopher than a businessperson. His passion for coffee borders on obsession but his vision for growth is as much about people as it is the product.

Much care is taken when choosing beans. The company tends to buy from small farms with sustainable practices. Faust has been traveling to the farms he buys from, cultivating relationships with growers. He says it has been an existential and spiritual experience; it helped him come full circle in the coffee production process.

Eventually, he hopes to send everyone on his crew to some of the small farms Duluth Coffee Company sources from. The company has a staff of nine people and will likely add two to three more with the expansion.

“It’s exciting that as we expand our infrastructure and grow our roastery, we influence coffee on a higher level—where it’s grown,” says Faust. “There are ripple effects, like improving the lives of people growing coffee. And as we sell more coffee, we invest in our employees.”

Duluth Coffee Company is already shipped to fans around the country. It supplies coffee shops in Wisconsin, Iowa and Nashville, Tenn. Increased production will mean more of the company’s product is available for export. Faust is particularly interested in increasing his presence in the Twin Cities market.

In addition to being a coffee revolutionary, Faust is a bit of an ambassador for Duluth. His pride for the town is evident, not just in his branding but in his support for the community too. The café is filled with products like cocoa, jam and leather koozies handmade in Duluth.

“When you have something cool and fun you want to share it with others. People from all over the world love Duluth,” says Faust. “When they drink our coffee, the customer is reminded of the happiness and joy they feel when they’re here. We’re sharing not just the coffee but the town.”

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