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Community Highlights: Meet Jim and Crystal Whitmarsh of Trail Creek Coffee Roasters

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jim and Crystal Whitmarsh.

Hi Jim and Crystal, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
We first met over a shared passion — coffee. Our first date took us to a local coffee shop in Upper Michigan, Cyberia Café, where we discovered a mutual affection for hand crafted lattes. As our relationship grew and family expanded, coffee always remained a staple component of our life. We both worked hard on our respective careers, and by 2017, had established our life in Kasson, Minnesota with our boys, Isaiah and Micah.

Even though we were both working stable jobs, we still felt drawn to growing the coffee business and transitioning the side hustle into a main hustle. Our new coffee business aims to fill a need that we quickly identified as coffee lovers in Southeast Minnesota–a noticeable lack of freshly roasted coffee beans, and a dual-purpose business that could serve the needs of others.

After first experimenting with an air popcorn popper, demand from family and friends grew, and we purchased a small commercial roaster. We set up the roaster in our garage and operated under the MN Cottage Food Exemption for 2 years before I (Jim) quit my full-time job to pursue our coffee roasting business. Since then, we’ve expanded to a 10kg roaster and currently sell roasted beans at local grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops, as well as online and in our commercial space. We also have a mobile coffee cart that is available at the Rochester Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

Our ultimate goal is to create delicious roasted specialty coffee along with a sense of community and gathering. We hope our coffee connects you to others, and motivates you to live your adventure, wherever life takes you.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
It most definitely has not been a smooth road. Initially, we encountered difficulty getting our product out there and experienced a lot “no’s”. We’ve had to get creative and have had to work hard to develop relationships. When we first moved our 1kg roaster into the commercial space, we had challenges finding companies that would take on a smaller job such as the plumbing and HVAC required for the space to be considered for food manufacturing. Everything took more time than we would have liked. I remember getting ready to open in March of 2019, and we had encountered a leak in our roof which required fixing before we could begin roasting. Thankfully, we were able to get it fixed in time, however, Jim was roasting late the night before and the morning of our opening event. We’ve learned to “roll with the punches” and that God always has a plan, even if it isn’t what we had in mind.

Of course, the pandemic also created anxiety and struggle. We ended up pivoting our business to online sales, curbside pickup and delivery. Thank goodness our customers working from home required more caffeine. 🙂

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Trail Creek Coffee Roasters?
We are a small batch, specialty coffee roaster with a passion for community, connection, and global impact. We provide sustainably sourced, high quality, fresh roasted coffee, while acknowledging that it’s more than coffee. We partner with several non-profits in our area including The Landing MN, Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch, Project Legacy, St. James Coffee, and Hope Central.

We strive to be an environmentally responsible company and upgraded to custom printed compostable and biodegradable packaging in 2021. Our spent coffee grounds are collected and given to customers for composting; burlap bags from green coffee are repurposed for various uses, including purses, furniture/decor, and landscaping.

Services we provide include wholesale/retail coffee beans, coffee catering service, and coffee cart services. We also offer private roasting classes by appointment. We have free local delivery (within 20 miles of Kasson, MN), and free shipping on online orders over $45.

This past February we traveled to San Antonio, Belize and learned about coffee farming from a local farmer (Oxmul Coffee), whom we hope to partner with in the future to purchase green coffee. The trip gave us a newfound appreciation for the amount of manual labor that goes into coffee before it even reaches our hands for roasting. We look forward to future trips to continue learning about the entire life cycle of coffee.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Seeing the look on a customer’s face when they try our coffee for the first time and say, “That’s really good coffee.” There are so many times in small business that we question if this is the right path for us and for our family. But when we get to experience the joy of others as they take a sip affirms that we are where we should be. We strive to create a coffee experience, not just a quick caffeine fix. One where it takes you back to the origin of where the coffee was planted, harvested, and processed; an experience that connects you to other parts of this world. Being able to be a part of that is extremely rewarding.

We are also incredibly grateful to operate this business as a family. Our boys, Isaiah (7), and Micah (6), enjoy helping out at the shop and getting to know our customers.

Pricing:

  • 12 oz Ethiopia, Peru, Guatemala, Slingshot Espresso, Decaf: $14
  • 12 oz The Landing MN light roast: $15
  • 12 oz Project Legacy roast: $15
  • Contact us for wholesale pricing
  • Contact us for coffee catering, coffee cart service, or coffee roasting class pricing

Contact Info:


Image Credits

Bekka Berge (Forever You Studios)

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1 Comment

  1. Maria

    May 13, 2022 at 2:17 am

    Great story! Love that you all are passionate about bringing the whole coffee consumer experience!
    Thanks for sharing!

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