BARRY’S BAY – Latte, frappe, mocha cappuccino, espresso, iced and regular – coffee is at the heart of a growing culture.
Some statistics suggest that 1.6 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily worldwide and the figures are growing.
Sophisticated tastes have rejected the instant fix produced from a jar in the kitchens of homemakers made popular during the 1960’s and valued instead the nuance of tone, density, colour and depth.
It is the deep, rich, smooth, aromatic flavour and the pursuit of the perfect cup that seduced Sarah Wills and Neil Wright into buying a home coffee bean roaster.
“Paddler friends of ours from Port Perry brought some of their home-roasted beans as a gift on one of their visits. We couldn’t believe how good this fresh roasted coffee tasted compared to the fresh beans we typically buy,” Wills recalled, admitting they have always tended to be coffee snobs.
“We began roasting our own coffee and discussed bringing it into the store to serve,” Wills added.
Experimenting with and then perfecting a roast, the couple shared it with friends.
“Word travelled that we were roasting our own beans and people started asking if they could buy some, and word travelled about how great it tasted and more people started asking if they could buy some and we started selling it in the store.”
“We were just looking to cover the cost of roasting our own coffee – support our own habit,” Wills admitted.
Both Wills’ parents are self-employed, and an entrepreneurial spirit was fostered from a young age she said.
“My father always said, be your own boss.”
Taking his advice and some help, Wills developed a Grade 12 business class plan into a small sports store after graduating high school.
After two years she opened a piano studio where she taught for three years, before deciding to embark on a three-year business degree at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo. Upon graduation she attended Niagara College to specialize in hospitality and landed a job at Madawaska Kanu Centre (MKC) and later OWL, a sister company.
She accepted a position at Mad Outdoors a year and a half ago where she works as a buyer, and as the camping-paddling expert performing managerial duties.
Wright discovered the area six years ago during a white water canoe trip and began coming to the area on weekends. He eventually quit his job as a graphic designer in Whitby to teach white water canoeing during the summer months at MKC.
This is where the couple met.
“We both liked the area and all the opportunities for outdoor activities and the outdoor community,” Wright said of the couple’s decision to settle in the area.
He landed a job with Rapid Media doing marketing for 18 months before joining Wills at Mad Outdoors full-time, handling marketing and advertising for the store.
“We’re a good match,” they both noted of the varied experience and expertise they bring to business.
“The inspiration for the business comes from her. I am the out of the box crazy one and she is the realistic one that makes the ideas work,” Wright confided.
It was during a six-hour drive on one of the couple’s ice climbing trips more than a year ago that the suggestion of expanding into a business was discussed and the Madawaska Coffee Co. was founded.
“We named it because we love this area and we want more people to know about it,” Wright said.
Coffee is a personal ritual for the couple who use a French Press to make their coffee at home.
Story continues in the Ocotber 31, 2012 issue of The Valley Gazette.