Located just down the road from the B&B, is the Independence Coffee Company, as small family owned company that roasts and sells its’ own brand of coffee! They were featured recently in The Eagle with the following excellent article by Cassie Smith. Be sure to stop in for your own taste and take home a pound or two, when staying in Brenham!
From Brenham, an independent brand of coffee….
BRENHAM — The most popular roast produced by Independence Coffee Co. originated as a joke. Co-owner Ragan Bond said one Christmas he created the company’s darkest, Italian-like roast and dubbed it “Jet Fuel” to give to his pilot friends.
His wife, co-owner Christi Bond, said pilots began sharing the coffee, and the next thing they realized, the Brenham-based company was getting requests for the blend.
“I looked at Ragan and said, ‘Very funny. Nice joke, but now you have to keep roasting Jet Fuel,’” Christi Bond said this week as the couple chuckled at the memory.
It’s the perfect example of how the company has expanded in its eight years.
“It’s just word of mouth, 100 percent,” Ragan Bond said. “You don’t have time to go out and market. You’re too small to add a bunch of people, so you depend on your great customers to sell it for you.”
And so far, it’s worked, he said.
The couple made their first batch of coffee from a 10-pound roaster in 2003. That year, they roasted and experimented with 2,000 pounds of coffee, along the way developing their “Independent” style.
By 2011, the company roasted more than 150,000 pounds of high-grown Arabica coffees from 13 different countries and regions for customers that include individuals and offices to grocery markets, including H-E-B and Whole Foods Market.
“We were stocking our coffee at an H-E-B when a woman stopped and said, ‘You’re on the back of that coffee bag,’” Ragan said of the packaging that showcases the couple’s picture. “I told Christi then, ‘I think we finally made it.’”
Bond said he and Christi still hand-deliver their coffees and teas to grocery markets, convenience stores, offices and other family-owned establishments.
The couple, both 48, and their two children moved to Brenham in 2004. Ragan continued to commute to his job for five years and make coffee. He said he eventually decided to take the leap and, with his wife’s support, he left his position as an energy trader of 18 years to start a business.
“It’s one of those deals where you got to do it or not. It was pretty brutal financially for a while,” he said.
The couple opened a retail site on Main Street here to sell the coffee.
“It was received really well and we were received well in this new community,” Christi said.
The original passion for quality coffee came in 1996, Ragan Bond said. He said a friend had returned from Amsterdam with a bag of coffee unlike anything he’d ever had.
“From that day forward, I was searching out good coffee shops,” he said. “I just developed a love for it.”
They said the company was offered a space at the Simon Theatre and they made the big move, where the retail shops have been ever since. Bond said the theatre is currently being revitalized with the help of community fundraisers. They also opened a facility on Texas 105 to do the roasting, blending and packaging. It has space for a dock to allow easy access for delivery drivers.
Christi Bond said in the past two months H-E-B has moved from purchasing products for 60 of its stores to 192 locations.
They don’t keep coffee in stock, because they prefer to deliver only fresh blends, she said.
“The only disadvantage to that has been instances where someone calls and say they want three five-pound bags. Well, we probably can’t get it to them that day, because we have a board full of orders,” she said. “We’re just such sticklers for the freshness.”
Independence has two roasters, which are made in Turkey with American motors — the original 10-pounder and one that does 66 pounds.
Bond stood next to the roaster this week and excitedly explained how the beans are heated to 390 degrees, at which point they crack up for the first time, expelling moisture and popping off their skin. He said once the temperature in the roaster hits 420 degrees, it cracks again, and the sugars inside start to caramelize before it’s dumped into a cooling bin to keep the beans from burning, and then packaged.
Roaster Greg Gaskamp opened the hatch and 66 pounds of beans poured from the roaster into the cooling bin, where they were rotated.
“Greg stays out here and it literally gets to about 112 degrees all day,” Bond said of his employee. “We’re blessed to have him.”
Bond said newer roasters are operated with computers, allowing machines to do all the work.
“Greg and I like to sweat,” he said.
Bond said last year the company made about $620,000 in revenue, and they expect to surpass $800,000 this year. The first few years after it was opened the company quadrupled in growth and now grows at a rate of about 25 percent annually, he said.
The biggest challenge to opening their own business, he said, was access to capital.
“I think if I was going to start this business again I would have not used all my own capital,” he said. “I would have gone out with a business plan and gotten $150,000 to $200,000 capital and gotten a marketing guy.”
Christi Bond said their best decisions have been in hiring. “Our employees are unbelievable. Everyone here is like a big family and we like it that way. I know that businesses outgrow that. But hopefully we’ll be able to keep a grasp on it,” she said. “We’re such a close-knit group of people that if someone can’t do what they need to do on any given day someone jumps in to help.”