To say I love coffee is like saying that Taylor Swift likes to sing about boys.
Coffee brings me joy. It picks me up when I’m feeling low. It calms me down when I’m spazzin’ about real life. It motivates me to get shiz done when all I wanna do is watch Law & Order (SVU, for the record. That Officer Stabler really knows how to fill out a button-down shirt). Coffee takes bad days and makes them good. It takes good days and makes them better. Probably the only thing I love more than coffee (other than, you know, friends and family and other yucky love stuff like that) is watching Lifetime Original Movies with my friend Matt while simultaneously doing a unicorn puzzle with his wife/my friend Chelsea.
Detailed, I know. But you asked.
(Okay, so you didn’t ask, but you probably were wondering)
And when you love something, you want to know everything there is to know about it.
Coffee is something that’s easy to be passionate about: It literally has the power to improve lives at every socio-economic level (from fair-trade prices for third-world farmers to a sustainable, popular product used in charity fundraising) and it’s something that is both fascinatingly accessible and aspirational. It’s long been a goal of mine to travel to different coffee farms around the world and learn more about the journey from farm to cup, and I became a barista a few years ago simply for the sole purpose of getting to work with coffee first-hand and share that love with others. For years now, I’ve been getting my grubby paws on every great coffee-related article, book, video, and documentary I could find, and I quiz coffeeshop owners and baristas the way an aspiring filmmaker haunts movies set…I just wanna to learn! Teach me everything you know! I promise I won’t bother you, just let me stand here in the background and watch!
So when the good people at Backroads Coffee & Tea invited Meg and I out to check out their new expanded roastery, it was on par with the time when I first realized that Google could be used to gather background information on all the guys I had crushes on.
I mean, we’re talking “Suddenly…life has new meaning…to meeeee” Billy-Ocean-ballad-singing levels of excitement.
Backroads Coffee & Tea is the kind of locally and family-owned business that most of us like to think of as our favorite little secret…even though Backroads is definitely no longer little. Some fun facts: In 2000, Backroads built a new roasting facility to keep up with the demand of both their retail and wholesale coffee sales. In late 2004, Backroads moved from their original location on Dakota and 2nd (the building that now houses the Hayward Fly Fishing Co.) to a larger building a few spots down Dakota Avenue. Last year, growing pains hit Backroads once again, and they’ve been busy remodeling the original roastery building (located on Hwy 77, about 20 minutes outside Hayward) and building an addition to expand the overall space. This past fall, they also added a new retail location on the Main Street of Hayward, which sports a different name - Hayward Coffee Co. – and arguably, a different style and sensibility from the original flagship store (the two shops are so different in appearance and menu offerings that most visitors – even locals – don’t even know that they are owned by the same company).
To put it simply, what began as a small retail shop that roasted its mail-order selection of coffees on site has grown into a full-fledged coffee empire. Backroads fans are legion. Whether it’s the local regulars who show up every morning for their daily caffeine fix, the far-flung mail-order customers who were won over with a single visit during Birkie or Fat Tire, or the businesses and restaurants who exclusively depend on Backroads for their own private label blends, Backroads has a wide and varying base of consumers.
Pulling up in front of the roastery just off of Hwy 77 on a cold, snowy morning, Meg and I could smell the freshly roasted coffee as soon as we stepped out of Meg’s car. I think we just stood there, in the snow, inhaling the scent and looking at each other like, “This is probably how it felt to be a junkie in the old-timey days of the 19th century, standing only steps away from a notorious Opium Den in the cobblestone streets of London town…” (okay, so I was looking at Meg like that. I read a lot of historical fiction when I was younger that still happens to inform my imagination today).
After entering the building, we were greeted by Teresa, the owner and founder of Backroads. After introducing us around to the staff, Teresa then led us through some of the day-to-day operations of the roastery. Basically, the demand for freshly-roasted Backroads coffee is somewhat staggering. Backroads roasts nearly 200 varieties of specialty-grade coffees, from their signature blends, dark roasts, organic and fair trade, single origin, flavored and decaf coffees. They continue to expand into retail locations like grocery stores and other coffee shops, as well as continuing to provide coffee for many local restaurants and resorts. Another growing division of the roastery is the private label division, where brands and businesses can sell Backroads coffee under their own branded label for retail. For both wholesale and private label clients, they offer custom roasts and will profile match a coffee specifically to fit that client’s vision (and yes, after learning this, I’ve totally been dreaming about how to produce and market my very own custom blend and brand of coffee…maybe a Girl from the Northwoods blend, something light and lively? Or perhaps a Dapper Dozen blend…dark, strong and spicy? The possibilities are ENDLESS!). They also do a fundraising program, a super sweet set-up where eager beavers can sell Backroads coffee to their friends and family to help raise money for their school, church, or extracurricular organizations. And of course, whenever visitors to Hayward come to Backroads and try a new favorite brew, invariably Backroads’ mail-order customer base expands.
With the fast-paced growth of all these different branches of the business and the new expansion of the roastery itself, it only made sense that there be a newly expanded identity, as well. On January 1st, 2014, Backroads Coffee & Tea unveiled the new name Midwest Roasters to their staff and wholesale customers. While the name reflects the new growth of the overall business, it won’t impact either Hayward Coffee Co or Backroads Coffee & Tea retail shops, nor will it change the signature style and thoughtful marketing that so many have come to recognize and love. Having an umbrella name for the roastery simply ties all of the divisions of the business neatly together, and provides room for even more growth.
But back to the coffee paradise that is the roasting facility:
Contact us today to learn more about our fundraising program. Backroads Coffee offers any club, community group, organization, school program, etc. a great way to raise money by selling a premium product that your customers will enjoy. You sell the product and Backroads will take care of the rest, from fresh roasting, packaging, and collating each order for easy distribution.
Call us today at 800-634-4951 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Amber L.
I first came to know Backroads Coffee & Tea when it was still in the building that now houses the Hayward Fly Fishing Shop, and there were two things that made Backroads outstanding to me during this time: A) This was back in the age when coffee houses were just starting to become a part of popular culture (thanks, Friends!), and so, it was a rarity to find a coffee house in a small town. B) The first time I stumbled in the heavy door and set foot on those creaky wooden floors, I spotted Real World stars Sean Duffy and Rachel Campos with my very own eyes.
(This was when MTV’s The Real World was still a huuuuge deal. I coasted on that star cred for YEARS after that!)
Thus, Backroads became such an integral part of my existence that it stayed my all-time favorite coffee shop even after I moved to other towns and countries, and if you read my first book, you’ll notice it features a coffee shop eerily similar to Backroads (cleverly named “Backwoods.” I apparently decided to save the bulk of my creativity for other parts of the book…).
So when we decided to use this little corner of the web to feature local places, people, and events, I knew that one of the first places I wanted to talk about was Backroads.
Backroads began in 1987 by Janie Wise, and the original location sits right across the street from the current one (the original location now houses the Hallmark card shop). Five years after Wise opened Backroads, she relocated into the building where the Hayward Fly Fishing Shop currently resides. In 1997, the current owners, Teresa and Rod Peters, purchased it from Wise, and that was the beginning of the Backroads Coffee wholesale business. Peters stayed in that location until about 2002, when they moved into the more spacious current location on Dakota Street, which allowed them to offer to more seating as well as a larger bakery and lunch menu.
Now in their 25th year, what began with a small, old-fashioned roaster has morphed into a full wholesale business that includes a new roasting facility, numerous wholesale partners, and a widespread following that keeps their Hayward coffee shop bustling with loyal customers throughout the day.
That “loyal customer” thing is probably the trait that defines Backroads the most. For instance, by now pretty much everyone in the entire world has had at least one run-in with the notorious, holier-than-thou barista types. However, you would be hard-pressed to find them at Backroads. Michael Ann, who has lived in Hayward for seven years and has worked at Backroads for five of those years, is the bright and shining face that most people see behind the counter when they get their morning coffee. Her favorite part of working at Backroads, she told us, is getting to know the locals. “It’s the regulars that make this place. Carol and Tom Duffy come in here two to three times a day, every day. People like that become a part of your life.”
Teresa Peters, one half of the ownership, concurs. When we asked her what the highlight was of running a business like Backroads, she replied, “Our fantastic co-workers – they are like family, my daughters, sisters and best friends. They inspire us to always do more and give much. Our incredible customers are the fuel that keeps the doors open, and we are so blessed and thankful for all of them. They continue to support our business day after day and week after week. [We have an] amazing following of support.”
“These people are my friends,” agreed Vicki, a local customer who had stopped in for her morning coffee. “I come in here almost every day, and you’re never going to find a place that cares more about their customers. You really build a relationship with the people who work here.”
And it’s not just about the locals. For visitors descending on Hayward or just passing through, Backroads is often a favorite stop. “We have a lady who travels all over Wisconsin for work, and she goes to about 30 different coffee shops in a month, but this is still her favorite one.”
But before you start thinking that this is a “everything is GREAT at Backroads! The floors are made of gold and the coffee is ground from diamonds!” puff piece, I have to make a point and say that one of the things that probably speaks the most strongly about the commitment to building loyal customer relationships is the way that Backroads handles feedback after a less-than-optimal experience. This past fall, after a particularly unsettling experience at Backroads, I decided to email the owners about it, figuring that, as a former small business owner, I would want to know if a customer was unhappy. I not only got an immediate response from Peters, but she actually jumped on the phone and called me that day to gain more details about my experience and assure me that the situation would be remedied. And then she followed up later to make sure that my experiences had improved (they had).
That is how you create not just loyal customers, but lifetime fans.
And Backroads is doin’ it right.
…But let’s get to talking about the actual coffee, yeah?
One thing I always wanna know – whether I’m at a coffee shop, a bar, or a restaurant – is what the people who work there and go there most often choose time and time again. Michael Ann told us that the most popular drinks for female customers was the Creme Brulee Latte and the Frapps. For men, it’s the hot mochas. But her favorite is the Maple Nut Fudge Latte with maple spice, macadamia nut flavor, whip, and caramel on top.
Yeah. We’re probably gonna order that next time, too.
Liz, the Retail Store Manager who has worked at Backroads for six years, told us that she prefers a small breve with an extra shot, and that for new customers, she also recommends the hot mochas. “They’re made with Ghiradelli chocolate. You can’t beat that.”
Backroads also has lunch specials every day, “made with high quality ingredients, along with love and hugs.” Peters shared that she’s partial to the Havacado and the Mexican Quesada, and Michael Ann encourages everyone to try the Pesto Flat Bread and the BLT Pita. Liz particularly loves the Hummus menu, which offers a selection of sandwiches, pitas, and wraps featuring everyone’s favorite chickpea concoction.
And, because Michael Ann is awesome, we also go to try the new biscottis at Backroads, which they started offering at the end of March. The brown sugar cinnamon and the chocolate chunk were both fantastic and had the perfect consistency for dipping into a hot drink. Definitely a Girl from the Northwoods recommend for your next trip in.
Sounds simply…awesome. (also, sidenote: Backroads is currently looking for outgoing, friendly individuals to join their Hayward Coffee Co. team. If interested, visit their site for more information on how to apply)
If You Go:
* Backroads Coffee Shop is located at 10546 Dakota Avenue, just north of 63 in downtown Hayward. Besides coffee, bakery and lunch items, and an assortment of gifts and coffee blends, they also offer free WiFi.
* Check out their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter to get daily updates on lunch specials. You can also join their email list to be alerted on their Coffee of The Month Club and other wholesale features and specials.
* If you like your coffee drinks simple and consistent, definitely order the hot mocha. If you like to jazz it up a little, ask the barista to point you to their ever-changing seasonal drink menu. (and then ask her to give you a few minutes to decide, because the menus are packed with choices and they all sound great)
And! A special If You Go Bonus…
A few tips we gained from Backroads friendly baristas to help make your Backroads experience even better:
* If your Customer Loyalty Card is filled, tell your barista that you’re getting your free drink before they ring you up. This will ensure speedier service.
* When multiple people are waiting for drinks, double-check with the barista on whether or not the drink on the counter is yours before you take it. Doing this will help prevent coffee-related disaster and mayhem.
* Please put your phone conversation on hold before ordering (this seems like an obvious tip, but we’ve all seen the person who hasn’t quite gotten this yet)
* Whether a local or a visitor, don’t be afraid to say hello and introduce yourself to the staff! Much like Lynyrd Skynyrd, they wanna know your name.