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The North Wind

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Molly Birch
Molly Birch

My name is Molly, and I am in my second year at NMU. I come from Midland, MI, probably one of the most boring places on earth. However, we do have the only Tridge in the world, so that’s pretty nifty...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

Coffee Made With Care

Junior early childhood ed. major Cassie Crooks and retail manager and partner Paul Vafa getting their caffeine fix. Photo by Lindsey Eaton

There are not many other small moments in life that can quite compare to beginning each morning with a good cup of joe. There is joy in waking up to the sound of your coffee pot gurgling and waiting in anticipation to wrap your hands around that coveted warm cup. What could make that first sip of that fragrant brew touching your lips even better? Knowing exactly how your coffee is made. From seed to bean to roast to cup and even the farmer who planted it—at Velodrome Coffee Co., they know it all.

Living in the Upper Peninsula comes with some compromise. There may not be an array of clothing stores or multiple taxi services adorning the streets of Marquette like most cities, but there’s pines, snow and lakeshore galore. Another thing of no shortage in Marquette? Coffee.

There are 10 coffee shops caffeinating the community currently and one shop’s twist is brewing conscious coffee.
At Velodrome Coffee Co., they know the origin of your coffee from bean to brew. Owner of Velodrome, Brice Sturmer, has worked as a roaster at multiple coffee shops gaining first-hand experience, but he always knew he wanted to leave his own stain on the business and do things a bit differently.

“[My wife and I] had been dreaming about starting up our own place for a long time. I think with the last experience I had working in the coffee industry, working for someone else was really the motivation to do our own thing. It was a group full of rich, white, middle-aged men who just want to make money. They did it really well, but it was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do,” Sturmer said.

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The couple packed up their things in Green Bay, Wisconsin and decided to set their roots in the 906. Velodrome began selling their roasts online over a year ago now. Online sales began with the idea of raising enough profits just to open up a wholesale coffee business, Sturmer said.

“We were just going to roast coffee, essentially, but then this spot opened up here and we just couldn’t pass it up,” he said. “We saw a lot of potential in this area.”

On Aug. 29, 2017, Velodrome Coffee Co. opened its doors on Washington Street and started serving up coffee to the community. But at Velodrome Coffee Co., it’s not just a cup of coffee.

“One thing we do differently is we source all our coffee directly from the farmers that grow it and then we roast it here in-house. A lot of companies go through a lot of importers and work through these weird channels just to get the best price on coffee, but what we do is build relationships with farmers,” Sturmer said.

To ensure the highest quality coffee, Sturmer has traveled to Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala to shake the hands of the farmers producing Velodrome beans and ensure that it’s all ethically sourced from seed to bean to brew.
“Being able to connect with farmers is important because coffee is human,” Sturmer said. “For me, that was the only way I could be sure that the coffee was grown ethically and people were treated fairly all along the way.”

According to Global Washington, a non-profit which promotes international development, “The coffee industry employs roughly 100 million people worldwide, the majority of whom live in developing countries.”

After working in the industry for years, Sturmer knew he wanted transparency in his business practices. By connecting with those growing Velodrome coffee, Sturmer strengthens the connection he sees between coffee and people. He hopes his practices put more good into the world, he said.

“Coffee is one of the biggest trade commodities in the entire world so when we can have a little impact in one of the biggest industries in the world, it can have drastic change and drastic effect. The relationship I see there allows us to be able to actually change things and change people’s lives,” Sturmer said.

Velodrome prides themselves on paying farmers more for coffee that tastes better, building community and lessening its foot- print on the Earth. The coffee is sustainable and so is the shop.

Each cup of coffee is served in a glass jar and any order to go is poured into a recyclable cup. Trash is sorted for recyclables and a public tally is kept of trash produced to help employees and customers be more conscious of the amount of waste they are producing.

Photo by: Lindsey Eaton

“We’re keeping track of how many bags we throw away this month,” Sturmer said. “We’re trying to be trash-free by June of 2018, so that means everything can be recycled, everything can be reused.”

Aside from sustainable coffee, biking is Sturmer’s other passion; and with Velodrome he found a way to tie the two together. Every customer who comes to the shop by bike receives $1 off their coffee. Velodrome even delivers coffee by bike right to your doorstep, sun or snow.

“I’m a big bike commuter. I like to use a bike as a vehicle more or less and it’s good exercise and [a] good way to get around,” Sturmer said. “My passion lies in it and we just wanted to tie both my passions together, it kind of made sense.”

They’re doing more than just coffee at Velodrome. The coffee company has hosted and been a part of various community events such as Great Lakes, Great Stories; Fresh Coast Film Festival, features a different local artists’ work in shop each month and hosts its very own coffee workshop series to educate others on the roasting practices while teaching coffee lovers how to roast at home, on their own.

“The goal is to create a community and create connections, however we can do that. Being a part of it is exciting to us,” he said.

Looking forward, Velodrome Coffee Co. hopes to expand their brand and bring bigger roast machines into their shop, allowing them to roast more beans. Larger roasters would put them one step closer to fulfilling their original goal of providing coffee whole- sale across a large area. Their other objective? To create the best tasting cup of coffee, while reminding the community that “the coffee industry starts and ends with a human.”

“It’s interesting that we can have something that’s gone through so many steps and so many processes, but something we can enjoy so thoroughly, and that can be so good considering all the steps that could have screwed it up. Yet, we have something that’s really awesome,” Sturmer said. “That’s what makes me excited about it. It’s the miracle that is coffee.”

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