Photos by Michael Gleason Photography
It seems every town has one. It is that hidden gem of a quaint shop specializing in some unique product or service that breeds high demand with diminutive commercial advertising. Soon, word quickly spreads throughout the community, and the gem morphs into a shining star. This excitement is happening in the greater Flint area with the sustained development and public emergence of Fireside Coffee Company.
Since 1988 it has quietly developed into a nationally recognized coffee company that always has been genuinely proud to be a part of greater Flint. Angie Root, Fireside Coffee’s vice president of sales and marketing, says, “We look at all the great positive things going on in Flint such as bringing back a revitalized Capitol Theatre for example, as such great progress and we hope to get involved in some way too!”
According to Root, Fireside Coffee started out of her family’s home as her mother, Carol Davis, created mocha mixes to give as gifts around the Christmas season. Her homemade mixes became so well received that friends encouraged her to take samples to local craft fairs. Word of Davis’ mixes spread, and soon local stores approached her, asking to carry her products in their stores. By 1990, she had moved her fledgling business into its current location at 3239 Elms Road in Swartz Creek and Fireside Coffee Company was launched.
Davis and her crew started traveling to craft shows around the country, selling her coffees and mixes. “We still do about 20 shows a year throughout the country,” Root adds. “We like the face-to-face aspect those shows provide.”
Root recalls she and her three siblings were always active in the growing business, but she officially came on board in 2004 after her graduation from Western Michigan University with a degree in food marketing. A true family business, Davis, Root and Root’s husband, Rob, all run the company with the help of their rocking crew of fellow coffee nerds. Through the years they worked with local roasters, but in 2015 the roasting bar was raised as master roaster Darwin Pavon became Fireside Coffee’s exclusive roaster. Originally from Honduras, Pavon settled in the Flint area a few years ago and has been applying his coffee expertise ever since.
“He has a degree in agricultural engineering and knows so much about coffee, from growing, to roasting to brewing,” Root says. According to Root, Pavon started in the coffee world back in his homeland on the agriculture side, helping farmers with soil and fertilization. Because of this, he has long working relationships with farmers that Fireside has been able to continue.
“We bring in beans from many countries,” Root points out, “but our beans from Honduras are our flagship and we are most proud due to the fact that we personally know the farmers and are able to buy them as Direct Trade.” Pavon visits the farmers twice a year, which allows him to be more in touch with the crops and much more selective. Root hopes to join Pavon on an upcoming trip to Honduras and looks forward to hands-on harvesting and working directly with the farmers.
Root admits their offices and coffee shop are considered tucked away off Elms Road, but this gem started to shine when they converted part of their offices to a quaint coffee shop in September of 2016. This charming, colorful bistro hosts Fireside Coffee’s eight core coffee roasts, seasonally adjusted to accommodate any taste. Root’s current personal favorite is the Finca Quetanquira Farm-to-Cup Coffee, a light roast with hints of spices, chocolate and sweet berries, grown by farmer Olvin Rodriguez near the Misoco Mountain reserve in Honduras.
Their coffee line also includes unique barrel-aged coffees, in which green coffee beans are actually aged in dry whiskey barrels before roasting. The beans age for about a month, infusing the coffee with light, smooth whiskey notes and hints of oak from the barrel – an exceptional coffee experience. Adding to their menu is the increasingly popular cold brew coffee. She clarifies, though, iced coffee is brewed hot, then poured over ice; cold brew, on the other hand, is brewed cold, which takes 18-24 hours for a batch. It is refreshing and lower in acidity, so people with sensitivities can enjoy it too.
“We really wanted to find a way to highlight Flint and all the good things going on because we are super proud of being in the greater Flint area.” —Angie Root
The Local View
Working with local companies is important to Fireside. Accompanying the fresh poured-over coffees in the coffee shop are baked goods from Fenton’s Crust. There are coffee mugs personally crafted by Guy Adamec, master potter at the Flint Institute of Arts, for sale in the shop and online.
“We buy as many supplies as we can locally, from Michigan sugar, to Michigan honey to our cardboard boxes that are made in Genesee County,” Root says. In addition, the business is expanding to supply local restaurants, coffee shops and cafes with Fireside coffee, cocoa and tea – and brewing equipment and service.
Root heartily talks about Fireside Coffee’s Flint Strong Coffee, which is dedicated to the city of Flint. “We really wanted to find a way to highlight Flint and all the good things going on because we are super proud of being in the greater Flint area.” She says their Flint Strong Coffee is like the city of Flint, where the beans are strong and bold, inspired by the generations of Flint men and women who have always risen early, worked hard and stayed till the job was done. To honor this devotion, a portion of the sales benefit an organization doing positive things for the Vehicle City.
While the Fireside Coffee Shop is its only store, Fireside wholesales its coffee, as well as house-made cocoa, chai tea and mocha mixes to other independent businesses, as Root believes it is a best practice to work together. To that end, she is planning a coffee tour where a ticketholder gets to appreciate the coffee culture of Flint while enjoying shops’ featured coffee blends. In the meantime, check out Fireside Coffee’s coffee classes conducted in the coffee shop after normal business hours. The upcoming two-hour class Cold Brew: So Hot Right Now will discuss everything to know about cold brew, from the origins and history to trends like nitrogen-infused cold brew.
Furthermore, the entire Fireside team looks forward to its annual open house, where tents are set up for serving coffees and baked goods with warehouse tours conducted too. Named after the shop’s signature drink, the Orange You Glad Fest will be on September 30, in recognition of National Coffee Day, September 29.
You’ll find the company’s motto, “Choose Happy!” in tucked-away areas – like the back of its business cards and carved into the coffee shop’s concrete countertop. Root says the phrase means a lot to her and Fireside Coffee.
She explains, “Happiness comes from being part of something bigger – from a sense of accomplishment. At the end of the day, we want to feel like we accomplished something and made someone’s day a little brighter. We want to be a place where people love coming to work, and where people love coming to get a cup of coffee.”