Louisville has been blessed with a vibrant local coffee scene. Heine Brothers is one of five local coffee roasters in the area with ten locations throughout the city. This company has been serving up Fair Trade coffee to Louisville's neighborhoods for 18 years. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chuck Slaughter, the Community Manager for Heine Brothers Coffee.
1. Is Heine Brothers the only Fair Trade coffee shop in town? Heine Brothers' is the only 100% fair-trade coffee roaster in town. We are a founding member of Cooperative Coffees - the world's first fair-trade coffee buying cooperative, and work with 20+ other roasters in the United States and Canada to source organic coffee from small-scale farmers around the world, making sure that they get a fair price for their work.
2. What was the strategy in opening branches in the East End? I believe a big part was just opportunity. We've had customers asking us to open new locations near their home or work, and a lot of those requests were in the East End. Along with that, we've had developers knocking on our door trying to sign us up for some great spots, and after looking at those, they matched where our customers were already requesting a new location.
3. Is Heine Brothers thinking of possibly expanding some more? How about moving downtown or to the South End? We do plan on expanding more in the next few years. We will always be a Louisville-based company, and see possibly 20 locations in the Louisville/Southern Indiana area. We get requests every day from customers downtown, in the South End, in Jeffersonville, in Fern Creek - and we'd love to find the perfect locations in those areas of town to open a shop.
4. How does Heine Brothers keep the consistency and quality of the product with having so many stores? I think that we succeed in this for 3 reasons. First - all of our coffee is roasted right here in Louisville, by 4 long-time Heine Brothers' employees who started behind the bar serving drinks to customers. That coffee is delivered to each location twice a week. Second - our shop managers work together on a weekly basis with the owners and operations managers to not only make sure that their shops are running smoothly, but also to share ideas with one another and work on special projects. Last, but certainly not least - our baristas. When hired at Heine Brothers', everyone starts off as a barista, and are trained together to make drinks and serve customers in a consistent way. They are then able to pick up shifts at any of the other shops - you can see your favorite Blankenbaker Parkway barista serving drinks at our Schnitzelburg shop - and through that we're able to maintain consistency and quality between all of our locations.
5. Heine Brothers has connections to a lot of great programs including Breaking New Grounds, 15 Thousand Farmers, etc. How do these partnerships affect the company? Would you say that Heine Brothers isn't just a coffee shop but more of an advocacy organization with one branch being coffee? While we are a for-profit company, and have to make money to stay afloat, Heine Brothers' is about much more than that. A community is only as good as its citizens, and we feel like we have to give back whenever possible to keep Louisville a great place. We founded Breaking New Grounds because we didn't want thousands of pounds of coffee grounds to be dumped in the landfill every week, we founded 15Thousand Farmers because we knew that others were interested in growing food at home instead of having it trucked here from thousands of miles away. We're proud to work with the Center for Women and Families, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Dare to Care, Volunteers of America, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville Independent Business Association, and countless other local organizations because they are doing great work here in town that needs to be done. Caring for our land, the arts, each other - it's what we feel makes a community whole. We are currently holding our 2nd annual WaterStep (formerly EDGE Outreach) Shoe Drive through the month of September. WaterStep is a great organization right here in Louisville that is helping to cure water issues around the globe (including many of our coffee-growing countries). The sale of the donated used shoes provides money that is used for inexpensive water purification systems and hand-pump repair & training. This is just an example of the many things we do to ensure that everyone at Heine Brothers' Coffee can feel good about coming to work every day, and our customers can feel that they truly are making a difference in their community and the world by choosing to spend their money at Heine Brothers' Coffee.
6. Many people already know that Heine Brothers and Vint Coffee merged in November 2011. Can you tell me more about any changes that have been made? So far we've been working on getting all of our administrative items aligned and investigating what our staff and customers like about each brand. Right now each brand is independent, and not much in the stores have changed. We're wrapping up our investigation and may make a few changes later this year, nothing has been decided yet. We have brought over the VINT beer & wine program into 2 of the Heine Brothers' stores, and we do have some VINT stores composting with Breaking New Grounds now - that sort of thing has started, and there may be more in the future.
Photographs courtesy of Heine Brothers