The Artisan Economy
The first time David Sutton roasted his own coffee beans, it was on a BBQ grill.
The young pastor loved coffee, and he loved the process of making coffee even more. So when he heard he could roast his own at home, Sutton bought a few pounds of green coffee beans and set to work at the barbecue, roasting the very first of the thousands of batches to come. And to his great surprise, that first cup wasn’t half bad.
Sutton has come a long way since those days at the grill. Today he is the owner and founder of the Coffee Registry, a craft coffee roastery and delivery service in Fort Collins, Colo. He is also the roaster, delivery guy, accountant, repairman and janitor. Between being a pastor, a father, a business owner and a roaster, he works weekends and nights and holidays. He sometimes gets to the shop at 5 a.m. on a Saturday after only three hours of sleep to roast beans for the day’s farmers’ markets, which he’ll then spend all day brewing and serving. He has no pension, no health benefits (besides what he gets delivering by bike), no corner office and no promise of a paycheck.
And anyone who’s talked with him for more than 30 seconds knows he is a man who loves what he does.
Sutton isn’t the only one who’s made an attempt to turn craft into career and been able to find a market for it. In 2010, when Americans were wading through the aftermath of one of the worst recessions in the history of the nation, Colin and Shannon Westcott were opening a business. Colin had long wanted to make a career out of his passion for craft beer and the brewing process, so when the opportunity arose to start his own brewery, the couple was all in—recession or not.
The Westcotts opened the doors to Equinox Brewery in Fort Collins that April, hoping the community had been primed enough by the city’s microbrew giants, New Belgium and Odells, to embrace and support one more.
By the end of the first month, it was clear to the couple that public support wasn’t going to be a problem—finding a place to put all of it was. Most evenings, it’s hard to find a seat in the brewery even though a draft at Equinox costs between $4 and $8—the better part of what a good chunk of their client base makes in an hour.
“Once you make the shift from domestic to craft beers, you don’t go back,” Colin says. “People realize they like things to actually taste good, and they’re willing to pay for it.”