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This article was published 5/1/2019 (410 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Growing up in rural Missouri, Andrew Goossen never guessed he’d one day wind up 1,500 kilometres north, running his own small business.
As its name suggests, the path to Trail’s End Coffee, Goossen’s one-man roasting operation near Elma, is a long one.
"I called it Trail’s End Coffee because that was kind of a nickname for an area on our farm," explained Goossen, 33, in a slight Midwestern accent.
Goossen was raised near Rich Hill, a town of 1,400 south of Kansas City. It’s there he first developed an interest in roasting green coffee beans.
It wasn’t until he married a Manitoban and settled near Elma in 2012 that he began turning the hobby into a business, one that has grown over the last five years to supply online customers as well as a number of local retail outlets and cafes.
Goossen roasts out of a shed next to his residence along Highway 11. The small space contains a bean grinder and packaging counter, but is dominated by a large propane-powered commercial roaster Goossen purchased with an income tax refund.
The machine can produce four three-kilogram batches of freshly roasted beans per hour. A nearby laptop measures the roaster’s internal temperature and exhaust air to ensure consistency.
"Every person has to learn their machine, how it roasts," he explained.
In a typical month, Goossen will roast, package, and ship about 200 kilograms of beans. A cabinetmaker by day, he and his wife, Loretta, who met at a wedding, moved to Elma after an economic downturn in Missouri made work hard to come by.
But before they left Rich Hill, they tried running a cafe. One day, while placing a bulk coffee order, Goossen noticed the supplier also sold green coffee beans.
Reminded of a friend who roasted his own beans over a gas grill, and inspired by a tour of a large Idaho operation with its huge, gleaming drum roasters, Goossen decided to plug in an electric popcorn popper and give roasting a try.
"I just did a little studying, and I just started roasting a little bit, experimenting," he said.
He quickly learned to roast near his kitchen range hood, to whisk away the smoke produced during the roasting process.
"It did smell the house up a bit," the father of three recalled.
Today, he produces 11 different roasts, including single-origin, blends, decaf, and seasonal offerings.
"The Christmas Spice is a real big hit," he said, so much so he’s considering adding pumpkin spice next fall.
Trail’s End Coffee is now poured in Whitemouth’s Spicy Radish Cafe, Big Fellas Family Restaurant in Beausejour, and The Orange Toad in Flin Flon, whose large order helped make November Goossen’s biggest sales month yet. Bagged beans are also sold at retailers in Elma, Whitemouth, and Beausejour.
Goossen sources his green beans from importers based in Toronto and Minneapolis.
His Minneapolis supplier, Cafe Imports, arranged for Goossen to visit coffee farmers in Costa Rica last February.
He marveled at the labour involved in harvesting ripe coffee pods by hand.
"We visited quite a few farms," he said. "You’re able to get an insight on the work that’s put into making the coffee. It makes you appreciate what you’re drinking a little more."
"I definitely plan on going on other trips."
Back in Elma, Goossen said his favourite part of the job is meeting satisfied customers, some of whom have become quite loyal.
"I’ve had people actually switch from other coffees to my coffee."
With sales increasing, Goossen is managing by himself, but said he may one day seek help with sales and deliveries to allow him to focus on roasting.
"Right now, I’m just taking one step at a time. The business is growing, it’s getting busier."
He hasn’t joined the Reynolds and Whitemouth District Chamber of Commerce, but said he feels supported by the "buy local" ethos of the area, and enjoys being a rural entrepreneur who can grow his business at his own pace, away from city pressures.
"I think a rural area is great. I grew up in a rural area."
While 2019 is shaping up to be a big year for sales, Goossen said he’s also looking forward to becoming a Canadian citizen after taking the exam last year.