Retirement was the plan when Jane and Marty Russo moved from St. Paul to their cabin in Gordon last year. It was an opportunity for Jane Russo, a former dental hygienist, to delve into creating wire-wrapped jewelry through her small business, Let’s Get Stones. Retired from the banking industry, her husband planned to write a book.
“We were not expecting to start a business when we came up here,” Marty said.
Then they learned U-Roast-Em, a Hayward-based company they’d been buying green coffee beans from for more than a decade, was for sale.
They were already sold on the product. U-Roast-Em allows customers to choose their beans, roast them to taste and enjoy it fresh.
“We love coffee,” Marty said, and they have fun roasting their own at home.
It is, he said, as easy as making pancakes. The beans can be roasted in the oven, on the stovetop, over a chimney starter or in a popcorn popper. And like a home brewer, a roaster determines the final flavor.
“The right roast is whatever you like,” Marty said.
A pound of green beans is about half the cost of a bag of roasted, the couple said, and coffee tastes best with freshly-roasted beans. Like cheese curds, fresher is better.
They purchased the e-commerce business in April and moved it to Solon Springs about two weeks ago.
The former Mosinee office they work out of along County Road A encompasses about 900 square feet. It’s packed with bags and bins of coffee beans from around the world: Yemen, Columbia, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Ethiopia, Peru.
The Russos sell about 30 different types of beans – many of them fair trade or organic – as well as roasters and flavorings. The items are shipped out from the post office a block and a half away.
Beans from a women-owned cooperative in Sumatra were recently added, and the couple hopes to increase the number of fair trade offerings.
“We pay extra for these beans,” Marty said. “They make sure people producing them are not being exploited.”
By keeping the building footprint small, they aim to give customers the best price. Folks can even set up an appointment to pick up their purchase, saving shipping costs.
Despite the wild beauty of the area and the lower cost of living, the couple initially had qualms about moving to Gordon and leaving their extended family in St. Paul. What sold them on the move was how nice the people are.
“We’ve already made so many friends up here,” Jane said.
Launching a business has been an eye-opening experience for the couple, who have been married 33 years. They now spend 24 hours a day together blending their talents. He’s the idea man with an eye on the bottom line; she brings artistry and a creative touch.
“We never got to work together before,” Jane said. “We dig each other’s company. It’s been a blast.”
They know home roasting isn’t for everyone, but the couple aims to grow the established business with a more user-friendly website and the addition of new beans.
“I really believe in this business,” Marty Russo said.
By Maria Lockwood
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