As we sought to find businesses in Kentucky we wanted to highlight for our Road Trip Kentucky project, we knew for certain one industry that would be researched, ad nauseum: Kentucky coffee.
Coffee culture is, without a doubt, one of our company’s defining characteristics. So, there was never a doubt we would tell some kind of story of coffee in the Commonwealth. What we did not anticipate was the depth and history of the story we would uncover just hours away.
To Louisville locals, Heine Brothers’ Coffee has been a staple in the community for over 20 years. What started as a dream to serve quality, freshly roasted coffee in-house slowly grew into what, on face value, looked like a sustainable business model that begat multiple shops spread throughout the city.
What we learned on our trip was much more than just how to run a successful coffee business, but more of a lesson of one company’s mission to grow without sacrificing their dedication to operating responsibly and sustainably.
Heine Brothers’ is a 100% fairtrade & organic coffee roaster. Actually, they were a founding member of the world’s first fairtrade organic coffee buying cooperative, Cooperative Coffees, Inc. The coop was founded in 1999 by a handful of similarly minded micro roasters across the US and Canada, setting the bar for how businesses can work together for the greater good.
That greater good has always been at the forefront of Heine Brothers’ efforts, whether that was from their fairtrade purchasing, their dedication to helping stop mountaintop mining, their investment in the local community, or their partnership with the Forecastle Foundation.
While Heine Brothers’ Coffee currently operates fourteen locations and one mobile airstream throughout the Louisville area, Owner Mike Mays tells us “We were never about growth for growth’s sake.”
When asked about growth outside of Louisville, he added, “Over the course of the last 22 years, I’ve had multiple people say to me ‘Gosh, you’re moving sort of slowly, shouldn’t you be in Indianapolis, or Nashville?’”
“It’s never felt right to me,” he answered. “We are a Louisville owned and operated business. We know this town and this town knows us, and this town gets us. Over the last 22 years, it’s been about slowly identifying the neighborhoods where we could fit in and get support from the community.”
And that community support is apparent. As we drove to the various locations, we easily found Heine Brothers’ Coffee stickers on cars and in shop windows throughout the different neighborhoods. As we visited the shops, as well as the Heine Brothers’ headquarters, we found digital picture frames displaying slideshows of many happy Heine customers showing their love and affection for the coffee all around the world. In a project they’ve dubbed “Mugs Around the World,” Heine Brothers’ encourages their customers to share their pictures with Heine coffee, cups, mugs and stickers on their travels.
Scrolling through their website, you’ll find dozens of images of happy coffee drinkers and their signature travel mugs from campsites, the beach, the Eiffel Tower, and even from soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.
The images are the ultimate testament as to how much Heine Brothers’ means to the local community, and how much they love not just the coffee, but everything that they stand for. Learn more about the coffee, the history, and where you can get your own cup at heinebroscoffee.com.