Owner of Infusco
What happens when a coffee-loving electrical engineer tinkers with a scrapped pizza oven?
The oven becomes a one-pound coffee roaster . . . and then a business is born.
Located in Sawyer, Michigan, approximately midway between Grand Rapids and Chicago, Infusco Coffee Roasters represents the entrepreneurial spirit that has made America great.
The owners of Infusco Coffee Roasters, Rich and Stacey Siri, have combined their curiosity, their talents and their love of mankind to grow a business that has a story as rich and full-bodied as their finest coffee.
From the beginning, Rich quickly demonstrated the persistence needed to develop a successful business. After three months of roasting coffee in his modified pizza oven, Rich invested in his first one-pound coffee roaster. It took him 65 hours to roast 35 pounds of coffee for his first customer, Greenbush Brewing Company in Sawyer. Yet the results proved that his time was well spent.
Rich and Stacey soon also found a way to follow their passion for serving mankind. At the same time that he was experimentally roasting coffee beans, Rich, formerly a youth pastor, participated with friends from his church on a mission trip to Kenya. While assisting with the installation of a wind generator in Kenya, Rich witnessed abject poverty like he had never imagined. He saw destitute people wretchedly digging through deep heaps of worthless trash to salvage anything they could use. Rich’s business vision coalesced when he learned the plight of the country’s poor coffee farmers, who were paid only 38 cents per pound for their coffee beans that brought $3.80 a pound in the Kenyan market. Rich became determined to develop a business that would not only provide the world’s finest coffee but also pay fair wages to the coffee growers by buying from them directly.
“Direct trade” typically refers to purchasing directly from the grower, but Rich prefers the term “relationship coffee.” While the concept seems simple, implementing relationship coffee partnerships can be difficult. In most coffee-growing countries, the government strictly regulates the coffee industry. Fortunately, a couple of coincidences helped Rich and Stacey surpass governmental roadblocks. Their mission friend was the son of a bishop from the Anglican Church of Kenya. Knowing that shipping coffee is easier if the buyer owns a coffee farm, the bishop gave Rich a small farm. In another happy coincidence, Rich was also able to meet with a prominent Kenyan governmental official who knew the Benton Harbor area because the official had attended Western Michigan University. Proving the power of relationships (and that the world is actually quite small), the official facilitated Rich’s first shipment of coffee from his new farm in Kenya to Sawyer, Michigan.
Kenyan AA pallets
Rich and Stacey now own two farms in Kenya and are working with a group of Kenyan widows and orphans to help them make a living by growing coffee beans. They have developed relationships with other growers, buying coffee directly or working closely with distributors to develop mutually advantageous partnerships with the growers. Rich and Stacey insist on transparency for every cost in the process—from growing to harvesting to shipping—to ensure that the growers realize both above average prices and bonuses when costs are less than anticipated. By partnering with the growers, Rich and Stacey’s business fills the air around Sawyer not only with the sweet aroma of roasting coffee, but also with the sweet smell of self-sufficiency in far-away places.
Does sharing the profits with the growers make business sense? “It does when you know your growers,” says Rich. “We’re not losing our competitive edge. We’re building relationships that improve lives.”
We invite you to stop in to Infusco Coffee Roasters in Sawyer, Michigan, to start your own warm relationship with Rich, Stacey, and their friendly staff. Buy from a local vendor who stocks Infuscso Coffee
to experience the delectable taste of coffee from superior quality, slow-roasted beans. Sip slowly to envision our growers tilling fields of prosperity – so far away and yet surprisingly so close to our hearts.