Scott Hartwich leans in close to “Homer,” his coffee roaster, listening for telltale pops and snaps from the raw green coffee beans inside, which will indicate the current roast is nearing completion.
Hartwich co-owns and operates Hammerhead Coffee Roasters with his wife, Mary Burwell. As Hartwich handles roasting, Burwell keeps an eye on the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages and manages marketing and community outreach efforts.
Surrounding the two are co-tenants and customers in Greene’s Corner, the convenience store at 5305 Northwest Drive in Bellingham that has served as Hammerhead’s home since 2009.
At Greene’s, customers mill around, drinking coffee, chatting and watching television. On this particular day, construction workers are outside fixing exterior damage the building sustained last October when a speeding car slammed into the front entrance, then caught fire.
Despite the frenzied surroundings, Hartwich and Burwell said they enjoy being at Greene’s Corner, with a supportive group of co-tenants and loyal customers. But with Hammerhead’s business growing, they’re ready to move.
“There’s a lot of distractions here, which can work to your benefit if you want new retail customers coming in and seeing the roasting operation,” Hartwich said. “But when you’re in the middle of a roast and you’ve got to interact, that’s a little tough.”
Supporters contributed more than $3,000 to Hartwich and Burwell through the crowd funding website Kickstarter, which will allow them to move their coffee roasting operation to Bellingham’s Sunnyland Neighborhood once their lease at Greene’s Corner ends in May.
The money will allow the couple to finance upgrades to their coffee roaster, named Homer after Hartwich’s grandfather, and also after the ancient poet usually cited as author of the Greek epics the “Illiad” and the “Odyssey.”
They also plan to use the funds to buy new shelving and fixtures, as well cover building permit and occupancy permit costs.
The business’ new home will be at 2000 Franklin St., Suite 101, a block east of Bellingham High School. Hammerhead will share the space with its current occupant, Maniac Coffee Roasting.
Alexarc Mastema, Maniac’s co-owner and roaster, said Hammerhead has been friendly competitor in the local coffee business for years.
He admitted that sharing space with a rival company is an odd idea. But having already established a cooperative business relationship with Hartwich and Burwell, Mastema said his new neighbors will be welcomed.
“[The space is] more than big enough for both of our businesses,” he said.
Gaining additional room is a major reason for the move, Hartwich said. Hammerhead is set to expand its production area from the 260 square feet it has now to about half of the available 2,700 square feet at Franklin Street.
Along with more room, the move will give Hartwich and Burwell better control over the safety, security and design of Hammerhead’s physical location, something they have not had at Greene’s Corner.
Hartwich said that aspect will be particularly important in order to get Hammerhead’s coffee roasting process certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has been a longtime business goal.
Raw ingredients for the company’s roasts are already sourced from organic suppliers, but a lack of control over production space has kept Hammerhead from getting USDA certification.
“Even though everything we bring in is organic, we can’t certify because we don’t control ingress and egress,” Hartwich said. “That’s a huge thing. That will be a big step toward credibility.”
Burwell said the move will also bring Hammerhead closer to the bulk of its client base. She hopes it will increase their visibility in the community, she said.
About 80 percent of Hammerhead’s current business is in wholesale, Hartwich said, and much of it is local.
Hammerhead coffee is sold and served in more than 20 grocery stores, restaurants and food trucks in Bellingham and Whatcom County. It also supplies two out-of-state clients: one in Michigan, the other in Hawaii.
Hartwich said the business has grown 20-30 percent annually since he and Burwell first opened in 2007. For its first two years, Hammerhead operated in a warehouse on Guide Meridian Road, which Hartwich said wound up being too large for their purposes.
“We were a lot busier last year,” he said. “I’m not expecting that type of growth this year, but we’ll see.”
Both Hartwich and Burwell said they are excited to move to the Sunnyland Neighborhood, although Burwell added that it will be difficult to leave the close-knit community they’ve been part of at Greene’s Corner.
“We’ll miss it, but it’s time,” she said.
Evan Marczynski, associate editor of The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or firstname.lastname@example.org.