Self-professed foodies and sisters Amber Haemer, Jennifer Zaffke and Krystle Guerrero grew up in a small business environment. When the time was right, they broadened the offerings at 109 W. Redwood Street in Edgar, Wis., to include some pretty amazing artisanal coffee with the establishment of Redwood Street Roasters.
That was in 2015, when the sisters and their husbands, Wyatt Haemer, Aaron Zaffke and Francisco Guerrero, came together to create their own microroastery.
The microroastery was a belated outgrowth of sister Krystle’s travels to South America for an internship in hospitality and tourism. It was there she discovered not only her future husband but also a passion for the continent’s wine and, over time, its coffee beans.
Years later, the Guerreros began dabbling in microroasting coffee beans before the six of them decided to set up shop for a microroastery, and where else would they locate it than in the family-centric location on Redwood Street that’s been in the family for more than 40 years, and which is also home to the family’s floral business (Stark’s Floral), wine bar (Entre Copas Wine Cellar) and ice cream shop?
“We thought, ‘we can do this,’” said Amber Haemer, who works full-time on the business. Her siblings and brothers-in-law participate in other ways including managing graphic design and the website, performing mechanical maintenance and some roasting.
They added a microroastery that also served coffee to the 1900s-era building that’s an anchor in the community.
Redwood Street Roasters had to put a halt on the in-shop coffee experience during COVID-19, limiting business to curbside pickup, online retail orders and wholesale orders, but they seized the opportunity to manage the blowing up of the boiler that dated to 1902 and to perform some remodeling.
“We’re revamping the ice cream shop and floor space for the coffee setup,” Amber said.
They kept the business front of mind with website and social media promotions that included free shipping or 20 percent off as well as online orders. Customers could pick up their orders between the double doors that lead into the building without any face-to-face interaction.
In addition, Redwood Street Roasters was able to continue to roast its beans and provide for coffee shops through its wholesale business.
“Overall, it’s been both really good and not so good, depending on what piece of the business we’re talking about,” Amber said. “Online orders were really good. Grocery store orders were great because apparently, people have been sitting at home and drinking a lot of coffee. Sales to other coffee shop drive-thrus were good, but businesses and churches that served our coffee dropped off.”
People have been tremendous in keeping us going, and keeping other local businesses going as well. I just hope the buy local movement that’s going on continues as more things open up. —
Amber Haemer, co-owner,
Redwood Street Roasters,
In addition, most April/May/June events on the shop’s calendar have been cancelled — including bazaars and 5Ks — although a few continue in modified form such as the farmers’ markets in Wausau and Minocqua, for example.
We’ve been participating in community events since day one, and we like going out and getting involved,” Amber said. The local farmers’ market environment have required shifts in setup, extent of sanitation and which products they can offer but they’re happily out there and participating.
Fortunately, about 75 percent of the microroastery’s business is on the wholesale side, so “we’ve been able to hold our own,” she said. “But when we think of where we could have been at this time [without COVID-19], of course business is down.”
Thanks to a loyal following for the store’s beans, pour over coffee, Nitro Cold Brew and other favorites, they have seen incremental growth year to year since the business’ inception.
Amber was able to come on as its sole fulltime employee about two years ago whereas all the other family members work in part-time capacities alongside their regular work, but it’s a labor of love; “we really like to find great food and drink and like focusing on the details,” she said.
That’s why their business focuses on fair trade, organic, high-quality beans obtained from single-farmer plantations and roasted to develop the characteristics of specific beans. “There’s a lot of technology and time that goes into developing these profiles, and we’re not satisfied until we have a really good product,” she said.
Freshness is key, which is why they only roast in microbatches, delivering product once a week to many customers versus once a month as other roasters may do.
“We’d rather do a little bit at a time and do another fresh batch rather than have it sit on a shelf for any length of time,” she said.
Best sellers vary. In the summer, light or medium roasts tend to prevail with the warmer weather, but French roasts and dark roasts are also popular.
The Nitro cold brew is a hit, especially with locally sourced Tapped Maple Syrup, in the recipe, as are Redwood Street Roasters’ collaborations with different breweries.
These include Bull Falls Brewery in Wausau, Sawmill Brewing Company in Merrill and Mosinee Brewing Company in Merrill, with which the microroastery works to make coffee beers beyond just coffee stouts.
Redwood Street Roasters has always focused on working locally, and hopes that its customers and others maintain a focus on doing business locally in the current climate.
“People have been tremendous in keeping us going, and keeping other local businesses going as well,” Amber said. “I just hope the buy local movement that’s going on continues as more things open up.”