For 5 Questions this week the Herald speaks to Jeff VanGrinsven, who owns Heroes Rise Coffee Company. The business began in Bemidji, Minnesota, and recently opened a location in Crookston.
Q: What's the concept behind your coffee shops?
A: Our concept is pretty easy. It's getting a great cup of coffee to everyday heroes. Those heroes could be police, firefighters, EMS, teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, moms and dads, just trying to survive. I'm a retired police chief and my son is a flight paramedic. We have a long history in EMS, police and fire world, as well as military, too.
Q: Do you franchise? What was it like opening in Crookston during the pandemic?
A: We're not franchising yet. That's a really good question, but there's a good possibility in the near future. In this world that we're in right now, you either go for it or stay home. We're Christian based; we just have faith in what we're doing and serving great cups of coffee. People come back for that. People don't mind paying $5 for a great cup of coffee; when you go to these other places, you pay five bucks for coffee and it's so sugary, so syrupy.
Q: What has been the response of the communities where you work?
A: Actually great. In Bemidji, we always give away free coffee to officers in uniform. We gave almost $50,000 away of coffee last year. When COVID first hit, we were on the trailer and we were at the police departments, fire departments, hospitals, schools, nursing homes and just gave away coffee. So now, people will come pay it forward and say ‘hey, we just want to pay for an officer's meal.’ We have money in both places, where a police officer comes in or some of the EMS workers, a fireman that's in uniform, and they go to pay for their meals, and it's been paid for. And it’s not always by us, citizens like doing it. So it's kind of neat to see that from the community, with the backing of their blue.
Q: What other fundraising or charitable efforts are you involved in?
A: We work with schools; we work with private entities. We've done 4-H groups, and we've done fire departments. It's almost like the Girl Scout fundraising, where you go out and you sell the coffee then collect the money, come back and deliver the coffee. The latest one we just did was with a boys and girls club over here, boxing, where they need to raise money to keep their place open.
Q: Do you roast your own coffee? What other menu items do you have?
A: We do, so we get all of our beans from Café Imports, and we take it from green to the customer. That's how we keep the consistency with the great coffee taste. We have chips, cold sandwiches, hot sandwiches. Our breakfast bagel is great because we get the bagels from Two Sisters Bagels in Bagley, and that has taken off, too.