Trading up: Starting with coffee mug, Grand Forks coffee shop making trades toward new equipment

Starting with a coffee mug, Justin Auch is trading items of increasing value until the shop can obtain a new coffee grinder or other equipment to help keep up with a growing demand.

Justin Auch, an owner of Urban Stampede, has started a series of trades, starting with a coffee mug, toward a more expensive piece of equipment to help the coffee shop keep up with a growing demand. (Ingrid Harbo / Grand Forks Herald)

GRAND FORKS – Justin Auch may be the only person in the world who can say he has successfully traded a coffee mug for a car.

At downtown Grand Forks coffee shop Urban Stampede, the need for new equipment led Auch, one of the shop’s owners, to come up with a creative solution to reach that goal — trading up.

Starting with a coffee mug, he is trading items of increasing value until the shop can obtain a new coffee grinder or other piece of expensive equipment to help the shop keep up with a growing demand. Within a week of starting the challenge, he traded items with community members up to a car.

Originally, the goal was to trade up to a Fiorenzato coffee grinder, which retails at $3,150. But, after trading got off to a quicker-than-expected start, Auch says that goal could shift to something bigger and better, like a new coffee roaster or a food truck for the coffee shop to take to events.

“We’ll see how the next few rounds go, and if we want to make a really big splash, then yeah, we’ll go for the truck,” said Auch.


The idea of trading items of increasing value up to an item of larger value came from a popular blog in the mid-aughts where a man documented the process of trading a paperclip for a house.

“I’ve always thought about that in my mind and always wanted to do it,” said Auch. “With the business, we’re at a point where we probably can’t be as free with the reinvestment as we want to be, so let’s get creative, let’s get scrappy and maybe get some attention.”


Jonathan Holth, one of Urban Stampede’s co-owners and a co-owner of Toasted Frog, said Auch has a lot of ideas, so the idea of trading a coffee mug for an expensive piece of equipment did not come as a surprise. Plus, he says Urban Stampede is a business known for having a lot of fun.

“With the exception of our product that we serve and our service, we’ve really tried not to take ourselves too seriously and this is a perfect example,” said Holth.

For Urban Stampede, an original, branded coffee mug seemed like the right place to start, Auch said. Its retail value?

“Well, because it was an original Urban Stampede (mug), it’s priceless,” said Auch. “But yeah, probably like $5, maybe less.”

Auch posted the original mug on the Urban Stampede Instagram and Facebook pages on Jan. 25, and had offers for trades almost immediately. The first trade came from a person close to Urban Stampede — Kelly Thompson, the co-founder and former co-owner of Urban Stampede, co-owner of neighboring business Ink, Inc. and local artist. Thompson traded the mug for an original piece of artwork.


“That was a huge leap because he’s a very well-respected artist and that was really cool,” said Auch. “I didn’t expect it to start that quickly.”

The next trade came later that day from Holth, who traded a bottle of 2007 Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne, which has an estimated retail value of $289. He and his wife collect both wine and local art, making the trade an easy one.

“To us that was a no brainer — to get rid of a bottle and to obtain another piece of art from a local artist,” he said.

Jonathan Holth holds an original Kelly Thompson sketch, which Thompson traded for a coffee mug. (Contributed / Justin Auch)

Rachel Eider, who owns nearby clothing store RH Standard, said she jumped at the opportunity to trade something for a nice bottle of champagne. She offered up a $370 fox fur collar from Montreal for the champagne, which Auch accepted.

“Being a downtown business owner, you have to have a little bit of a sense of humor and participate in the things your neighbors are doing — it’s fun, it’s helpful,” Eider said. “If someone is doing something cool, you want to help out or participate if you can.”

She plans to bring the bottle of champagne with her on an upcoming trip with friends.

Justin Auch wears a fox fur collar that was traded for a bottle of champagne. (Contibuted / Justin Auch)

On Jan. 31, less than a week after trading started, Auch announced the most recent trade — a 1999 Saab 9-3 Convertible. Though the car’s roof is stuck in a down position, Auch says it still runs well and estimates it is worth around $1000.

Since getting the convertible, no trades have been completed, but many offers have been made. Items offered include a professional go-kart, an assault rifle, a four wheeler, several snowmobiles and trucks. As the items have become higher in value, Auch wants to be more strategic about the next steps.


“We have to balance what we accept and when we accept it — we’ve got to keep the momentum going but you don’t want to end up with something that’s going to be impossible to move or impossible to store,” he said.

Jonathan Holth is pictured in the convertible traded for a fox fur collar. (Contributed / Justin Auch)

Holth attributes the success of the challenge so far to community members that want to be part of something fun.

“What’s been really fun is getting the community on board with it and seeing the interest far and wide,” said Holth. “We’ve had offers not just from Grand Forks, but from throughout the region.”

Auch, Holth and Shawn Clapp bought Urban Stampede from Thompson and co-owner Patti Eider in 2020. At the time, the business was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demand for Urban Stampede’s product, inside the store and at events, has grown since the trio bought the coffee shop, Auch said, necessitating creative solutions to keeping up with the demand — like trading a coffee mug for some kind of expensive equipment.

“We need the infrastructure — we need all the equipment to actually do it correctly to really take the next steps,” said Auch.

While it has been nearly a month since the last public update on Urban Stampede’s trading challenge, the next trade could happen any day.

“I can pull the trigger on a number of things already, I’ve just got to do it,” said Auch.

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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