Furnace Hills Coffee Story
Furnace Hills Coffee was started in 2010 by Dave Baldwin so that his daughter, Erin, would have a job. Erin had moved back to live with her Mom & Dad. She had been living in a residential facility in the Midwest and it was time to bring her home. Since she was new to the state of MD and so were her parents, she was put on the end of ever waiting list that would provide her services. In fact the state told her parents it could be 10 years before they could help her find a job. So the Baldwin’s did some investigating and in April of 2010 Furnace Hills Coffee started its roasting operation in their kitchen. Initially the goal was to employ Erin. The Baldwin’s started researching coffee and this worldwide phenomenon of how coffee gets from the tree to your cup.
- Naturally Grown 100%
- Direct Trade Purchased 100%
- Employs the Disabled 100%
- Customer Happiness – Quality Brew 100%
The winning strategy that Furnace Hills Coffee now embraces:
1. Naturally Grown: We don’t buy coffee from low areas where coffee was “not meant to be grown”, which have to rely on anti-fungus chemicals, pesticides and excessive amounts of artificial fertilizers. Our Bolivian coffees are shade grown.
2. Direct Trade Purchased: We deal directly with farmers or importers who do.
3. Employs the Developmentally Disabled: Our chief roaster has Down syndrome.
4. Quality Brew: Our customers tell us Furnace Hills Coffee tastes great!
Our Community Cup Coffee Story
We met Dave Baldwin in the summer of 2016 and immediately saw the benefit of what he started to our mission to employ people with disabilities. We started selling Furnace Hills Coffee at local farmers’s markets during the summer. This was the start of our marketing analysis to pursue the feasibility of starting a roasting business in Delaware County. Customer response was very promising with nothing but kudos for the quality and flavor of the coffee.
I started looking for a way in which to open such a business. Location was critical. Since we only need about 120 square feet of space for the equipment, we started looking for an existing place in which to rent this small space from them. Zoning and health department requirements had to be addressed in our search for a place. There were lots of places that were available. However, monthly rental costs were not what our business plan would allow. And zoning was a problem.
As we continued our search, Dave came up with an idea to start a coffee subscription service whereby people from our area could participate in a monthly coffee purchase. This would be what we would use to proceed. The orders would be delivered to my home and customer pickup or delivery would be arranged. This would be okay but we would not be employing anyone.
Then two things happened back to back that would allow us to open a place. The first one looked really promising and I was proceeding with negotiations when another opportunity suddenly appeared. I had sent a Facebook message to a local restaurant in Media PA asking if they had ever considered adding coffee roasting to their business. You never know unless you ask. I was pleasantly surprised that the answer was “yes”. After speaking with them and learning more, this was the golden opportunity we had been looking for.
Who did I reach out to? It was DiFabio’s Restaurant in Media PA. After meeting with Frank Agovino, DiFabio’s owner, the idea was finalized. Frank is creating a “not your average coffee shop“. Media Bean Company is a collaboration of DiFabio’s founder Frank Agovino and Jim Wurster, Co-founder of New Avenue Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit public charity whose mission is to help create more meaningful lives for people with disabilities. One key part of their mission is to help find gainful employment and provide training for adults with disabilities.
“When Jim approached us about the idea I felt in my heart right away that it was something I was going to be involved with,” Agovino said. What is the idea exactly?
The Media Bean Company will be housed at 1032 N. Providence Road in Upper Providence Township in the former home of Brazuca the recently closed Brazilian restaurant and the original DiFabio’s before their move to larger and sleeker digs at the old Rose Tree restaurant.
The concept is straightforward. The Media Bean Company will offer on premise fresh roasted, fair trade coffee from South America and Africa which will create an amazing coffee product. The coffee beans, however, will be roasted by adults with disabilities. Our Community Cup Coffee, as it is called, will not only be available by the cup in the new location but will be packaged for retail sale in the shop as well as farmers markets throughout the region. A portion of all proceeds of coffee sales at Media Bean Company will go back to New Avenue Foundation.
The adults who will be employed, will be trained how to roast and package the coffee and they will always be supervised. Disabled people are truly a gift and take pride in what they do. This will be an awesome product because the employees will care 100%.
We are now proceeding with a target opening date in late-April.
I was thinking about SAP’s goal to have 1% of their workforce to be people with autism. Microsoft and Oracle have similar goals. How about if our social enterprise turns this goal around and we have 10% of our workforce to be people who are neuro-typical and don’t have a disability. I like that!
We are thinking of many things to help make our story a success. These include:
- Making this venture an employee-owned business
- Making a coffee delivery service to provide more jobs to individuals who drive
- Adding bikes and scooters as a way of delivery coffee to our customers
- Adding a role of marketing to provide more jobs to help sell our coffee to businesses and individuals
Proud father of an adult daughter with autism.
Jim is co-founder and Director of Community Programs at New Avenue Foundation.
Team Member 1
Company RoleWho will be our first team member?
Team Member 1
Company RoleWho will be our second team member?