Family business steeps in coffee, tea
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 00:03
Casey and Dennis Collett have made a family business out of selling coffee and tea at their shop in downtown Corvallis.
Inside of Corvallis Coffee and Tea, jars of tea and coffee dominate the walls, with smatterings of coffee cups and other related merchandise dotted around the room.
The Colletts’ business began 10 years ago in the adjacent shop, now used for storage and coffee roasting. Then, it was called Oregon Legacy, and specialized in packaging coffee for gift shops.
Dennis Collett received a six-to-eight hour crash-course in coffee roasting from the previous owners and learned the rest on his own, reading “voraciously” and experimenting.
“At the end of the roast, the difference between a medium roast and a dark roast is only about 30 seconds,” Dennis Collett said. “The difference between a good batch of dark roast and burnt coffee is only about 10 seconds.”
Before Oregon Legacy, the Colletts owned other small businesses, including a skateboard shop, and when the space opened up downtown, they took it.
“We saw it on a Friday and bought it on a Monday,” Casey Collett said.
After six-and-a-half years, the space became too small for their growing business, Casey Collett said, and they opened up at the current location on the same block at 215 Northwest Monroe Avenue.
The Colletts sell 350 varieties of tea and 20 varieties of coffee weekly, including green coffee beans for self-roasting.
The Colletts will be attending the World Tea Expo this June in Las Vegas. Casey Collett said tea sales have been climbing.
“We try to offer things for people who want to take a world tour of coffee,” Casey Collett said.
“I think what’s happening in this country is that coffee is popular, but teas are being discovered,” Casey Collett said. “And oddly enough in tea drinking countries like India and China, coffees are being discovered.”
Casey Collett said they make an effort to include “as many organic and fair coffees as the market will bear.”
“There is a price premium in some cases for organic and fair trade coffee,” Casey Collett said. “With teas, it’s a lot harder to get fair trade. We have a few fair trade teas, but we have a lot of organic teas, and we’re always looking for more.”
Casey Collett said they are “very mindful of costs” and try to “make tea and coffee accessible” to their customers.
“Our customers are very conscious of the working conditions of the people that both pick tea and coffee,” Dennis Collett said.
Corvallis Tea and Coffee offers incentives to customers for reusing bags and bringing in their own coffee cups.
“We’re a very recycling, green concept kind of family, and we just carry those concepts on to the business,” Casey Collett said.
Customers Lydia and David Maddux bought a coffee grinder that Corvallis Coffee and Tea now stocks after hearing their suggestions. The Maddux’s have been frequenting the shop since before they moved locations.
“Every Saturday morning before farmer’s market you’ll probably find us sitting at that table over there,” Lydia Maddux said, referring to a table beside the window. “We tell everyone about this place.”
Casey Collett has noticed an increase in the number of college-aged students, especially international students, visiting the shop.
Miriam Collett, daughter to Dennis and Casey, began working at the shop in 2006 after receiving her undergraduate degree in fine arts from Oregon State University. She has a master’s in merchandising management from OSU. She’s also noticed an increase in undergraduate student customers recently.
“A lot of people come in and they’ll ask for something [to help] them study,” Miriam Collett said. “They need something to keep them awake, or they need something to help keep them healthy and they have specific goals for coming in.”
In 2011, Corvallis Coffee and Tea was a finalist for the Micro Family Business Award in the OSU Excellence in Family Business Awards Program. The program is part of the Austin Family Business Program that seeks to “applaud the accomplishments and contributions of family businesses for their innovation, entrepreneurship, commitment and heart,” according to the College of Business website.
McKinley Smith, news reporter