FLOWOOD — Walking into the Coffee Roastery could make any coffee aficionado weak in the knees, especially on the days Debra Griffin is roasting the coffee beans in her huge, fire-engine red commercial coffee roaster.
On those days, the smell of coffee permeates the air around Dogwood Festival Market. But it is inside the upscale specialty coffeehouse that customers get a real treat. Dr. John Davis, a regular customer of the Coffee Roastery, watched one day as Griffin carefully checked and rechecked the color of the beans as they changed from green to warm brown tones. Finally she opened the roaster when the beans were just the right color. The hot, fresh-roasted coffee tumbled out onto a large stainless steel cooling drum attached to the machine.
As Griffin did this, Davis leaned closer to the roaster, closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He sighed. After the beans had cooled some, Griffin picked up a handful and showed the glistening coffee beans to those who had gathered in her presence.
“These will have to sit for at least 24 hours before we can grind them and use them in our coffee,” she said, and tossed them back into the cooler with the rest of the coffee beans.
Davis looked up. He was puzzled, almost upset by the statement, and Griffin smiled a wide smile as if she understood his dismay.
“They’re shiny because of the sugar and oil in the beans,” she said. “It takes at least 24 hours for this to caramelize, and after that the beans can be ground up.”
Davis smiled, apparently pleased with what Griffin had said. “Well,” he said, “I’d better get to work. Thank you.” The two shook hands and Davis opened the glass door to the roasting room and walked out into the coffeehouse, then outside to his car.
It was about 8:30 a.m. and a small crowd of employees had gathered around the roaster. Griffin moved a large steel bucket, like one used for apple-bobbing, up close to the machine, and called store manager Walter Ward over to carefully open the door to the drum that was still cooling the coffee beans. When he did this, the coffee beans fell down into the bucket.
The fresher, the better
This scene is repeated once or twice a week, depending on customer demand, and Griffin, who is also the administrator at the Humphreys County Hospital (she works at the Roastery Friday-Sunday), is usually the one doing the roasting.
“I’m not a master roaster, but it’s fresh and anything fresh is probably going to have a better taste than something that’s not,” Griffin said. “I’m taking something that’s green and roasting it and then delivering a beverage that people enjoy and come back for.”
Griffin has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She is the founder of the Delta Rural Health Network, and at the age of 27 became the administrator for Claiborne County Hospital. She decided to open the Coffee Roastery after about a year and a half of thinking about it and planning for it.
“I love coffee and it’s also profitable,” Griffin said. After buying her own coffee roaster a little more than a year ago, Griffin was hooked on the idea. “It’s a business that if you do it well, source good products, have good customer service and a warm, friendly place, you can’t do bad.”
And while success is not guaranteed by any means, Griffin has taken extra precaution be sure her business is not destined to fail. She has nailed a chair high up on the wall of her Coffee Roastery to ensure just that.
“Everywhere I go I put a chair on the wall so my angel watches over me,” Griffin said.
Whether the business’ growing popularity is a result of divine intervention or just good business sense is up for grabs, but whatever the case, the Coffee Roastery is fast becoming a success in the Rankin County mall.
Born and raised in Bolton, Griffin was looking to build relationships, not sell someone a $1 or $2 cup of coffee. That is why she offers a cozy environment to her customers, which includes everything from reading material and board games to a working fireplace. The burlap coffee bags glued to the walls of the coffeehouse’s bathroom also provide a touch of warmth.
“I’m not going to say there weren’t hard days,” Griffin said. “But you just take it one day at a time.” Griffin recalled talking to Gail Pittman about a ceramic line of dishes for the coffeehouse, which Griffin now displays prominently in her store.
“I told her I was afraid of the responsibility of signing my life away,” Griffin said. But, she said, “She had been afraid too. The feelings I’m feeling aren’t uncommon but once you’re out there you just have to keep doing it. I guess the adage is that anything worth having is worth working for no matter how hard it is.”
And, Griffin said, opening the Coffee Roastery has proved to be very rewarding.
“The reward is not only the finished product but also seeing customers satisfied and enjoying what you’ve done,” Griffin said.
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.