Roastery offers coffee locally
While Molly Friedrich-Nicaise and her husband, Christophe Nicaise, were volunteering in Haiti on a mission trip in 2009, they noticed one thing about many of the groups who work there.
“A lot of nonprofits go into the community, then leave,” Friedrich-Nicaise said.
That process creates a cycle of economic progress for families while the nonprofit is in Haiti, followed by poverty once volunteers head home, Friedrich-Nicaise said.
Shortly after their return, the couple began looking for ways to create long-term sustainability — in the form of steady employment — for the Haitians.
“We started doing research about Haiti’s exports,” she said.
They learned that coffee is one of the nation’s chief crops. They also found that much of the infrastructure — such as machines to wash the beans — already existed in Haiti.
That inspired the couple to start Singing Rooster, a nonprofit company that buys green coffee beans from Haitian farmers, roasts them in its Hager City roastery and then sells the finished coffee. All of the proceeds go back to the farmers.
“We thought it would be a quick way to infuse the economy,” Friedrich-Nicaise said.
So far, the nonprofit has been able to give more than $86,000 back to the Haitians.
“This is a social nonprofit,” Friedrich-Nicaise said. “But we couldn’t be more about money. We’re preaching autonomy, sustainability.”
That money allows farmers to reinvest in their coffee-growing businesses. Friedrich-Nicaise said her nonprofit also helps the farmers determine business strategies and helps them find smart ways to spend the money.
“They respect you for that,” she said.
For the past four years, Singing Rooster has relied on online coffee sales and community and religious groups buying wholesale and then selling the coffee for fundraisers.
But beginning this month, Singing Rooster will sell its coffee beans directly to consumers in local shops, including Meatheads Meat and Deli, Inc., 2954 North Service Drive, Koplin’s Village Market, 401 Bush St., and the Red Wing Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the levee in downtown Red Wing.
Cheryl Koplin said her store carries a lot of local products, but Singing Rooster will be the first locally roasted coffee on Koplin’s shelves.
“If you can purchase something that you purchase anyways and you know that people are benefiting, those are always the great things,” Koplin said. “You’re giving back to Haiti without changing anything but the product that you purchase.”
Koplin said the market will carry all three roasts — a medium, a medium-dark and a dark — that Singing Rooster offers.
Moving forward, Friedrich-Nicaise said she hopes that Singing Rooster will be able to find more local retailers to sell the coffee.
“Locally roasted coffee tastes better. It's at the peak of freshness,” Friedrich-Nicaise said.
She continued, adding that selling locally not only helps the nonprofit save in shipping costs, it also becomes a tool to talk about the importance of economic development in Haiti.
“I'm hoping to engage other groups in Red Wing,” she said. “If we could sell 20 percent of our inventory locally, it would mean significant gains for our nonprofit; we'd save thousands of dollars annually in shipping costs and could devote that money toward our work with farmers.”