The Makers: Sandy and Trish Toomer
Toomer’s Coffee Roasters, Auburn
As longtime coffee aficionados, it just made sense to Sandy and Trish Toomer to turn their love of the morning brew into a business.
“Coffee has always been a big part of our lives,” said Trish. “We call it a social lubricant. We see drinking coffee as a good time to get together for fellowship with friends.”
Sandy and Trish own Toomer’s Coffee Roasters in Auburn, where they have been handcrafting java for 13 years using the highest-quality coffee beans from around the world. Their business, which opened as a small coffee shop, has blossomed and expanded as the couple’s experience has grown.
The Toomers began selling their coffee online. Then, in 2013, they sold their little shop, deciding to focus solely on roasting their own coffee and selling it on the wholesale market.
“When we opened in Auburn in 2004, we were the only true stand-alone coffee shop in the area,” said Sandy. “During the next 10 years, 10 other coffee shops opened, but they all went back out of business. We were profitable every year, even during the economic downturn. It was because people loved our coffee, and many would travel from out of state to stop and buy it.”
Sandy said it’s the way their coffee is roasted that makes the difference.
The Toomers heat the coffee beans in small batches. The beans are heated by infrared gas blocks, allowing them to roast more slowly and thoroughly, and at lower temperatures. Most coffee companies heat the beans using conventional gas roasters.
“You won’t get that burnt taste with an infrared roaster because we roast the coffee beans more slowly,” said Sandy. “Another side benefit is that the infrared process takes the acid out of the coffee that can cause an upset stomach.”
The couple said the consistent flavor of each coffee they produce also sets it apart. Working through a coffee broker, they purchase high-grade beans from the leading countries in the industry, including Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Sumatra, Jamaica, Tanzania and Indonesia.
Their flavors are consistent, Sandy said, because they find coffees they like and “stick with them.”
Sandy and Trish are again expanding their business and exploring new avenues. Sprouts Farmers Market, which has more than 275 stores nationwide, recently began carrying Toomer’s coffees.
Spreading the know-how
This year, the couple started offering consulting services.
“We were spending a lot of time on the phone consulting with people who wanted to open their own shop, so we decided to leverage the knowledge we have gained over the years to help others become successful,” Sandy said.
Sandy and Trish have helped 14 coffee shops get off the ground. They travel to each shop, where they can provide on-site guidance. They walk the owner through everything from purchasing equipment to hiring employees to finding the best location.
“We spend one to two days with the owners, depending on their needs,” said Trish, who manages this arm of the business. “It’s a win-win proposition because all the shops we have helped sell our coffee.”
Although they have always loved coffee, Sandy and Trish became true connoisseurs while serving for 15 years as missionaries in Ecuador and Costa Rica. Sandy was a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and flew nearly 3,000 hours serving missionaries and indigenous tribes in the Amazon rain forest. Trish was the hospitality coordinator, providing a welcoming atmosphere for missionaries and church workers visiting MAF’s base in Ecuador.
In 2002, Sandy became a recruiter for MAF in Auburn, bringing the couple and their two teenage children back to the U.S. To help ends meet, the family was looking for a second income when a friend mentioned they should consider opening a coffee shop.
“We discovered how good coffee can be when we lived in Costa Rica. When it was suggested that we start a coffee company, I thought, ‘Why not?’” Trish said.
The idea took off, and the company is still growing.
Doing the right thing
Sandy and Trish hosted their first “coffee cupping” at a shop in Auburn last month. It was similar to a wine-tasting, except the evening was spent sampling coffees.
Sandy calls the company a “mom and pop” business, with both of them working together to carry the load. While he primarily roasts the coffee, works with the broker to purchase the beans and manages the online store, Trish serves as bookkeeper, buys supplies and equipment, and is the consulting services coordinator.
“We attribute our success to persistence, consistency and doing the right thing,” Sandy said. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be successful. What you need is a good product – sell good coffee. We believe if you have patience, do the right thing and do it every day consistently, you will succeed.”
The Product: More than 20 varieties of infrared-roasted, small-batch coffee, including favorites Auburn City Blend, Costa Rican Willow and Sumatran Kokowagayo.
Take Home: A 12-ounce package of the bold Auburn City Blend, Toomer’s best-selling coffee, available for $11.95 at Toomer’s online store.
Toomer’s Coffee Roasters, Auburn, AL
334-332-6652 or 334-329-9852; www.toomerscoffee.com/.