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Business Observer Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022 4 months ago

Behind the beans: Happy coffee guy grows grumpy-led business

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Grumpy Goat Coffee keeps building buzz in Bonita Springs. One key to the early success? A willingness to find and utilize partners and collaborators.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributor

When Brian Abernathy moved to Southwest Florida from the St. Paul-Minneapolis area in 2013, he couldn’t find the kind of locally roasted, single-origin coffee he enjoyed. Seeing a need, he began thinking about how he could bring high-quality coffee to this area.

He wanted to hang on to his full-time job in software development and sales, so he ruled out opening a coffee shop. But sourcing green beans from around the world, roasting them fresh in Southwest Florida and then selling them to fellow coffee lovers would allow him to start off on a smaller scale and build the business in a manageable way.

"Everything that I source is single-origin, gourmet-grade, fully traceable coffee. I know when and where it was harvested and have all the documentation." — Brian Abernathy, Grumpy Goat Coffee

Abernathy purchased his first roaster in 2016 and began his venture as a cottage food business in Bonita Springs, calling it Grumpy Goat Coffee. The name’s partially a nod to an Ethiopian legend that says a goat herder discovered coffee after observing his goats were extra energetic after eating berries from certain trees. The grumpy part comes from how us humans might feel in the morning before our first cup of joe.

“So while I take coffee very, very seriously, I have a lot of fun with the brand,” says Abernathy, 40. “I purposely went with a branding approach that is very fun and makes high-quality coffee approachable…Having a fun name that gets people to smile and having a story behind the name makes us recognizable and the brand stands out.”

Today Grumpy Goat operates out of a 1,200-square-foot commercial space in Bonita Springs that Abernathy purchased in late 2019. The buildout took longer than expected due to the pandemic, but the company officially started roasting in its new space in August.

Abernathy declines to share specific revenue or production volume figures, but he says the company has seen “measured and consistent growth.” He grew the business with a grass-roots approach, bringing his coffee to farmers markets and pop-up events. A willingness to partner and collaborate with local breweries and other businesses helped introduce Grumpy Goat to more potential customers.

Brian Abernathy purchased his first roaster for Bonita Springs-based Grumpy Goat Coffee in 2016. (Photo by Stefania Pifferi)

“The path to growth was to identify unique opportunities that would simply put our coffee in more people’s hands and get them familiar with who we were and what we do and why we think quality and freshness matters,” he says.

Abernathy doesn’t roast just any old coffee bean. “Everything I source is single-origin, gourmet-grade, fully traceable coffee,” he says. “I know when and where it was harvested and have all the documentation.”

He finds coffees all over the world, from Brazil and El Salvador to Burundi and Tanzania. “The variety of origins we roast is really second to none,” he says. “Nobody is putting out the variety that we put out.” 

Customer engagement and feedback helps lead him and the folks who drink Grumpy Goat Coffee to new discoveries. “The varieties I have are the result of listening to my customers,” says Abernathy. “I enjoy engaging with the customers. It helps me grow the business and tells me what they like and what they want to try, and that’s what makes it fun. That’s where my passion is, delighting people with coffee.”

Customers can buy Grumpy Goat Coffee from the company’s website (grumpygoat.com), at the roastery on Saturdays or by appointment and at area spots like the Vanderbilt Farmers Market in North Naples. Grumpy Goat also supplies coffee to Chartreuse Craft Cocktail Lounge and the Downtown Coffee and Wine Company in Bonita Springs, The Vine Room in Naples and Juice Society at Coconut Point, as well as to various offices around the region.

While the pandemic slowed down the buildout of the new roastery and put a temporary damper on farmers markets and events sales, Abernathy saw an uptick in online sales. “A lot of people realized they were home all day and said, ‘I really want good coffee, and now I have the time to make it and I have the time to enjoy it,’” he says.

In-person events have since picked back up. The company also launched a cold brew product line in fall 2021 and is currently working on collaborations with Ceremony Brewing in Bonita Springs and Olde Naples Chocolate. Abernathy expects to see continued growth in 2022 and will keep looking for opportunities to align the company with other like-minded local businesses.

“Our goal is to continue to bring awareness to where we are,” he says. “People are very familiar with the brand; it’s been around for over six years in the area. Now it’s getting all those people to know we have a new home here in Bonita Springs.”

Grumpy Goat Coffee remains a one-man show. But that could change down the road as the company keeps growing. And there may come a day when Abernathy leaves his corporate software job behind to fully focus on his buzzy brand. “The goal has always been to continue to build it in a manner that keeps me passionate and keeps my customers happy,” he says. “At a certain point, when the timing and size is right, my intention is definitely to transition to it being a full-time thing.”

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