By Marie L. Monyak
December 13, 2005
I was greeted by Nate Root, the manager of the Raven's Brew roastery in Ketchikan. Root asked what my favorite blend was and proceeded to grind and brew a hot steamy cup of my choice, Deadman's Reach. While my coffee was brewing, Root shared the story of how he came to Ketchikan almost five years ago. Following a girlfriend here from New Hampshire, Root began at Raven's Brew as a shipping clerk, moved up to production supervisor and finally, manager of the roastery, the position he still holds today.
From left to right: Patty Langman, Nate Root, David Williams
Photo by Marie L. Monyak
Once roasted, the beans move to Patty Langman who is in charge of packing, labeling and shipping. Wearing a Raven's Brew T-shirt, Langman is busy affixing labels and filling bags that will be shipped later in the day.
Suddenly the tour was over. I earned a quizzical look from Root when I asked, "But where is the rest; the white coated factory workers, the conveyor belts, shelves full of inventory, bellowing smoke stacks?" Suddenly, the point Root had been trying to make was driven home; Ravens Brew roasts to order. They never begin roasting until a merchant or customer places an order. The beans that Williams was roasting were going directly into the bags that Langman was preparing for shipment. The small counter, not much larger than a dining room table, with the finished product, is the "factory". I had the proof I had been looking for. Raven's Brew delivers exactly what it promises, a quality product that is truly a labor of love.
Root and I moved to the office to discuss the business end of Raven's Brew. "We try not to draw attention to ourselves (the roastery) as we are not open for retail sales." Root explained, when I asked why there were no signs outside the building. Root went on to say, "We are here to help our customers by supplying product and advertising, not competing with them." "We are also very active in the community, donating to local charities and fund raisers. We just want the community to know we are here, that we are a Ketchikan business."
Raven's Brew was created in Ketchikan in 1991 by a group of local friends. Today, the business is co-owned by Michael Beech, his wife Leslie Morgan and Howard Holman. Many old time Ketchikanians will recognize these names as they hail from our fair city. Currently Beech lives in Washington state, as he travels constantly throughout the tropical belts in search of coffee beans, be it Mexico or South America, wherever Beech can find the premium beans that can wear the Raven's Brew label.
Beech isn't just the buyer he is the creative force behind Raven's Brew. Root said it best, "Michael is the stick that stirs our cup."
Artist Ray Troll explained, "Everything you see, the labels, logos, catalog or web site are a collaborative effort of many people." "Beech is the creative genius that plants the seed, then conversation and brainstorming follows." Troll said, "It's like the credits at the end of a movie, there's a producer, director, artist, and so on."
Visit Ray Troll's trollart.com
Photo by Marie L. Monyak
There have been more names, labels and logos. The inimitable Troll relates how, during a barbecue he was hosting, he wanted to invent a righteous name and came up with Resurrection because it's an invigorating name. At the other end of the spectrum was the name Three Peckered Billy Goat. There was some trepidation about the name, so they sat on it for three or four years not wanting to "cross the line" as Troll puts it. Eventually it was released as a welcome addition to the line. Wicked Wolf with it's catchphrase "Grannie's Gone but the Coffee's On" and Bruin Blend with "Grin And Bear It" were the brainchild of a very imaginative Beech.
Not to be forgotten is Beech's wife, Leslie Morgan a self proclaimed shy person and an artist in her own right, with numerous gallery showings to her credit. She prefers to stay in the shadows, producing the Raven's Brew catalog that would rival any art gallery publication. It is in her electronic studio that Morgan works her magic, combining all the elements of their products, displaying and describing them in a way that is truly unique to Raven's Brew. If that isn't enough, she maintains the web site that is used by thirsty coffee drinkers all over the country and Canada to order their favorite libation and, as Morgan calls them, "objects of deep desire." What else could that be, except the world famous Raven's Brew T-shirts, aprons, commuter mugs, posters and hats.
I was told that the work which is accomplished by these amazingly creative people is a labor of love, and there is no doubt. The end result of their efforts can only come from the synergy of an off-beat, slightly crazy bunch, that have never had to worry about thinking outside the box, as that is where they live daily.
Beech said he wants the good people of Ketchikan to know, "The name Ketchikan is on every bag of Raven's Brew that is shipped all over the United States. While people are reading the bag, Ketchikan is on their lips." In a very humble manner Beech added, "No matter what we've done internally, Raven's Brew success is due not just to the people, the Raven's Brew crew, but Ketchikan coffee drinkers and the merchants in Ketchikan who have supported us. With their embrace of this company and all their support, Raven's Brew is their baby, they brought it up by its bootstraps." "They, the people of Ketchikan, created the basis for its success, statewide and nationwide, and we just love them for that."
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This freelance story was commissioned by SitNews.
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