RICHLAND, WA - In the middle of the recession, almost nine years ago, a Tri-Cities transplant decided to open a business. Now, he's something of a local 'mocha mogul.' A self-proclaimed ''coffee guy,'' Wes Heyden brewed up the idea of Roasters Coffee and hasn't looked back yet. Today, there are ten locations.
"Wasn't planning on that," Heyden said with a laugh. "The goal was five stores and we just kept on going."
His footprint on the local coffee scene is so much bigger, though. He brought the first Dutch Brothers franchise into the Tri-Cities.
"Yeah I actually grew up with the Dutch Brothers family and team down in southern Oregon. Went to the same high school. The best man in my wedding was the son of one of the original guys that started the company," explained Heyden.
After opening Roasters Coffee, Heyden eventually decided to go straight to the source: the coffee beans.
"I got into roasting in 2011, I think," said Heyden. "We ended up purchasing a coffee roaster on Craigslist and went headfirst into it. For the first year or so I struggled to produce the right coffee and the right taste and the customers had to suffer. Nowadays I've been able to invest in the best coffee roasting company which is Giesen Coffee Roasters in the Netherlands."
Giesen made a custom roaster for Heyden. It roasts about 30-35 pounds of coffee every 20 minutes and it is on all day long.
"All of our coffee comes from three different farms throughout the world. We buy the entire farm so we support the entire family of farmers in Brazil, Guatemala, and a couple of farms in Ethiopia. So that's our Roasters actual blend," Heyden said. "So the Tri-Cities support these families throughout the world they don't even know about. It's phenomenal."
Heyden managed to make a career out of his love for coffee but says his entrepreneurial success didn't come easy.
"I think it takes a lot of effort. A lot of belief in yourself because it is a very lonely reality," said Heyden. "You spend a lot of time alone, trying to figure out the next step without any help. What I've found is if I go into what I know and what I do best, then everything starts to flow out of that."
It certainly seems as though he is doing it best. Tri-City Herald readers voted Roasters Coffee the number one shops in the area. While customers love their Roasters, it turns out Roasters loves them back.
"I knew in the beginning that if I loved the customer....loved them. Not like them, not just serve them but really honestly love them, like with my whole being," Heyden explained. "I knew if I could make that connection and the next day wasn't about serving them another cup of coffee but it's about truly loving them and getting to know them, and being able to amplify that now with ten stores... So sort of creating all that kind of comes together. It ends up being this very tangible transparency that the customers notice and see."
He believes customers are so comfortable going into Roasters because of that. A lot of credit has to go to his wife, too. She decorates all of the locations in their unique styles.
"It's amazing," Heyden said. "It's like every year she gets better and more into it and realizes she has this gift."
It's obvious Heyden is a dedicated family man. He and his lovely wife have been married for 16 years and they have two beautiful daughters.
Despite his entrepreneurial desires to keep on growing, Heyden says Roasters' roots run deep.
"Now they're thinking oh Roasters is big now... Lets go with the small guy. But I promise you, we're still very, very family oriented. We're very focused on the Tri-Cities and making sure first and foremost, Tri-Cities is taken care of and loved and given what they deserve before we ever go outside of it. It's always 'Think Local' for now and forever will be. For sure. A lot of respect to the Tri-Cities people," said Heyden.
The newest Roasters Coffee shop (number 11) opens next month in Richland. The 12th location is planned in Walla Walla and will break ground in November. Heyden says his goal right now is 25 stores by the 15 year mark and he would be willing to expand throughout eastern Oregon and Washington.
At this point, almost 100 people work for him - mostly millennials - and a big part of what he does is mentor them.