Calgary couple builds business and community with coffee

A Mount Pleasant family is building a business and their community with a unique coffee roasting business run out of their home.

Their 'storefront' is little red box hanging on picket fence outside their home

Rick Eden started roasting coffee beans in a popcorn maker before moving on to this full size roaster. (Erin Collins/CBC)

A Calgary couple is using their love of coffee to build a business and bring their northwest community together.

Rick Eden started roasting coffee beans in his Mount Pleasant garage with just a popcorn maker years ago. His goal: to make the best cup of coffee possible.

"I like it more chocolatey. Most of my coffee is just espresso or Americano with just a bit of water," he says.

The admitted coffee snob has now become something of a coffee baron, buying a full-size roaster that can handle five kilos of beans at a time.

Eden sources coffee beans from around the world to roast in his "back alley" roastery, a term he says means he has to "close the door when the city comes by."

Over the past year, Eden has roasted and sold more than 1,000 bags of coffee, mostly to his friends and neighbours. He calls his burgeoning business the Mount Pleasant Roastery.

Rick Eden loves coffee so much he began roasting his own beans in his garage. (Erin Collins/CBC)

The rapid expansion has included the acquisition of an antique printing press to put the company's logo on the growing number of coffee bags they are using.

Figuring out what to do with all those roasted beans is a task taken on by his wife, Larissa Riemann.

Her idea: hang a little red box on the white picket fence outside their home chock full of coffee and left unlocked. Neighbours and strangers alike are encouraged to help themselves to the bags of coffee and leave some cash behind.
"It's the best part about it, actually, the fact that we are trusting people and they are trusting us," she says.

For Riemann, this way of selling coffee beans is as much about building community as it is about building a business.

Larissa met Rick on this street, first becoming neighbours, then becoming a couple and now running a roastery together.

Riemann says she is often stopped around the neighbourhood, recognized as one of the "coffee people." She says the roastery is about "respecting our community and our lovely neighbours and hopefully giving them something they like."

Larissa Riemann came up with the idea of using the honour system to sell the couple's coffee beans. The company also sells bags of coffee online. (Erin Collins/CBC)

There haven't been any thefts of note yet, but there have been many thank-you notes from new customers who are often also new friends — a testament to the couple's success building community.
And business is good, too.

A second little red box has been hung just around the corner from the first.

The couple hopes that, in the long run, they may be able to create a small coffee delivery job for their seven-year-old daughter, Ciara.

In the short-term, the couple's expansion plans are limited to potentially making their two little red boxes just a little bit bigger.


Erin Collins

Senior reporter

Erin Collins is an award-winning senior reporter with CBC National News based in Calgary.