Especially in small town Sherman, it’s not an everyday occurrence when a new business opens its doors. When one does, word of the great news spreads quickly, and many residents can’t wait to find out for themselves what the business is all about.
For John Rich, owner of Sacred Grounds Coffee Roasters, he knows firsthand what a Sherman welcome feels like and is appreciative and delighted that his hometown community is enthusiastically supporting his new local business, which just opened its doors on November 24.
With this friendly welcome, many residents are also curious about his business model. They want to see him successful but wonder how he is going to make a living in a challenging economy, and in a small town with a limited commercial zone that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic.
After meeting with Mr. Rich, it became clear that his plan is rock solid. As a matter of fact, he is experiencing much success right now with a business model that is unconventional for a typical storefront.
For starters, Mr. Rich certainly has a great product and offers 16 certified, organic and fair trade coffees from around the world. Coffee lovers can appreciate the exotic coffee beans direct from Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru. What’s more, the premium-grade coffee beans are as fresh as they can possibly be because Mr. Rich enjoys roasting them himself onsite. This guarantees that the coffee never tastes bitter and only quality organic beans are the product. In addition to the artisan coffees, coffee accessories, and seasonal holiday items for sale, he also offers customers free coffee samples.
When asked what his favorite coffees are, Mr. Rich answered “I am always sampling the coffee throughout the day to make sure the quality is consistent, so on average, I try two to three different types of coffee a day. My tastes change all the time, but my personal favorites right now are the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Indonesia Sumatra, and the Elevation Blend.”
What some customers may not realize is that Mr. Rich’s storefront also doubles as his office space. His primary source of revenue is from Business to Business (B2B) sales all over Connecticut. After only being in business for a few months, B2B sales is where Mr. Rich is seeing the most growth. Currently, he offers five retail coffees to grocery stores and restaurants. So far, Sacred Grounds Coffee is sold in the Sherman, Davis, and Kent IGAs. Natural Marketplace in New Milford, Ridgefield Organics and Specialty Market, Nature’s Temptations in Ridgefield, and New Morning Market in Woodbury also carry his brand. Green Granary in New Milford serves his coffee. He has several “irons in the fire” as well and is about to close deals in Bantam, Northville, Salisbury, Watertown, and Woodbury. “My personal goal is to be in at least 50 supermarkets before the end of this year,” he stated matter-of-factly.
As for the next business phase, Mr. Rich said “I plan to open a café nearby. Perhaps in New Fairfield, New Milford, or Danbury so I can showcase the coffee. The Sherman location is not currently allowed to operate as a café.” Oftentimes, people think his storefront and office is a coffee house with seating.
With every success, there’s always the story of how it all began. For Mr. Rich, the journey started with a simple love to roast his own coffee and the yearning to spend more quality time with his wife and three young children. “After working in areas that I didn’t enjoy, and always with extra-long commutes, I decided that I wanted to work doing something that I love. Plus, I wanted to be close to home with my family.”
As a resident of Sherman for the past 16 years, Mr. Rich’s new storefront location makes perfect sense. “I was always drawn to this location and I think Sherman is a great spot. I always wanted to work in my own hometown. Plus, people are loyal to local businesses in this town and I am trying to be loyal back to the same people.”
Mr. Rich added how the business idea originated with a discussion with his wife, Stephanie, shortly before the Sherman Library temporarily moved into the location. “We joked around how it was bookmarked for us! Once the space became vacant again we jumped right on it and the location just felt right,” he shared.
When Mr. Rich isn’t working hard on his new business venture or spending time with his family, he just so happens to be a guitarist and vocalist in a popular five-member Irish rock band called The Mighty Ploughboys. They perform all over Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. The community buzz right now is that he and the band members, who are all from New Fairfield or Danbury, are performing on Saint Patrick’s Day night at Daryl’s House in Pawling, New York, and the show is already 60% sold out!
Address: 1 Route 37 East, Sherman, Connecticut; Phone: 860.717.2871; Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. M – F, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
Article and photos of owner by Alicia Sakal. Family and band photos are contributed. Originally written for Citizen News, a weekly newspaper serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut.