When our sheet music distribution business dissolved overnight in a mix of industry consolidation, technological change, and shifting demand, we faced a scary “so, now what?” moment. It was a feeling we won’t soon forget, a feeling not uncommon in the small business world.

Fortunately, coffee was there when we needed it most. We decided to turn our longstanding coffee enthusiasm into a business that utilized our warehousing and wholesaling experience. First Crack opened in 2013 as a distributor of café equipment and small wares, eventually evolving into the licensed North American agent for Proaster, a high end South Korean roaster manufacturer. We set up a cupping lab, became SCA-certified instructors, and visited thousands (literally) of cafés along the way.

During these visits we realized that many specialty coffee businesses are facing an existential challenge. More competition than ever before, high wholesale prices for roasted coffee, ever-increasing rents, and shifting consumer expectations (amongst many other things) have squeezed bottom lines from coast to coast with no end in sight. So, now what?

Coffee was there for us, now we’re here for coffee. First Crack’s first co-roasting facility in St. Louis had an immediate impact on the local coffee community – building coffee knowledge, lowering input costs, improving quality, and bolstering brand value in a short amount of time. Instead of being affected by change, our roaster community is initiating it. Our roasters are running more and more – now that’s music to our ears!

We’re now co-roasting and white labeling in St. Louis, Denver and Cleveland. While we consider education, co-roasting, white labeling and roaster distribution our primary functions, First Crack offers a full suite of associated services that collectively lower the barrier of entry to managing a roasting program. We coordinate green coffee sourcing and relationships within the supply chain, maintain fully functional lab space for customer usage, provide packaging solutions, and deliver finished products to customers’ shops. Basically, if it makes your life easier, we’re willing to invest in new equipment or expand services to support you!

With gratitude,
Bryndon & Collin Bay, owners and operators