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October 10, 2019
Fresh Face: Shady Grounds Coffee
When Mike and Julia Ottinger first began experimenting with coffee roasting, it was play, literally—“We were playing around with a Whirley Pop” stovetop popcorn popper, says Julia. The more they explored home roasting, learning about flavor profiles and sourcing beans, researching machinery and equipment, the more they realized this could be their path to entrepreneurship. Shady Grounds Coffee, named for their beloved pet Rottweiler Shady, was born.
Now the couple roasts coffee out of their Bethlehem home, in a commercially converted in-law suite kitchen, after they come home from their full-time jobs. They roast on Monday and Tuesday nights, which means you’ll get the freshest cup possible at the Saucon Valley and Nazareth Farmers’ Markets, where Shady Grounds is a vendor. Beans are also available by mail, and through a monthly Coffee Club subscription service that delivers fresh, locally roasted coffee direct to your door.
“We want it to be more than just coffee. We want to make a connection with our community and our customers.”
For Julia, who went to school for hotel and restaurant management, her favorite part of the business is developing relationships with people. “It amazes me,” she says, “how many people come back for that cup of coffee every week. Working at the market never feels like work.” Mike, in supply chain management and operations, is more hands-on. “I like the roasting,” he says. “I like talking about the coffee, I like the process.” The couples’ complementary skill sets and interests are essential for success, and for any young business to grow and thrive; the plan, one day, is to focus on coffee roasting full time.
For now, they’re thankful for the support they’ve received from family and friends, customers, and other roasters in the growing local coffee scene, and taking it one cup at a time. “I hope,” says Mike, “when someone drinks our coffee they feel like it’s an experience.” But ultimately, “We want it to be more than just coffee. We want to make a connection with our community and our customers.”