LINDSBORG — Though it has taken some time to thrive in the small, rural community, Blacksmith Coffee Shop and Roastery has forged a culture of appreciation for specialty and high-quality coffee in Little Sweden. Now, they are bringing their brew to Salina.
Located in the oldest building in downtown Lindsborg, this specialty coffee shop and roaster makes sure it stays true to local Kansas roots and the history and experience of the communities it serves.
General manager and head roaster Samuel Finch said the business takes pride in looking at what came before it, in their Lindsborg location, for inspiration into how it operates.
“Being in a blacksmith shop, the original blacksmiths (here would) hone their craft, they produced this really intricate product for their customers,” he said. “How we roast our coffee and how we prepare our beverages is reminiscent of that.”
Handcrafted and hand-forged are terms Finch wants people to think of when they order a drink at the Lindsborg shop or the Salina drive-thru or when they order a bag of coffee online.
In 2020, the owners of Blacksmith’s decided to open another location in a nearby city — where many of their customers already lived.
The drive-thru at 2029 S. Ohio St. in Salina offers the same drink menu as the Lindsborg store as well as a few of the same breakfast food options, including cinnamon rolls and quiche, which are baked in the Lindsborg store and brought up to Salina each day.
Molli Reilly, who handles much of the business operations of Blacksmith and whose parents own the company, lives in Salina now and manages the drive-thru location there.
“The opportunity presented itself (after) the owner of the building contacted us,” Reilly said. “He thought a coffee drive-thru in that location would be a nice addition to Salina, and we agreed.”
The location gives Blacksmith the opportunity to reach more customers than before, as people in Salina can stop by on their way to work and make it a part of their morning routine.
“We have a strong following in Salina, so we thought it was a good way to grow that following of loyal customers,” Reilly said.
Reilly spends a lot of time in both locations, and is often the one making trips back and forth to bring bags of beans, either to be used by baristas in Salina or to be picked up for customers after they purchase them from the store’s website.
“I’m stocking for the Salina store now,” Reilly said on Tuesday, one of the store’s main shipping days.
Though she spends a lot of time with the business side of things, Reilly is often seen through the drive-thru window serving drinks to customers.
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When people think of coffee, they might think of country-wide chains of shops, big brands of coffee bought in a grocery store or even the quick pick-me-up of a cup at a convenience store or gas station on a long road trip.
Blacksmith, however, is part of the specialty coffee industry.
“(This) is high-quality coffee,” Finch said. “We’re very critical about how we source and how we roast it.”
He said being in a small community, especially a rural community like Lindsborg, it took work to get people to understand the value of drinking specialty coffee and spending more for that quality as opposed to going to a gas station and getting a cup for less than a dollar.
“We’ve had to cultivate this coffee culture in town,” Finch said. “But over time, being able to be consistent and being able to produce a high-quality product, customers have come to expect that and appreciate that from us.”
Adapting to the community has been helpful too. Growing up in Lindsborg helps Finch and Reilly understand the culture that the city has and the benefit of working with the community.
One area of fitting in with the community is the shop’s ties with Bethany College.
“We provide discounts for drinks, and we’ve hired several Bethany students as well,” Finch said.
One thing that sets Blacksmith apart from other coffee shops is that it is also a roaster of its coffee.
Coffee is a commodity, and not one that is grown anywhere near Kansas, so Blacksmith strives to build connections while getting green coffee from various places around the world, including Latin America, Indonesia and Africa.
“There’s so many hands in-between (the coffee farmer and the consumer),” Reilly said. “One of the things about ethical trade is to lessen the amount of hands the coffee goes through.”
She said Blacksmith tries to work with traders they know are going to the individual farms and see the process of harvesting and the condition of the workers on the farms.
“(Our traders) tried the coffee at origin, they tell us the stories about the farmers,” Reilly said. “We know that our produce comes from this exact farm and we find out the people that harvest it…know they’re being treated fairly and with dignity.”
Once the coffee reaches the shop, the consumer can know what happens to it as well. If you buy a bag of Blacksmith Coffee, one of two people are the ones responsible for roasting, Finch himself or associate roaster Luke Garretson, who has been at Blacksmith since 2019.
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The roaster, which is in the back of the shop in Lindsborg, roasts in small batches.
“Usually we don’t go much over 20 pounds (roasted at a time),” Garretson said.
Blacksmith has a few single-origin roasts, but most of what it offers is blended roasts, which contain beans from two or more sources.
Blacksmith offers seven blended roasts, the Espresso Especiale, the house Blacksmith Blend, a Breakfast Blend, Kansas Blend and, in keeping with the culture of Lindsborg, three Swedish blends, which increase from lighter to darker roast, the Mellanrost, Morkrost and Skånerost.
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One small business supporting other, local small businesses
Blacksmith prides itself on being a small, local business and Finch said the consumer in central Kansas can take pride in knowing where their money is going.
“We have (our) staff here,” he said. “When you purchase (from a small business), you’re helping support that staff.”
Additionally, by buying from somewhere like Blacksmith that has built relationships with suppliers and traders that source from the individual farm-level, consumers know that money is getting to those farmers and harvesters.
“It helps to create sustainability for them and their livelihood,” Finch said.
By roasting in small batches, it also means that the production of the coffee someone buys is more intimate.
“Everything we’re doing, we’re doing by hand,” Finch said. “It brings that much added personability to the experience. It’s not a machine that’s produced this coffee for them, it’s an actual human being.”
That pride in being a small business extends beyond the walls of the coffee shops in Lindsborg and Salina. In recent years, Blacksmith has forged relationships with other small businesses in central Kansas.
Blacksmith bakes many pastries like cinnamon rolls in house, but it also works with places like 350 Degree Bakery, located across Main Street in Lindsborg, for its scones and businesses in nearby cities for some of its more savory food options.
“For our lunch menu we purchase bread from Seraphim in Salina and Krehbiels Meats in McPherson for our lunch meats,” Finch said.
Lattes and cappuccinos, sold at both the Lindsborg shop and Salina drive-thru, are made with milk from Hildebrand Farms in Junction City.
Reilly said the company made the decision in 2020, during the pandemic, to source as much as possible locally from small businesses.
“We just felt like small businesses need to support small businesses,” Reilly said.
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