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Coffee roaster on tap in Kankakee

March 24, 2018

A commercial coffee bean roasting business will soon be in operation in a 300-square-foot location inside the Burfield & Remington building, formerly known as the Majestic Theatre in downtown Kankakee.

Friends and businessmen Terrance Hooper and Craig Alexander plan to have the roasting location opened by June 1 and would like to be selling these beans to commercial accounts shortly thereafter.

The two men are hoping to gain commercial accounts, as well as sales to area residents for their just-created coffee brand, Happy Monday.

Potential commercial customers could include any place where large groups of people gather, such as business offices, restaurants and workplace cafeterias.

Hooper should not be a new name to area residents. He and his sister, Amy Rauch, are the owner- operators of Grapes & Hops. The two also purchased the 38,000-square-foot former Majestic Theatre property.

Alexander, 36, the son of Jim and Christy Alexander of Chebanse, is a 1999 graduate of Central High School.

He has been in the coffee bean business for eight years now. His roasts have been in Chicago’s Fulton Market area. He roasts beans for six of his Chicago-based Hero Coffee Bar locations and for Limitless Coffee, through his company, Headstash Roasting Company. Alexander has sold his brewed Hero coffee at the Kankakee County Farmers Market since 2011.

He supplies Limitless Coffee to retailers such as Whole Foods, Mariano’s, Target and Jewel. Interestingly, the Limitless Coffee band is not available in the local Jewel and Target stores.

He estimates for the past four years, he roasts 5,000 pounds of coffee on a weekly basis.

The two are part of the growing trend of “craft” coffee. Similar to craft beer, they are small-scale roasters of coffee beans. Coffee is a big market.

According to the National Coffee Association, 69 percent of people between the ages of 40-59 drink coffee daily. For people age 60 and older, 76 percent drink coffee every day. For those between the ages of 18-24, 41 percent drink coffee daily.

Interestingly, coffee consumption for drinkers between the ages of 13-18 increased from 31 percent in 2016 to 37 percent in 2017.

Regarding the bean roasting operation here, Hooper and Alexander will be able to roast 25 pounds of green coffee beans every 15 minutes. They will package and deliver their product to outlets as needed. They also plan to sell 1-pound bags of brewed coffee beans at their Majestic shop on the weekends, perhaps as early as this summer.

Happy Monday would supply the coffee brewing equipment.

Beans, Alexander said, would come from across the globe.

“Nowhere in Kankakee County is anyone roasting coffee beans for commercial roasting,” Alexander said. “People should buy coffee from the nearest roaster whether it’s us or someone else. Freshness matters. We believe we should be that roaster.”

For a residential customer, a 1-pound bag of beans would most often sell for $12 to $20.

So, where did the name Happy Monday come from?

Alexander shrugged his shoulders.

“It just felt very positive,” Hooper said. “It’s a fun company. ... Why not start the week out right? It’s just a positive message.”

Hooper believes this will be well received.

“This is about freshness and buying local. People like that.”

He should know. He recently began selling packaged coffee beans at Grapes & Hops from a variety of brewers. The product has been moving briskly.

Hooper believes coffee is just a natural extension for his wine shop. There, he sells Illinois produced wine, beer and whiskey. Coffee, especially locally roasted, is the newest product. Hooper hopes to offer cold-brewed coffee on tap out of 5-gallon kegs at Grapes & Hops by May 1.

Cold brew is a rapidly growing market, capturing 11 percent of the gourmet coffee market, the coffee association noted.

“This is something Terrance and I have been talking about on and off for about five years. We talked about this before we even opened Grapes & Hops. It was always ‘How do we make this work?’” Alexander said.

Once Hooper came into possession of the Majestic property, having a location was no longer a factor.

“This is really a ‘craft’ product,” Alexander said. “Look at the craft beer market. Those are really locally produced beers. Consumers want to know where the product comes from and who makes it.”

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