Coffee Brewers Go from Hobbyists to Wholesalers

Coffee Brewers Go from Hobbyists to Wholesalers

The Walkers broke into the coffee industry after humble beginnings as coffee enthusiasts.  

Lorraine and Phil Walker started their coffee business off about as local as possible. They began roasting coffee beans in a popcorn maker and selling it to their friends in Gallipolis in 2008.  

With no starting capital, they managed to turn one of the rooms in their house into a USDA-approved roasting site, distributing to one Kroger in Athens, and gained a very small online following.  

These days the Walkers spend most of their week inside their 400-square-foot coffee warehouse alongside whirring grinders and the constant smell of beans. 

With simple origins, Silverbridge Coffee now produces about 1,200 pounds of coffee a week for 68 Kroger grocery stores in Ohio 

Lorraine says there was 20 percent growth over the previous year. This is a benchmark the Walkers have maintained for the past few years, and a long way away from the three bags they started off roasting every month. 

“Back then the delivery truck used to drop the bags on my driveway,” Phil says. “I’d hike them up on my shoulder and carry them in. You wouldn’t think it but those bags are incredibly heavy. It’s much easier now.” 

Although they now have a little over a dozen employees on their payroll, Silverbridge still considers itself one big family that values the importance of making fresh coffee. Freshness is the foundation of Silver Bridge.  

When Phil began using a popcorn maker to roast his own coffee as a hobby, Lorraine was skeptical. To her, coffee was one of life’s simple pleasures, something she didn’t want to mess around with. 

“With five kids, you get to be pretty serious about coffee,” Lorraine says. “But immediately I was sold because of the freshness. We started showing our friends who couldn’t believe it.” 

That freshness is something that Lorraine decided to take to the coffee market. Silverbridge doesn’t allow its product to sit on the shelf for longer than 90 days.  

The coffee is selling well, which Lorraine partly attributes to the “really vibrant local food movement” in the region that was willing to take a chance on her product.  

Locality wasn’t the only factor, though. Lorraine first managed to amass a cult following by taking her product to Athens farmers markets to connect with coffee lovers, letting the taste speak for itself.  

“It’s really important that we treat the coffee with respect,” Lorraine says. She’s made it a point to visit some of the countries that her beans originate from. She does this to see the process by which the coffee travels from the branches of small trees to somebody’s cup in Ohio.   

Today, dozens of Silverbridge brews can be found in various wholesalers and coffee shops around Ohio. Their little black bags come with a freshness date, handwritten by the Walkers, so that each customer knows when it was roasted.  

Identifiable by the nostalgic gray logo of a dated man and woman enjoying coffee by a river, with the Gallipolis Silver Bridge in the distance. Created by Athens designer Kevin Morgan, the logo is unique and timeless, much like the coffee itself, a testimony to the careful thought and love the Walkers have put into their craft. 

The Walkers broke into the coffee industry after humble beginnings as coffee enthusiasts.  

 

Lorraine and Phil Walker started their coffee business off about as local as possible. They began roasting coffee beans in a popcorn maker and selling it to their friends in Gallipolis in 2008.  

With no starting capital, they managed to turn one of the rooms in their house into a USDA-approved roasting site, distributing to one Kroger in Athens, and gained a very small online following.  

These days the Walkers spend most of their week inside their 400-square-foot coffee warehouse alongside whirring grinders and the constant smell of beans. 

With simple origins, Silverbridge Coffee now produces about 1,200 pounds of coffee a week for 68 Kroger grocery stores in Ohio 

Lorraine says there was 20 percent growth over the previous year. This is a benchmark the Walkers have maintained for the past few years, and a long way away from the three bags they started off roasting every month. 

“Back then the delivery truck used to drop the bags on my driveway,” Phil says. “I’d hike them up on my shoulder and carry them in. You wouldn’t think it but those bags are incredibly heavy. It’s much easier now.” 

Although they now have a little over a dozen employees on their payroll, Silverbridge still considers itself one big family that values the importance of making fresh coffee. Freshness is the foundation of Silver Bridge.  

When Phil began using a popcorn maker to roast his own coffee as a hobby, Lorraine was skeptical. To her, coffee was one of life’s simple pleasures, something she didn’t want to mess around with. 

“With five kids, you get to be pretty serious about coffee,” Lorraine says. “But immediately I was sold because of the freshness. We started showing our friends who couldn’t believe it.” 

That freshness is something that Lorraine decided to take to the coffee market. Silverbridge doesn’t allow its product to sit on the shelf for longer than 90 days.  

The coffee is selling well, which Lorraine partly attributes to the “really vibrant local food movement” in the region that was willing to take a chance on her product.  

Locality wasn’t the only factor, though. Lorraine first managed to amass a cult following by taking her product to Athens farmers markets to connect with coffee lovers, letting the taste speak for itself.  

“It’s really important that we treat the coffee with respect,” Lorraine says. She’s made it a point to visit some of the countries that her beans originate from. She does this to see the process by which the coffee travels from the branches of small trees to somebody’s cup in Ohio.   

Today, dozens of Silverbridge brews can be found in various wholesalers and coffee shops around Ohio. Their little black bags come with a freshness date, handwritten by the Walkers, so that each customer knows when it was roasted.  

Identifiable by the nostalgic gray logo of a dated man and woman enjoying coffee by a river, with the Gallipolis Silver Bridge in the distance. Created by Athens designer Kevin Morgan, the logo is unique and timeless, much like the coffee itself, a testimony to the careful thought and love the Walkers have put into their craft. 



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