Business

Superior Coffee Roasting Company sells a sense of place

Superior Coffee Roasting Company sells a sense of place

Superior Coffee Roasting Company sells a sense of place

Owner Ron Kurnik, trained in speech and sociology, literally paddled his way into the coffee business

SAULT STE. MARIE MICH. – Ron Kurnik’s first memory of coffee was when the smell saturated his three-year-old brain on a flight to Canada. It wouldn’t be surprising if that paleo impression didn’t lead to the opening of the area’s first coffee roasting business in 2012.

But Kurnik’s Superior Coffee Roasting Company came from Texas and Arkansas, where the 2003 Texas A&M graduate cultivated a true passion for entrepreneurship.

“In college, I loved brewing beer,” Kurnik recalled. “A roommate at the bar brought home beer bottles for me to wash and refill. Another friend worked at a print shop, so he removed the labels I designed. Thinking about brewing, bottling and creative marketing really fueled my fire to someday go into business. Meanwhile, he took me and my friends to the best parties in Austin.’

In 2003, graduating from high school in speech communication with a master’s in sociology, Kurnik landed not in sociology or speech, or as a craft brewer in the Lone Star State, but on a river in Arkansas.

“I loved freelancing and wanted to build capital,” Kurnik said. “I wanted to get into the business, have fun and then sell it. After doing some research, I found an equipment business for sale in the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas”.

The area has natural beauty marbled by the branches and tributaries of the Arkansas River, without the reputation of being overrun by tourists. It was the perfect place to buy an established canoe, raft and kayak rental business that was ready to grow.

“The apparel business taught me the value of destination,” Kurnik said. “Mark your location, have the best equipment available, and then word of mouth and new business will come. Some of the dressers were competing with each other. Many used the same gear year after year to increase the bottom line.’

Kurnik’s philosophy was the opposite of most of his competitors.

“Selling my used gear kept people on the river and in the living,” he said. “The newest and latest equipment gave them a great experience. My marketing wasn’t about taking a competitor’s business. Rather, the assumption was that there would always be a healthy business for everyone. Entering the Ouachita Mountains as a destination literally lifted all boats.”

The formula worked, and Kurnik sold the business in 2010 for three times what he had paid seven years earlier. With capital in hand, he set out for a change of scenery.

He came to the Sault.

“This part of the world feels like home,” said Kurnik, who spent part of her time growing up in northern Ontario. “I really wanted to go back to the four seasons. It was caused by the low humidity in Arkansas. It’s very hot down there.”

For the next two years, he researched his next venture. Then the idea of ​​roasting coffee started in his mind.

“From a young age, I appreciated and developed a special focus on great coffee,” said Kurnik. “Our family drank Gevalia premium coffee in freeze-dried bricks. Eventually, we moved on to grinding whole beans and our own coffee. Mom also invested in a desktop coffee roaster. The hot air popcorn seemed glorified. I’m sure it was one of the first on the market.”

That memory, combined with his first memories of coffee going somewhere on a plane, ignited a spark in him to create something other than brewing coffee. Freshly roasted coffee evokes specific memories, offering delicious flavors as diverse as the countries from which the coffee beans come.

Roasting coffee – there was nothing like it in the Sault.

Twelve years later, Lake Superior Coffee Roasting Company roasts, grinds and sells coffees from around the world. Superior offers whole beans for those who want to grind them at their greatest freshness.

“We have six or seven different countries of origin,” Kurnik said. “We settled in Nicaragua with the main offer in Central America. From there, we make two mixes that are our bread and butter: Marines and Sailors Sunrise. We also got a special roasted expresso.’

Flavored coffees came later with customer demand.

“It’s become a significant segment of the coffee-drinking population, certainly in the Midwest,” Kurnik said. “I researched a better way to flavor coffee. The conventional way is to “candy coat” or add syrup. It unappealingly uses propylene glycol and adds bitterness to the taste. Beans become sticky and not friendly to grind. What we do is like a dry rub that transfers the flavor to the whole lot with no streaks. The taste is all natural and organic.”

One of the best selling flavors is Michigan Chocolate Cherry.
This explores how smell and taste are connected to the journey and the destination. Many of Superior’s return customers come across the coffee they enjoy while on vacation in Michigan.

And that coffee also reminds them of their time at EUP.

“I get calls all the time from people who want to buy the coffee they found on vacation at their local supermarket,” Kurnik said. “Premium coffee will soon be carried in Meijer stores across Michigan.”

When it comes to Kurnik, there’s a wide range of coffee orders that tap into different aspects of the Michigan and Upper Peninsula experience.

“There’s a new smoker in Cedarville with the beauty of the Les Cheneaux Islands,” Kurnik said. “Dancing Crane in Bay Mills offers live music, where the Tahquamenon Scenic Byway follows Whitefish Bay.”

Kurnik says fresh, flavorful coffee ties together and keeps people coming back for more. “Make this a destination, and everyone will have enough business,” he said. “And not just fresh, roasted coffee.”

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