Five years ago, Randy Lint stopped practicing law and started roasting coffee. Since then, Big Creek Coffee Roasters has expanded distribution from its building on Main Street in Hamilton to all 50 states and is nationally recognized for excellence.
Big Creek Coffee Roasters will hold an anniversary party to benefit the community on Nov. 28.
“In keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are donating 100 percent of the purchase price of all drinks sold that day to the Bitter Root Land Trust,” Lint said. “We like to give back to the community that supports us and allows us to be a business.”
Each year Big Creek Coffee Roasters has hosted a benefit for nonprofits. Recipients have included the Bitter Root Humane Association, the Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital Hospice Center and Haven House Food Bank.
“It’s a tradition we’re building here – to be thankful,” Lint said. “Bitter Root Land Trust is an organization I admire. Everybody who lives in the Bitterroot has made some sort of voluntary choice to make less money in order to live where they want to live and it is Bitter Root Land Trust’s mission to preserve a lot of the natural beauty that makes this place so attractive.”
Bitter Root Land Trust Executive Director Gavin Ricklefs said his group is excited to be the beneficiary.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to celebrate things we are fans of – great coffee and beautiful land,” Ricklefs said. “From a nonprofit standpoint, local businesses and the community make nonprofits possible.”
Bitter Root Land Trust has been a community partner since 1997 to help private landowners conserve water, wildlife and working lands.
Ricklefs said the organization is expanding to meet the needs as it gains landowner support for keeping lands open and protected.
Big Creek Coffee Roasters appreciates its customers. Lint said.
“We feel strongly about our customer base,” he said. “We always strive for a focus on managed growth. We want to make a profit, but not at the expense of quality or living a good life or going to my children’s choir concerts.”
Lint said he missed out on life for the first three years of business.
“I worked seven days a week minus Christmas and Thanksgiving,” Lint said. “I think that’s probably the only way to create a successful business in the Bitterroot Valley - put a lot of time in.”
For the first three months he was the only employee. He roasted coffee beans, made and served all the coffee, and did all the ordering. Out of necessity he hired employees and learned to delegate.
Lint is building his business. He invested in his five employees recently sending his apprentice roaster for a three-day intensive roasting school and sending a barista to Georgia for more in-depth training. Big Creek is getting a second and larger roaster that will be dedicated to wholesale customers, web sales and allow expansion to larger accounts.
Big Creek sells to independent retailers in the valley – Hamilton Market Place, Life Line Farm, Rainbow’s End Natural Foods, Wildflower Confections, and some fine restaurants including Mission Bistro in Stevensville and Bouilla in Hamilton.
Big Creek sells and ships coffee to all 50 states.
In October, the roasting industry confirmed that Big Creek makes great coffee. The world’s leading coffee guide – The Coffee Review – presented Big Creek Coffee Roasters with three “outstanding” scores in a blind taste test.
Lint said he values the validation.
“Very educated, big-city, professional coffee tasters tasted coffee that we roasted, not knowing where it came from, and applied a score that is objective and they all reached the same score,” Lint said. “Montana is not a location you’d typically associate with world-class coffees, but we hear on a daily basis from coffee lovers from larger cities that our coffee is as good as or better than what they’re accustomed to back home.”
Lint said Big Creek was listed on a national website as a result of the awards, which led to orders from all over the country.
“Our customers are excited about our awards,” Lint said. “It puts us on the map, which is really great. One of the visions for this business has always been to reach beyond the Bitterroot Valley and find coffee lovers around the country that appreciate what we’re doing.”
Big Creek Coffee Roasters will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Small Business Saturday Nov. 28. Bitter Root Land Trust representatives, maps and project details will be available at the coffee shop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information visit bigcreekcoffeeroasters.com.