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Sure House Coffee: Coffee with a Purpose

Sure House Coffee Roasting Co., a locally owned business in Wooster, Ohio, sells fair-trade, organic coffee while serving as an incubator for area startups.

When you visit Sure House Coffee, you immediately get the sense that everything—from pourover to espresso to cretzel to ceramic mugs—is being worked at with a whole, intentional heart, steered toward the good of both people and planet. The Spirit is surely in this place, and it turns out that the deeper you dig, the more evident that reality becomes. 

This is not your everyday coffee shop. Sure House serves air roasted coffee—fair trade and organic—with a side of delectable treats and a platter of products made by several different locally owned small businesses. It’s a coffee shop and startup incubator all in one.

Everything in the shop is done on purpose, for a purpose.

Sure House Coffee’s Air Popper Beginnings 

Sure House Coffee Roasting Co. is a locally owned business whose owners, Eric (pictured) and Elizabeth, reside and operate their business in Wooster, Ohio. Image: Sure House Coffee.

One winter’s eve in late 2011, Eric and Elizabeth decided to try to air roast some coffee beans with a couple of friends. Using a small air popper—the kind you’d use to make a bowl of popcorn—the friends air roasted their first batch of coffee, a Panamanian coffee that the two couples split between them. The four of them loved it.

“We roasted this way a couple more times,” Elizabeth said. “We were still drinking store-bought coffee most of the time, and it just didn’t compare to the air-roasted flavor profile. We said to each other, ‘If we’re enjoying this so much, then maybe others would enjoy this too.’”

They started small, buying two bags of coffee beans that weighed between 120-150 lbs. each and an air roaster that roasted a pound of coffee at a time. Sure House Coffee first operated under the Cottage Act, selling its bags of air roasted coffee at several farmer’s markets, then connecting with local businesses to see if they’d be interested in brewing Sure House Coffee in their organizations.

It seemed like they were all onto something. They worked together for a couple of years this way until Eric and Elizabeth bought out their friends in 2013. Despite its success so far, it seemed highly unlikely to both Eric and Elizabeth that the business could be something they did full-time. Eric was working full-time elsewhere, and the two of them were simultaneously busy starting their family all while trying to keep the roasting side gig going. It didn’t seem possible that a standalone coffee shop to support their family.

In 2016, the couple felt like they had to make a decision to either go all-in with the coffee shop or move on with their lives. They’d owned a restaurant before. It had felt as if God closed that door, but opening this one felt overwhelming. Finally, after prayer and planning, the two came to a decision.

“We decided we were going to do this, not in our confidence, which is what we had been doing with the restaurant, but trusting the Lord’s leading,” said Elizabeth.

And with that, Sure House Coffee opened its first storefront in Wooster, Ohio, in 2016.

Community, Coffee, and Cretzels

Sure House Coffee homemade Cretzels. Image: Sure House Coffee.

Sure House Coffee opened for business on July 4, 2016. They had no idea what to expect. Elizabeth baked six cretzels—a croissant-shaped pretzel in a variety of flavors that Elizabeth had invented.

“I remember thinking, this is stupid, I don’t even know why I’m doing this,” said Elizabeth, laughing. When her first customer came in right at 7:30 a.m. when they opened, he ordered a pourover. Elizabeth’s hands were shaking as she pressed the grinder. “Oh my gosh,” she thought. “I’m so ill-prepared. Do I even know how to make coffee?”

Elizabeth knew, and her community showed up to tell her so. “It was like coming home from a long journey,” Elizabeth said. They began roasting more coffee, making more cretzels, and serving more people. Sure House uses a 10-pound air roaster now, which gives the coffee a clean flavor and a better sense of the bean’s unique profile. 

It’s important to Eric and Elizabeth that Sure House uses good ingredients, good recipes, and fair-trade and organic coffee, raised by people who are being treated and paid fairly. Sure House’s coffee is fair-trade only and organic only. Their fair-trade coffee farmers are small businesses themselves, sometimes run by women and sometimes run by a single family. Each coffee they offer has its own unique trademark, and with each product line, Sure House makes it possible for consumers to take care of other humans and take care of the earth. 

“We live in such a consumer society that we don’t really think about who is on the other end of our consumption,” said Elizabeth. Coffee from larger corporations might pay farmers ten cents a pound to harvest beans on corporately owned farms. Fair trade pays close to $5 per pound to a small farmer who owns their land and can then reinvest in the vitality of their community.

“We try not to mark it up a lot, so people don’t have to choose between lesser or non-fair-trade products,” Elizabeth said. “We want to try to make the choice easier for them to do good.”

Sure House pottery made by local artisan, Abigail Lloyd. Image: Sure House Coffee.

In addition to their coffee, Sure House prepares all of its house-made syrups, ganache, coffee, and baked goods in-house with a remarkable team of artisans, many of whom are entrepreneurs themselves and sell their products in the shop. Reusable cold cup mason jars in the shop were hand-painted by Melissa, who also makes the shop’s syrups and ganache. All of the pottery in the shop is made by Abby. Sam, who is in charge of a lot of baking, just opened his own bakery. Rachael works out of the Orrville shop, runs Sure Houses’ social media, and also has her own business, which recycles blankets, cloth, and t-shirts into rugs, baskets, and other products. The shirts, sweatshirts, and hats Sure House sells are made by Brad and Emily, another local small business.

Some former employees are now running their own businesses, including Jamie and Josh, who were some of the first employees at the Wooster shop, and Marianne, Eric’s sister, who makes resin-based jewelry using pressed flowers. Everything the shop sells is there for a purpose.

“We can be such a fearful society, thinking that you can’t go outside of the box … We have shattered the box,” said Elizabeth.

“Stop listening to what society says you need to do and start listening to what the Lord has for you. As soon as you give up what your plans were and lean in and trust him it’s like a single apple tree turned into an orchard.”

Although Sure House Coffee gets its name from 1 Kings 11:38, the shop and its products aren’t shouting the name of Jesus everywhere; instead, “We want to take care of everybody,” Elizabeth said. “We want people to know the love of Jesus just by walking through the doors, feeling loved and taken care of. Our pastor says, ‘Preach the gospel to every creature, and if necessary, open your mouth.’ In the meantime, we are just living it. I want coming into our shop to be like getting a warm hug. You know who you’re going to see, you know you can count on us, and you know we care about you.”

Sure House Coffee ships all over the world. They offer a monthly subscription box and other specialty options on their website. If you’re local, they have a shop in both Wooster and Orrville, Ohio.

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