The underground roasting room of Black Rabbit Coffee Roasters is a bright, industrial work space filled with books, art, and furniture from the likes of Jean Prouve and Ghost Shrimp, as well as original art by head roaster Isaac Reynolds. A heavy coffee scent and a copious amount of various coffee brewing equipment surround us as we talk about the origins of the two year old roaster in small town Hillsboro, IL.
In 2015, Isaac Reynolds bought a dilapidated downtown building across the street from his wife Bailey’s parent’s family run movie theatre. “I was spending a lot of time learning about coffee, the roasting process, brewing beer, cooking, and lots of other things, while working carpentry in the day and at a restaurant at night. Roasting seemed to be one of the most important aspects of the process, and I realized that you could make money at it right around the time we got married and bought the building.”
The couple bought a ten kilo Ambex commercial roaster for a steal at ten thousand dollars and immediately stared selling at the theatre across the street during movie showings. Within a month they built a website and were selling online offering free local deliveries (which they still do!). A big turning point was realizing how much the community would support them. The first time they sold at the “Hillsboro Harvest Market”, they gave away free coffee and sold 90 bags of beans in three hours, meeting many new local coffee fans.
They had assumed sales would be mostly wholesale to stores, but have had strong local support since day one. Black Rabbit was featured in Roast magazine’s “Daily Coffee News” in their second month of operation. The interviewer remarked that it was a good sign for third wave coffee to see such a high caliber company coming out of a small town like Hillsboro. This year, in addition the the daily roasting, they are in the middle of a full swing renovation of “Black Rabbit Cafe” currently scheduled to open some time in 2018.
Isaac is an artist and designs the packaging. Both he and Bailey customize, make, and design just about everything they can themselves.
The Alien typography inspired door handle to the the bean storage room.
The view of the stair case leading from the street level to the basement roasting area.
Black Rabbit now sells at local IGA, Hyvee in Springfield, and regional coffee shops as well as in their online shop at www.blackrabbit.com Speaking of, they have kindly offered a mail only promo for Small Town Cool Readers… Try a bag or two for yourself, or buy one and have them send it to your uncle in New Hampshire…
Type in Promo code SMALLTOWNCOOL17 this week and get your beans for $10 a bag + shipping!
Photography- via Black Rabbit, and B.Lee