Tuesday, September 29, 2020
74.0°F

Coffee roaster adapts with walk-up facility

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | July 12, 2020 1:00 AM

The historic covered wagon parked outside the Montana Coffee Traders location on U.S. 93 South near Whitefish displays a wooden sign that urges customers to “come on in” for “beans, drinks [and] gifts.” But as life is changing around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so, too, is the traditional coffee-shop setting at the beloved roastery.

After closing down for weeks because of the pandemic, Montana Coffee Traders is reopening the U.S. 93 location on Wednesday, July 15, as Montana Coffee Traders Mercantile. The retail end of the longtime roasting facility is being reimagined as a socially distanced destination that will be able to adapt to uncertain circumstances now and in the future.

Customers can order coffee, treats, beans and gifts at the walk-up counter at the very front of the building, without going inside the small space. They can either take their goods to-go or enjoy a new outdoor setup with picnic and bistro tables in the lawn in front of the building.

“People keep saying they wish things were the way they were, but they aren’t, so we have to adapt,” store mannager Maggie Garver said.

“It’s a way to function where we can stay open regardless of what’s happening,” added regional sales representative Jen Kuropat.

The Coffee Traders leadership started working on a more resilient business model for the coffee shop in April. Since the U.S. 93 location is the smallest of the company’s four shops and the site of all of the coffee roasting, they felt the need to take extra precautions to keep coronavirus out of the popular shop.

“All of our coffee is roasted right behind those doors,” Garver pointed out, gesturing to the roastery section of the building directly adjacent to the espresso bar.

To protect their coffee mother lode—and the community in general—they decided it would be best to keep visitors out of the store completely. In place of the more familiar coffee-shop environment, Montana Coffee Traders is going to try out “social selling,” using social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to connect directly with customers without interacting in-person.

The company will post available items on its social media platforms, and those interested can reach out online or over the phone to place their orders. Then they can pick up their purchases at the mercantile counter or on the front porch for a totally contactless transaction.

“It’s a good way to reach people,” Garver said of the switch to more online sales. “It’s a way of being here, but not being here [in person].”

The transition will also give them more flexibility to ship beans, mugs and other merchandise to more distant destinations than they previously served.

“We have all these amazing products,” Garver pointed out, and she wants to make sure they remain available to MCT’s loyal patrons and new customers. She noted the U.S. 93 location is known for its large collection of Montana-specific gifts, and the roadside store also offers beans in bulk and the widest array of coffee varieties of any MCT location. The transformation into MCT Mercantile should allow them to keep all of these offerings available, even in unprecedented situations like a pandemic.

Adaptability is everything for the new business model, but if the changes go well, Garver said they hope to continue to expand the mercantile theme to offer bulk grocery items such as milk varieties, flour, yeast and other grocery staples.

“Commodity goods became very hard to find,” when the pandemic first hit, Garver observed. MCT therefore plans to use its supply chain network to “fill gaps in grocery stores” and offer a “safe haven” for shoppers who feel uncomfortable in bustling downtown Whitefish or large grocery stores.

But before they develop the Mercantile any further, they first want to acquaint their coffee customers with the new format.

They will hold the grand opening of MCT Mercantile on Wednesday, July 15, with walk-up window service for drinks, beans and merchandise to-go. The company will also give out grab bags to the first few customers and raffle off coffee equipment.

It will be a relief to open the doors again, even with the many adjustments, Garver said, because they have had to turn away eager visitors from the closed coffee shop almost every day since shutting down.

“We’re excited to be in contact with our community again,” she said.

Follow Montana Coffee Traders on Instagram @mct_merc and Facebook @mctmerc. Call for orders at 406-471-0038 or email mctmerc@coffeetraders.com.

MCT Mercantile is located at 5810 U.S. 93 S., Whitefish. Their hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at (406)-758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.

Montana Coffee Traders will hold the grand opening of MCT Mercantile from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15, with walk-up window service for drinks, beans and merchandise to-go at the company’s roasting facility at 5810 U.S. 93 S., Whitefish. The company will also give out grab bags to the first few customers and raffle off coffee equipment.

photo

A selection of mugs, hats and merchandise on display at the Montana Coffee Traders Mercantile on U.S. 93 in Whitefish on Wednesday, July 8. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

The entrance to the Montana Coffee Traders Mercantile location along U.S. 93 south of Whitefish.

photo

Bags of Glacier Blend whole bean coffee on display at the Montana Coffee Traders Mercantile.