After searching for a year throughout the Gallatin Valley for a suitable new space in which to transplant its existing roastery, Bozeman, Mont.-based Rockford Coffee Roasters eventually moved just a few blocks to the middle of E. Main St., in the center of downtown.
In front of the new roastery is the new Rockford café, one of two operated by the company, both on E. Main. Rockford Co-Founder Ryan Wilson told Daily Coffee News that no more new cafés are in the works.
“From everything I’ve read, from two to three is totally where the wheels come off,” said Wilson, who 12 years ago founded the company along with his wife Kristin Wilson, who primarily runs the company’s day-to-day operations. While the Washington state transplants initially were serving roasts from Seattle-based Caffé Vita and Herkimer Coffee, they began roasting their own in 2008.
The 18 E Main St. space was occupied by four decades by Stylon, a women’s clothing store that had reached iconic status through its remarkable tenure. Rockford now occupies half the space, where an exposed brick wall anchors one side and the coffee bar lines the other, featuring a 3-group Synesso Cyncra espresso machine, Mazzer Major grinders, batch brewers and Hermiston carafes with Yama metal filters for drip coffees.
Rockford tends to keep one single-origin or rotating blend on offer at all times, while always maintaining a dark roast option. “Dark coffee is still popular around here,” said Ryan Wilson. “Our dark roast is more of a medium roast, and it does infuriate some people.”
The Rockford team intends to install an illuminated sign in the café that lights up when roasting is in progress in order to draw attention to the roastery, found at the back of the space through a short corridor. Loaded with natural light from the working garage doors that separate the roastery from the alley — a major plus for loading roasted coffee and unloading greens — the roastery is bigger than Rockford’s previous roasting digs.
The Wilsons hope to take advantage of that fact by introducing new brewing equipment to the space, while also possibly opening it up to some public programming such as educational courses or tastings. Rockford is licensed to sell and serve coffee in the back of the house as well as the front, Wilson said.
“There is some nostalgia about roasting in the cafe that is kind of cool — and people don’t necessarily know we’re roasting back here,” said Wilson. “We’re trying to do all we can to raise awareness of this room.”
The roastery currently houses the company’s red Diedrich IR-12, which was essentially new when they began roasting operations eight years ago. “The guy who had it bought it new and it sat in his garage for 15 years and never used it,” said Wilson, who noted the company is exploring adding an additional roaster for duplication purposes and perhaps organic offerings.
Once settled into the new digs, Rockford plans to further push its wholesale operations, which to this point have largely come just from word of mouth. The company also recently began bottling its in-house Toddy-brewed cold brew, made in small batches that allow for experimentation with new coffees and blends. Wilson said that they’re considering possibly rolling that out to external retail shelves next summer.