Interview: MadCap Coffee founder Trevor Corlett

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Trevor Corlett founded MadCap Coffee in 2008, and the company’s coffee and cafe quickly became a hit in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For 2012, he decided to build on the Midwest base by opening a coffee roastery and café in the burgeoning market of Washington, D.C. We met with Corlett on April 22 at SCAA, and he shared insights at why he’s been successful in the coffee world, and what MadCap looks like moving forward.

Why expand to D.C. instead of continuing to build in Michigan?

We are working on expanding in Michigan within the next year and a half, within the Grand Rapids area, but we’re kind of in this spot – especially on the roasting and the café side – we want to try and push boundaries a little bit more, and we need it more accelerated. We had some good relationships being built in D.C., and wholesale opportunities, so we’ve had a lot of trips out there, and there’s a really awesome small coffee community that’s there, but there’s so much room for growth. We’re hoping for an opportunity to really just stretch people in how they experience coffee in a café environment. We’re hoping to push the boundaries and be a little bit more risky in how we do that in D.C.

What is it that you think makes the D.C. coffee scene unique?

At this point, I definitely think it’s the community. It’s kind of an overlooked area in terms of where I think the food scene’s at, and even where its baristas are at. The level of camaraderie between the cafes there, and the baristas, it was easy getting plugged in there, because they do monthly TNTs and have welcomed us with open arms. It’s been really awesome. And I haven’t experienced quite the community, in that same fashion, anywhere else.

Considering what you’ve learned in Grand Rapids, what does a MadCap coffeehouse have to be going forward?

We definitely learned not to sell people short on how you can serve them coffee, and how open people are to experiencing education, and wanting to know more about the product and wanting to be given high quality product, and be connected to where that product’s from. We definitely learned that there. Moving forward, we really want to just expand more on the customer side of things, work more on the customer experience for people. I think one thing we realized, half of what we do is find great coffee, roast it, brew it, serve it to people. The other half is try to provide a great experience for people. There definitely has to be a balance. If you provide a great experience, people are willing to try anything.

Was it a given that you’d work with coffee for a career, or did you consider other careers?


Address: 98 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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