Water Street Coffee Joint has grown from a one-man coffee shop to a successful line of cafes. While working with Royal Importer, based in New York, Water Street has worked to employ hundreds of farm workers in countries such as Ethiopia and Mexico. Through fair trade and growing organic coffees, Water Street has benefited the lives of hundreds of workers.
Western Michigan University
By implementing fair trade, and growing organic coffees on farms in Ethiopia and Mexico, Water Street has improved the health and working conditions for men and women. Women in Mexico are given cervical cancer screenings regularly, as this cancer has increasingly caused fatalities in the community. Employees of these farms are paid better wages than other local producers which increases the economic well-being of the community.
While Water Street's coffee is sourced outside of the United States, the company strives to purchase other food and beverage ingredients from local farmers in Kalamazoo and surrounding areas. The fruits and vegetables used in their kitchen and cafes are grown locally by many different farms. By purchasing these goods locally, Water Street has helped local farmers thrive and enhanced the local economy.
At the end of the work day, Water Street delivers any left over food items to Kalamazoo's drop-in day shelter, Ministry With Community. This initiative reduces food waste and addresses food insecurity in Kalamazoo.
The inspiration for implementing minimal waste seemed like a "no-brainer" to owner, Mark Smutek. If someone could do something as simple as donating left over food to a local shelter, then why not? "Food donations are logical because it's food we're not going to sell. The alternative is throwing good food away. It is such an easy choice to say donate it," said Elizabeth Comrie, Water Street's Director of Operations.
The decision to source a large amount of fair trade organic coffee was deliberate from the very start. There were fees and certifications that came along with this decision to source a better type of coffee, but Water Street felt it was worth it because quality is their number one priority. "Many of the ideals underlying organic and fair trade help create a quality coffee, so it is easy to incorporate those...we are running parallel with them," said Elizabeth.
Overall, donating leftover food to Ministry with Community has had a great impact on eliminating hunger in Kalamazoo. Water Street donates two to three times a week, providing a benefit to local citizens who may not know when their next meal will come from.
Integrating the fair trade and the organic movement has enhanced the livelihoods of farmers in Ethiopia and Mexico. Sourcing from those countries enhances employment and stimulates local economies. Workers are provided a decent job, with safe working conditions, as well as higher wages than surrounding farms. This not only benefits the workers in those communities also but provides a safe beverage for us to enjoy without the worry of harmful additives introduced through the supply chain.
Water Street Coffee Joint's innovations have led to an increase in sales and customer base over their 25 years in business. What started as a single shop in downtown Kalamazoo has grown into 5 cafes, a kitchen, and a specialty roaster.
Water Street's dedication to the local community has helped make them successful. Their decision to purchase local ingredients has supported area businesses which is a very popular trend with modern consumers. They have also dedicated resources to helping their community by donating food to local shelters and other Kalamazoo non-profits. All of these innovations have given them a firm grasp on the coffee market in Kalamazoo.
Water Street's success has enabled them to grow their payroll. The company now employs over 100 people in both their coffee shops and management. They have also been able to offer retirement plans to most employees and great opportunities for advancement.
The investment in a roaster has enabled Water Street to enter new markets in wholesale accounts to businesses across the Midwestern United States. Water Street's dedication to their innovations in food donation, local shopping, and philanthropy has benefited their business in many ways.
"It was a different area down there 25 years ago" commented Elizabeth Comrie, about the condition of the east side of Kalamazoo. The growth of Water Street Coffee Joint has been a significant force in the revitalization of downtown Kalamazoo. We've helped add value to an "underutilized area of the city" said Mark Smutek.
In addition to helping the urban renewal of downtown Kalamazoo, Water Street's dedication to purchasing Fair Trade Organic and fresh crop coffee has led to benefits for developing countries. One major contribution that Water Street was a part of was the construction of a woman's clinic in Mexico to scan for cervical cancer. This entire contribution was funded by the FTO organization.
Mark Smutek, Owner and President
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Kalamazoo, MI, US
Business Website: https://www.waterstreetcoffee.com
Year Founded: 1993
Number of Employees: 51 to 200
Water Street Coffee Joint has grown from a one-man coffee shop twenty five years ago to a successful line of cafes today. They now have over 100 employees working in facilities that include their cafes, a kitchen, a roaster, and in partnership with wholesale retailers. Their management team prides themselves in creating language and culture where employees feel safe, and know their managers are engaged in the daily routines. They have implemented a coffee education series that provides education to their employees and their community about how to produce organic coffees. They believe knowledge is power when it comes to making coffees.