American society seemingly cannot function without coffee. Roughly two-thirds of American adults drink it on a daily basis, and they average roughly three cups per day.
In that way, The Grind USA is helping to keep society rolling.
The Grind USA is a company in the business district of Pequot Lakes which roasts coffee — more than 400 flavors of coffee — and sells wholesale to resorts, gift shops and a wide variety of other businesses, both in the lakes area and nationwide.
The business consists of just two employees: Mike Polcaro and Michelle Owens. Polcaro serves as The Grind’s “roaster” — responsible for roasting, grinding and packaging the coffee. Owens, on the other hand, manages the bookkeeping, accounting and product ordering.
“It’s just our passion,” Polcaro said. “We absolutely love it. I roast and then she will do the bookkeeping and take care of bags and orders while I roast, and we both pack and ship it off … We roast everything here and we get everything from a few different continents. We’re really known for small batches. Our roaster does about 30 pounds at a time. There are bigger roasters and smaller ones, but this one seems to hit that sweet spot for fullness of flavor.”
“It’s just a little routine that works for us,” Owens said. “There are times where we'll get ahead of the ballgame, so we'll play around with labels or (Polcaro) will play around in the back, trying to come up with different flavor schemes, then we can do little tests. We are always trying to think of something new.”
The duo have been working in Pequot Lakes for roughly three years. They hope to have a second location in the future, but with COVID-19 taking a large toll on their customers — such as hotels, restaurants and gift shops — that has been put on hold.
Polcaro said he enjoys the work not just because he loves the smell of coffee, but also because he enjoys the process of going from receiving an order to roasting it to a clients’ specifications.
“To ultimately get to the end (of the process) and watch our clients go, ‘There it is. That’s what we’re looking for,’ is a challenge, but it is rewarding when it’s done,” Polcaro said. “I want them to tell me ‘yea,’ ‘nay’ or ‘close,’ and then go from there. I just think it’s fun seeing that all come together.”
The two said the demand for new and interesting flavors of coffee — and tea, which is the duo’s latest endeavor — has largely been driven by the younger generation of consumers.
“The older generation above us are kind of stuck on their Folgers and things like that, and you aren’t going to change them,” Owens said.
Another driving force has been the use of coffee grounds in unique and unexpected ways, such as rubs and seasonings for various meats.
The near-constant need to craft new flavors is no issue for the two, as it gives them the opportunity to try some new coffee.
“The wine flavors have been really big,” Polcaro said. “The blueberry merlot has been the hardest one to keep in stock. Amaretto has been popular, especially with an Italian sweet cream. Those would be my top two picks, and it really just depends on my mood when I wake up in the morning. I always go to those two out of all the other ones.”
Owens noted the blueberry merlot as one of her favorites as well, saying it has a very unique dynamic to it.
“What’s weird about it is that it’s really good warm, but if you are busy and you don’t get to it before it gets cold, it’s even better.”
Their belief is that businesses come to them for their coffee because the two are passionate about the work they do, and because they are more willing to work with customers’ needs than other wholesalers.
“We would love for (businesses) to give us a try and understand our passion and willingness to work with them,” Polcaro said. “We have been starting to see more local resorts asking about putting their name on the products, so they can put it inside the rooms and on K-cups … That’s really what separates us from anyone else.”
While they have business with a number of local businesses, Polcaro admits he would like to see more.
“In a perfect world, we would love to have our fingers in with these resorts and local gift shops,” Polcaro said. “It seems like we ship more out of the area than we have in the area. If we could just turn that and get it more in the area, it would be a wonderful thing. I think our future is to really focus on that … Of course, the last year has hindered a lot of that, for a lot of people.”
Another potential change in their future is the possibility of online retail.
“It may get to the point where somebody can order online,” Owens said. “We are working a little bit more towards that, where they can go to our website, order and we can just ship it out. We need to do a bit more on that before it can happen.”
For now, however, the two are content to roast and deliver the best coffee they can out of Pequot Lakes.
“Right now, we just love what we do,” Polcaro said. “We kind of figured we’ll go until we get to the point where we are not enjoying ourselves, then cut back a little bit to where we enjoy it again.”
Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.