Ward Fowler, Lincoln Fowler and Paul Miller talked on and off for a couple of years about opening a cafe. Good coffee was hard to come by, so they figured they had to roast it themselves. The initial idea for Alterra was to open a cafe where coffee was roasted on-site. Customers would learn more about coffee if they could see it made. We opened our first retail location in 1994 using a small shop roaster, but because we only roasted for the cafe, the roaster stood idle most of the time. As this defeated the purpose of roasting on-site and took up space we needed for retail, we decided it would be best to give up the cafe roaster altogether.
In the meantime, cafe after cafe started springing up and they were all looking for a local roaster to supply them with coffee and equipment. To fulfill their demands, coffee was roasted out of a fifth floor warehouse space, packed and carried downstairs into Ward's seatless Mazda GLC Luxe (our delivery truck). By the time we moved to a basement warehouse location at 3rd and Washington in the Walker's Point neighborhood of Milwaukee, we were roasting for a few more customers. While the space had its advantages (it was cheap), there wasn't a lot of room to grow. All of the office guys shared a room with a conference table where we ate lunch and held meetings, and the production crew developed a keen ability to avoid knocking into each other. It quickly became apparent that if we wanted to expand, we'd have to venture out of the basem
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