Come to Baraboo’s Coffee Bean Connection often enough, and there’s a good chance the baristas will know your name and order.
On a typical morning at the hometown coffee shop, there’s a weekly business meeting going on in the back and a knitting circle chatting by the font window, all while regulars bustle in and out on their busy morning commutes.
When business gets hectic, the mangers make a point to keep the line moving – and that means knowing their customers and how they like their cup of Joe.
“It becomes second nature after awhile,” said Coffee Bean Connection owner Rich Manthe. “When you see your customers, and you see their face, and you know exactly what they’re going to order before they get to the front, you can just say, ‘Here’s your drink.’”
The sense of community and familiarity that’s felt at Coffee Bean Connection was something Manthe and owner Steve Ramsey sought to foster when they opened the coffee shop in 2006. They took over and renamed the Baraboo Coffee Co. with intentions to create a popular hangout destination.
The coffee shop only sold coffee beans at the time, so the owners saved up enough money to buy an espresso machine – the same one used today.
While they were consumers of high-end coffee drinks, they didn’t know how to make them, so they attended trade shows where training was offered.
Coffee Bean Connection now serves a diverse array of hot and iced drinks, and also boasts a selection of more than 85 different beans.
Ramsey said the coffee shop orders between 300 and 500 pounds each week. They come from three different roasters who Manthe and Ramsey met at trade shows, and include the original blend that was offered at Baraboo Coffee Co.
“We go to trade shows because they always have up and coming beans from different regions,” Ramsey said. “It’s kind of like wine. Every coffee, even though they’re the same bean, they have different taste depending on where they’re grown – altitude, rain, things like that.”
His favorites are the darkest roasts he can find, and Manthe prefers espressos, but the beans, flavors and drinks they serve aren’t tailored to their tastes.
“You can’t necessarily go by what you like,” Manthe said. “You have to go by the customers. It’s a good starting point to get what we like and go from there. A few of our roasters will send us samples that we’ll put out to see if our customers like them.”
Customers are particularly fond of Coffee Bean Connection’s iced frappes and real fruit smoothies, making them the coffee shop’s Signature Fare. The cool, blended drinks are the perfect way to cool escape from the summer heat. The frappes come in a wide variety of flavors – there are more than 80 on display – and the smoothies come with several classic options as well, ranging from very berry to strawberry banana.
Fruity and decadent drinks aside, Manthe and Ramsey said they always hoped to build a business that’s known for more than great coffee. They agreed the community vibes and customers have made Coffee Bean Connection the successful business it is today.
“My goal was always to be known as the coffee shop,” Ramsey said. “When you have someone say, ‘I’ll meet you at the coffee shop’ and everyone knows they’re talking about Coffee Bean Connection.”