Al Hadler is on a mission to bring better coffee to the break room.
Waite Park residents might know Hadler better as the guy behind the wheel of the big red Al’s Coffee van.
The lifelong Northeaster opened a new business this summer in the former convenience store space on 33rd Avenue and Johnson Street.
Nordeast Coffee Company services businesses with gourmet coffee, as well as cups, cream, sugar and everything else a they need to brew higher- quality coffee for their employees.
“Everybody, I’ve found these days, wants better coffee,” says Hadler.
Hadler’s been in the coffee business since he graduated from Edison High School in 1977. It started as a part-time job during college, which later led to a full-time service and repair job. After about 20 years with that company, he started his own business, Al’s Coffee, in 1996.
After a disagreement with his partners in that business, Hadler decided late last year to start fresh. Shortly after that, the Johnson Street space, about a block from his home, became available for lease.
Nordeast Coffee is the second coffee-related tenant at the address in less than a year. A pair of former Starbucks baristas tried to open a brewing supply store in January but ran into problems meeting city requirements in the space. Hadler’s business is a different model.
“This is what I’ve done for 30 years, what I’m doing right now,” says Hadler.
When a business signs up, there’s no contract to sign. Hadler hooks up brewing equipment free of charge. Customers pay only for the coffee and supplies. (He also services filtered water coolers.)
Hadler has partnered with B & W Specialty Coffee on a series of Northeast-themed coffee blends: Brewery Blend, Nordeast Blend, Railroad Tracks Blend, Theatre Blend, and Ole Miss Roast. The coffee blends are for sale by the pound from Nordeast Coffee’s storefront.
He’s working to sign-up as many neighborhood businesses as he can, but he’s also going after customers across the Twin Cities. (“I had one guy ask me the other day: does that have anything to do with that beer? I says: Yeah, I drink both,” Hadler quips.)
The focus for now is on business customers, but Hadler’s longer-term plan includes turning the storefront into a neighborhood coffee shop, too. The space, however, doesn’t currently meet the city’s requirements for that type of business due to plumbing issues. (Among other things, it lacks an accessible bathroom for customers.)
“There are some things we’re going to run into,” says Hadler. “We want to get one business going first.”
Originally published in the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of the Waite Park Voice newsletter.