Randy Lint calls bailing out of his legal career into the coffee business “the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” Unlike his wife Jennifer, who has excelled in her own legal career long enough to be appointed District Court Judge, Randy found being a small town general practice attorney was just not his cup of tea…or should we say coffee. So, when he lost the Justice of the Peace position that he held from 1999-2000, instead of getting back to his practice he decided to try something new and started roasting coffee beans.
He began by installing a coffee roaster in the garage at his wife’s legal business. He worked successfully out of that little garage for about a year and half when he and Jennifer spotted an open business space in downtown Hamilton in the center of town with a four-way stop at the intersection.
“We thought it would make a nice coffee shop and we thought roasting the beans right in the shop might be an attraction. So they made the move in 2012.
Lint said he had only one employee who soon quit and he ran the whole business for about four or five months all by himself, opening the shop, roasting the beans, making and serving coffee all day, then cleaning up the shop and placing orders for coffee beans.
“I really can’t even imagine it now,” he said. “At the time, I guess I just couldn’t afford to fail.” And fail he did not. His business, both in the shop and online and mail order, was steadily growing. But as the two aspects of his business, serving lattes on the one hand and roasting beans on the other, both grew, a conflict began to develop in the shop.
Although the smell of roasting coffee did work as an attractant to the shop, it also generated a lot of heat which became problematic in the summertime without good air conditioning in the building. He bought another smaller coffee roaster and put it in the shop and went back to roasting mainly in the garage with the bigger machine. It was more efficient and more productive in less time than the small one. Eventually he phased out roasting at the coffee shop.
Then Jennifer got appointed to the District Court Judge position and closed her law office. That left Randy looking for another place to roast. He found one located along the highway north of Hamilton near Woodside.
The building, which serves as a wholesale production facility as well as a warehouse, is bigger than what he needs right now, he said, but he plans on growing into it. His business has already grown from employing only one person to employing seven people.
Lint said that dealing with the employees has become, surprisingly to him, one of the most satisfying parts of the business.
“I am proud of my staff and crew,” he said. “Probably the biggest measure of satisfaction I’ve gotten out of this business is the jobs I’ve created.” Lint said that his employees are really hard workers and always do it with a smile.
As much as he may like dealing with customers and employees, he can’t conceal his delight in the roasting process itself. His enthusiasm was evident as he demonstrated how his high tech, computer driven, mini-roaster can roast a small portion of beans (enough for about two cups of coffee) in about 5 to 6 minutes in a digitally controlled roasting cycle that slightly undercooks the beans. These beans are so lightly roasted that a person would ordinarily say it was too weak. But that’s because roasting the beans actually changes their taste and the object of this exercise is to see what the bean itself tastes like not the roasting process. This is one thing that makes coffee tasting an art.
The coffee beans come from all over the world. He has used the same four U.S. based brokers to purchase his beans for the last nine years. He buys some of his favorites and some of his customer’s favorites, he said.
Lint obviously enjoys entrepreneurism and didn’t pass up the chance to interest an inquiring newspaper reporter with one of his latest products, a new single-serve Steeped Coffee. It looks like an oversized tea bag, but unlike many tea bags, there is no bio-waste involved. It comes in a biodegradable mesh sack with no glue or staples in the package. It is also bagged using a special nitrogen-sealed package to retain freshness. All it takes is a cup of hot water and you’ve got a fine specialty blend in the same time and with as little mess as you make brewing tea in a tea bag.
Lint is feeling really good about the move. He loves having the extra space and room for trucks to deliver large loads. It was always a hassle at the downtown shop hauling in large 150-pound bags of beans.
While the new facility is simply a workspace and not generally open to the public, you can still enjoy Randy’s company at the coffee shop in Hamilton. In fact, he said the new factory space has made the coffee roasting so much more efficient and faster that it has actually made more time for him to spend with customers at the downtown shop.
Lint has done such a good job in his business that his coffee shop has been recognized as one of America’s 50 Best Coffee Stores. It’s worth checking out. His coffee beans are also sold at Burnt Fork Market in Stevensville, Pattee Creek Market in Missoula, the Good Food Store in Missoula and Super 1 Foods in Stevensville.