By Laurie GordonBy Laurie Gordon
A long-time business in Sparta has gained the reputation of employing local high school and college students, but few realize that over Greene's Beans' 25-year tenure, the number of students it has employed is close to 400.
"That's a substantial number for a small business like ours,” said co-owner, Dave Greene. “As business owners, we feel gratified that although many of those young people had never interfaced with ‘the public’ before becoming baristas at Greene’s Beans, they became accomplished at dealing with many different personalities. We think they gained an enhanced work ethic and sense of responsibility as well as an opportunity to earn money. On the other side of the equation, we’ve been very lucky employers over the years. Our employee-colleagues – mostly young people - continue to give us a sense of the promise that remains for humanity. We will always be grateful for their stopping by for a while to help us, and by extension, to help our customers - along their ways.”
The first Greene Brothers Specialty Coffee Roasters, Inc. (doing business as Greene’s Beans Café) opened in April of 1995 in Hackettstown.
“We then opened our Sparta store just two years later,” Greene said. “People might not know that we buy raw ‘green’ coffee from multiple origins and that we roast all of our coffee ourselves in our shops, continuously. We have a 12-kilo American-made Diedrich drum coffee roaster in our Hackettstown store and a German-made 5-kilo Probat roaster in Sparta.”
Most of the roasting is done with the Diedrich machine at a rate of about 20 pounds per 20 minute batch. Roastmaster, craftsman and co-owner, Brian Greene, roasts tens of thousands of pounds of coffee from various origins every year with that machine.”
“The roasters (man and machine) are the heart, blood, sweat and tears of Greene’s Beans Café,” Greene said. “The combination of high quality raw materials (choice green coffee), craft (roasting) and craft roaster are essential to what make Greene’s Beans business unique.”
In addition to it's traditional and flavored coffees and teas, the business also has a “secret recipe” for hot chocolate that's a huge hit. (No, they're not revealing the formula).
“To keep the Greene’s Beans Café experience fresh and interesting, we adjust our product mix and menu, adding and rotating drinks and other products continuously,” Greene said. “We offer a latte of the month. This month (March, 2020) we offer a Lavender London Fog - an latte made with Earl Grey Tea, flavored with lavender and vanilla. From March 12 to March 17, we’ll offer our Irish Tuxedo, a coffee latte with Irish Cream syrup, white and regular cocoas. We are offering samples of a different tea each day of the month during March. In April, we’ll have some special events and offerings to celebrate our 25th Anniversary in business.
“We wanted to our customers to maximize the quality of the coffee they drink at home, so we stocked numerous electric drip coffee brewers, home espresso machines and grinders, etc.,” Greene said. “We learned that most people weren’t coming to us for appliances; they were coming for beverages and bulk coffee and for a place to meet and relax. We did sell a substantial number of those hard goods, and we still do, but they are not what you might call profit centers, and customers still want the ability to buy locally or they may want a last-minute gift.”
Most of the items Greene's Beans offers add a certain coffee shop flare.
“This morphs and changes according to who does the merchandising and what our customers seem to want,” he said. “In other words, we still offer retail products for which we see some continuous demand.”
Greene's Beans stocks up on special or unique gifts for holidays ranging from Halloween to Mother's day.
“Several times a year we bring in rare 'Limited Edition Single Origin' like natural honey-processed coffees from Costa Rica, Honduras, and Colombia, for instance,” Greene said. “This special type of coffee is produced by leaving the entire fruit on the seed (bean) for various lengths of time before it is de-pulped, removed, and washed, promoting further complexity and development of the coffee.”
As time has marched on, the business has kept up with changes in technology.
“We have introduced Square point-of-sale technology and payment processing which allows us to accept cash or credit card payments efficiently,” Greene said. “Square also provides back-end inventory control and sales monitoring tools which make it possible to manage inventory while observing trends and predicting product and manpower needs.”
To enable on-line purchases of bulk coffee and tea, Greene's Beans use Square as its secure cart and payment gateway for its www.GreenesBeans.com website. Kelsey Walter, a Centenary University MBA graduate, recently became the business' General Manager. She has implemented several projects aimed at process improvements, business growth, and personnel training and education.“Because of the cyclical and seasonal nature of retail businesses, maintaining positive cash flow has always been a challenge,” Greene said. “Gizelle Meert (MBA), our bookkeeper/controller, has overseen our finances for many years. She is, indeed, the conscience of the business keeping us financially healthy despite the constant ebbs and flows of cash.”Greene's Beans' most popular items include roasted coffee from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sumatra. Leaf tea is also popular including: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Masala (Spiced) Chai, Jasmine Pearl Green Tea, Blueberry Bang Rooibos (herbal). The business isn't just drinks, but has also gained popularity for it's tea breads (especially banana), apple strudel and peanut flax bars. Nitro coffee, cappuccino, latte and iced drinks are also popular year round. Novelties include Unemployed Philosophers Guild humorous products, Bob Ross items, finger puppet magnets, mugs, and more.
“Our most unique itemsare our Yi Xing Clay Tea Pots, Polish Pottery, and Unemployed Philosophers Guild,” Greene said.
The brothers, Dave and Brian Greene are partners in the business, along with their wives, Ann and Victoria.Greene's Beans is located at 31 Center Street, within the Theatre Plaza, in Sparta. Hours are: Monday though Friday: 6: a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 973-726-8800 for further information or visit: http://greenesbeans.com.