Booming Fort Lauderdale Business All Started With A Couple’s Coffee Roasting Hobby
Brandon Wells was maybe 18 or 19 when he had a cup of coffee that really redefined what he thought of the stuff.
It was at his grandmother’s house in small-town South Carolina. She broke out an ornate and old-fashioned coffee set, and then she slowly started brewing, taking time producing something that smelled and tasted entirely different.
“Her coffee wasn’t something you needed to drink just to get your day going,” he recalls. “It was a production. It was a real experience. I kind of seized on that moment. It started a quest for me to find the best coffee I could find.”
Now, Brandon and wife Nicole Wells have opened a roastery and storefront called the Wells Coffee Co. in Fort Lauderdale’s suddenly hot Flagler Village. They’re already selling the beans to several coffee shops around town, and it’s likely your favorite local cup was brewed from beans roasted by the Wells.
The Wells Coffee headquarters will be mostly a space used to roast coffee, they say. But the couple will also open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays as a café, and then occasionally for specialty coffee cupping and other events.
The company probably wouldn’t have happened without that first special cup at Grandma’s, says Brandon, a pastor and musician by trade. After that, he was on a quest to find good coffee wherever he traveled.
In 1996, a friend from San Francisco gave him a bag of beans by Peet’s Coffee & Tea, then a regional company. Brandon started ordering bags of Peet’s that he’d bring with him to any party or event. “Everybody called it my ‘happy sack,’” he recalls.
Things got serious for him in 2008 when somebody gave him his first coffee roaster, a small stovetop device similar to a popcorn popper. “I roasted up some green coffee beans, and that was just the most exceptional cup of coffee I ever had,” he remembers.
He started roasting bags of beans for friends and family members and even labeled them as “Wells Roast,” dreaming of maybe someday starting an actual company.
The couple did a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 to create Wells Coffee Co. The goal was to raise $15,000 over a month. Instead they received $18,000. It was enough for them to buy a full-blown coffee-roasting machine.
They worked out a deal with the owners of The Seed to install the roasting machine in the front of the Boca Raton shop when it opened in 2014. The Wells would roast the beans that the baristas would use in the shop nearby. They also began selling it elsewhere, with co-working space General Provision their first customer, followed by Brew Urban Café.
Things got so busy in 2015 that Nicole had to quit her job at a children’s boutique to help roast the beans. Last year, she flew to Oregon for a weeklong certification course to become a Q Grader, the coffee equivalent of a master sommelier.
“I needed to figure out what my role was going to be in this industry and in this company, and getting the certification really helped me get there,” she says.
Then Nicole started working on a Wells Coffee retail space and roastery. She applied for a Small Business Association loan, a process that took a good two months of work. The couple got the loan in June 2016 and started searching for locations.
“There’s an intention to create a maker community in this area, and we were like, OK, we’re going to fit right in here,” Brandon says.
Right before opening the new space, Wells Coffee Co. got one of the best accolades yet, ending up on an Epicurious list of the best roasted coffee anywhere. Then, they officially opened their doors this week, roasting beans and serving up coffee two days a week—for now.
Brandon says he thinks the place captured what was special about that cup he had years ago with his grandmother. “This place is our lives inside and out,” Brandon says. “This is the ritual of a good cup of coffee in a space.”
737 NE Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954.982.2886; wellscoffees.com
Photos by Eric Barton
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