Impact Coffee

  Impact Coffee
by Sean Brown
10/08/20 Driftless Area Magazine

show|hide ad

Impact Coffee
An Interview With Sean Brown

About Impact Coffee

Owners Jeff and Anja Brown had been in the custom framing business for over 30 years when during the summer of 2014, Jeff decided it was time for a career change. Along with his oldest son, Sean, the remodel of the frame shop began and Impact Coffee was born.

The first year and a half the frame shop and Impact coffee shared a space, creating a unique and cozy environment.  When the coffee shop began to outgrow the shared space, the frame shop was relocated down the street and the first expansion began.

Needing space for his roasters, Jeff's two stall garage quickly became a full blown roastery. Using his background and passion as an avid home brewer, Jeff quickly took to learning the ropes of roasting and began fine tuning his craft as a roaster.

Now, just over 6 years old, Impact Coffee offers custom roasting, a full espresso bar, seasonal handcrafted coffee drinks, nitro cold brew and a large selection of high quality loose leaf teas.

Let’s get to know Sean

So, what’s your story? Where were you born? How long have you been here in the Driftless, What keeps you here?

Born and raised in Decorah, went to Luther and graduated in 2013. I’ve been here almost 30  years now. Just trying to be a townie for life at this point. Coffee, family and the outdoors are  what keeps me here right now, but I love everything Decorah has to offer.

Tell us about what you do for work or your business, and how long have you been doing this?

I own and manage Impact Coffee in Decorah, Iowa with my parents Jeff and Anja. We each  have our own role at Impact. I manage the coffee bar, Jeff roasts all the coffee us and our  20+ accounts around the area, and Anja bakes the most delicious scones you’ve ever had.  We just started our 6th year in operation, which feels so weird. Time has just flown by. 

Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career with your business.

By far our biggest accomplishment has been our most recent move and expansion into a  building that was formerly a JC Penny. With the help of our landlord we renovated a 1.5  stories and built our dream coffee bar and have since moved our roasting operation into the  building as well. Our seating capacity went from maybe 40 to now over 300. This move  changed coffee from a job to a lifelong career for me.  

We’re constantly making things better, faster, smarter or less expensive. We leverage technology or improve processes. In other words, we strive to do more—with less. Tell us about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.

Covid has definitely forced a lot of brick and mortar business to adapt quickly. Our biggest  challenge with staying open for pickup, was getting drinks to customers in a safe and  efficient manner, while also keeping our staff safe. We got super lucky when we renovated  the building and happened to install brand new windows that open. This has allowed us to  be able to run one window for walk up ordering and another for online ordering & pickup.  The walkup window satisfies the tourists who find our shop, but don’t know about the online  ordering. Locals who use our online ordering can easily plan ahead and skip the busy line,  especially on weekends.  

Tell us about one person that you’ve met, that stands apart from the rest or has influenced  you, while here in the Driftless.

That one person would be Stan Fullerton. Stan is our landlord, but has been a family friend  my entire life. Without Stan, our move and renovation of the JC Penny building wouldn’t have  happened. What he has done, not only for us, but for the downtown Decorah community  makes me feel very grateful and appreciative to have him in our life.

What do you wish other people knew about you or your business?

With the strain Covid has put on small businesses, I think now more than ever, it’s important  for people to support and appreciate small businesses. We want to come out of this stronger  than ever, but we need the support. Shopping and supporting small local businesses like  ours, keep small towns like Decorah vibrant and unique.  

If you weren’t here running your business, what would you be doing instead?

Probably working a desk job at a midrange paper supply company in Scranton, PA.  

How do you develop yourself outside of your work environment? For instance, a hobby, a purposeful pursuit, or maybe an appetite for exploration.

Any time I travel I always look up local coffee shops that are similar to ours. Finding people  who are passionate about their craft are incredibly inspiring. Oftentimes they can relate to  everything we go through as a small craft coffee shop and being able to talk shop for a little bit  can help you gain so much insight and spark your next great idea.  

What are some of your favorite places to go for fun here in the Driftless?

I love trout fishing, so I spend a lot of time on the streams around Decorah. Otherwise, fat  biking the numerous trails in Decorah, or heading over to Lansing and taking the pontoon out  for a float on Mississippi.  

What are some of your favorite (non commercial) places to eat here in the Driftless?

My three go to places are Forager, in Rochester, and The Waterfront in Lacrosse and Luna  Valley Pizza Farm in Decorah. Forager has incredible beer and food. Dinner and drinks on the  patio at the Waterfront during the summer is a must. But by far my favorite place to eat is  Luna Valley. The pizza is incredible, but the ambiance of being tucked in the hills of their farm  is unbeatable. The owners Tom & Maren Beard are probably two of the nicest people you will  ever meet.

What is the most courageous thing you have done in your life?

After graduating from Luther, I chose to stay in Decorah to manage a coffee shop being  opened by my parents even though none of us had any experience in the coffee industry  whatsoever.  

If you were to tell a friend to come and visit the Driftless Area, and they ask “Why”... what would you tell them?
If you love the outdoors, small town vibes, good food and great breweries then the Driftless  is the place for you.