Greg Stumbo is a coffee artist. Ever since he began brewing in his home over fifteen years ago, he fell in love with the science behind the brew, and the technique of creating the perfect cuppa joe.
It started, as so many things do, as a side hobby. He roasted beans at home while working as an account manager at Coca-Cola.
Then he met Bill Waddington, a man with a similar passion, but for tea. That passion lead Waddington to open up Tea Source in Minneapolis, with the sole purpose of sharing his love for tea with others.
Stumbo was inspired by the idea. As his love for coffee grew, he began selling wholesale beans around the Fergus Falls region. He started up a private company, Stumbeano’s Coffee Roasters, in 2005.
When business continued to grow, he partnered with Cafe 116, a small shop in Fergus that sells coffee, tea and homemade soups and sandwiches. It was through this that he formed relationships with partners of the Kilbourne Group, who vacationed at the lakes over the summer.
“If you ever want to open a shop in Fargo, let us know,” they told Stumbo. So he shifted his gaze to Fargo.
The coffee scene at the time was weak, he said. There were no specialty coffees; Starbucks, Caribou and Dunn Brothers had yet to move in to the area. Red Raven would open up a few years later. At the time only Babbs Coffee on Main St. and Moorhead’s Moxie Java and Atomic Coffee existed.
What was emerging, however, was a “foodie culture,” Stumbo said. Places like the Green Market and Hotel Donaldson were expanding their culinary options. This signified a shifting culture in Fargo that Stumbo, a Moorhead native and NDSU graduate, found intriguing.
“I thought, it’s going to keep on changing, and we can predict where coffee is going to go,” he said.
From the beginning, Stumbo knew he didn’t want to be a big coffee shop right on the main street, he said. He wanted something secluded, niche, a place where they could serve coffee but also use it for wholesale training, staff training, and partner development.
When Kilbourne showed him the basement of the Loretta building, it was the perfect fit. At the time the Boiler Room did not yet exist, and the entire basement was sand and gravel.
“We took what we had, which was a floor, ceiling and walls, and maintained what the space looked like,” he said. “That was the goal was to have it small and European. We didn’t feel like we needed a big footprint to get going with it.”
It worked, according to a handful of customer reviews. One, Jeremy Schwarzrock, wrote that in Stumbeano’s “it felt like I was overseas having a cup of coffee.” He also wrote how Stumbeano’s relies on the coffee flavors, rather than sweetening it with other things – an admirable quality not often found in American coffee shops.
Two years later, the coffee shop still attracts regular customers everyday, Stumbo said. But their wholesale market is the bread and butter to their business, and one he has been establishing for over 10 years.
Today Stumbeano’s coffee can be found in various places in Fergus Falls, as well as places in Fargo like the HoDo, Nichole’s, Sandy’s, Creative Kitchen, Blackbird Woodfire, and Smiling Moose.
Barista Jams and Home Brewing
Part of Stumbo’s passion is to reignite an interest in the craft behind the coffee.
“Coffee roasting used to be as common as baking bread,” he said.
To that end, Stumbeano’s offers home coffee brewing classes, where they brew one coffee five different ways. They also host Barista Jams, where local baristas compete over coffee taste and presentation.
As more coffee shops open in Fargo, Stumbo said he continues to distinguish Stumbeano’s as one with an intense focus on the craft.
Their shop is like a cocktail bar, he said, the baristas like mixologists. You can order one of their espressos with whole milk, or a latte made with spices like lavender, cardamom, coriander with almond. Or you can say, “surprise me,” and they’ll know what to do.
“Greg is really awesome at thinking up new flavors,” said barista Terry Starkey, as he offered a sample of the fennel-pu’erh (black tea) flavoring they use in lattes.
It’s the art form that first got Stumbo hooked on coffee, and what he envisions now and for the future of Stumbeano’s; to keep being ‘coffee-forward,’ he said, to keep mastering the perfect brew.
“It’s always exciting every time I get fresh coffee because you don’t know initially what it’s going to taste like,” Stumbo said. “You always have a part in that. You want to have it taste the best it can.”
Stumbeano’s is a featured speaker at this week’s 1 Million Cups Coffee Day. Join us on Wednesday, March 30 at the Stage at Island Park, 9:15 AM.
Photos courtesy of Stumbeano’s. Feature photo courtesy of the Arts Partnership.