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HOUSTON, Minn. – A year after they started Carlson Roasting Co. in downtown Houston, Bob and Mimi Carlson plan to continue growing their coffee roasting business – in a new, much larger downtown location.

Carlson Roasting opened last November at 214 E. Cedar St., and so far is wholesaling its roasted coffee beans to six grocery stores — in Houston (at the Root River Market), Winona (at Hy-Vee and the Bluff Country Co-op), Rochester and Rushford, Minn. It also offers online direct sales, coffee for fundraisers with the fundraising organization’s custom label, and custom private label coffee.

Also, Carlson Roasting coffee is served at two eateries, in Whalan and Rochester, Minn.

Bob Carlson hopes to have Carlson Roasting coffee in La Crosse retail stores by the end of this year.

He and his wife recently bought the former Cross Roads Cafe at 101 W. Cedar St., at the corner of Hwys. 16 and 76 in Houston.

Carlson said they plan to open a tasting room with retail sales of coffee beans in the former cafe within a month, and to eventually move their entire coffee business there – probably sometime next year.

The tasting room probably will be open only on Saturdays, he said. “People will be able to try different types of coffee there,” he said.

Carlson also operates Coffee House Real Estate from the couple’s rural Houston home. He started that business in 2005, a year after he and Mimi moved to the area from the Twin Cities.

Before starting his own real estate agency, Carlson was a real estate agent with Edina Realty of Edina, Minn., for three years.

He is an Edina native. Mimi was raised on a farm near Wadena, Iowa.

Mimi also works full time as an information technology project manager for Accenture, a global professional services firm.

The Carlsons met at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where Bob received a bachelor’s degree in management and Mimi received a bachelor’s degree in management information systems and accounting. She also has a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

The Carlsons have five children, ages 2 to 16.

“We wanted to be halfway between Wadena and Edina,” Bob Carlson said of the couple’s decision to move to Houston from Edina. “And we wanted to live in the country, near a small town. We really enjoy Houston. It’s a very nice community, and it’s very welcoming to people who move in from the outside.”

The Carlsons opened A Little Looney in 2005 in the former Skifton’s Department Store in Houston and later moved it to 110 N. Grant St. — the current location of Barista’s Coffee House. A Little Looney sold a variety of coffee drinks, natural fruit smoothies, toys, art, paint-your-own pottery and bicycle rentals.

The Carlsons sold A Little Looney in 2008 and the new owners renamed it Barista’s Coffee House.

Bob Carlson had been roasting coffee beans (for personal use) at home for eight years before he and his wife started Carlson Roasting Co. He was using a small roaster that Mimi had bought for him as a Christmas gift.

He thought for several years about starting a coffee roasting business.

“This building became available,” he said of the current location, so he and Mimi bought and renovated it, purchased a small commercial roaster and started Carlson Roasting.

“I enjoy taking a coffee and discovering the perfect way to roast it,” Carlson said. “I have a process for finding out how to get there. There’s a lot of experimentation.” Roasting in small batches allows him to bring out the potential of each batch, he said.

The Carlsons’ roaster can roast about 12 pounds of coffee an hour, and Bob Carlson usually roasts coffee two or three days a week. Sales continue to grow and Carlson Roasting roasted about 250 pounds of coffee beans in September.

“We’re not huge — not yet,” Bob Carlson said. “We’re not Folgers at this point.” But he plans to have Carlson Roasting coffee in more grocery stores, coffee houses, cafes and restaurants in the future.

Carlson Roasting gets its coffee beans from Papa New Guinea, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. “Sumatran coffee is our biggest seller,” Bob Carlson said.

By the end of this month, all of Carlson Roasting’s coffee will be both fair trade and organic.


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