The Green Bean was founded in 2002 and remains the longest-standing coffee shop in the city, Coen Cauthen The Green Bean’s retail operations manager, said. In 2009, the original owners Pete and Anne Schroth sold the coffee shop to its then-manager Katie Southard. In 2015, The Green Bean expanded to a restaurant and coffee house on Golden Gate Drive. However, through all of those changes, Joe Van Gogh the coffee shop’s roasters had remained its constant since opening day–that is, until mid-May of this year. The 26-year-old, Hillsborough-based, coffee bean roasters took over ownership of both of The Green Bean’s locations.
“We were really the first thing that started to happen downtown on Elm,” Cauthen said. “The fact that we have been bought is kind of a big deal.”
Joe Van Gogh’s mission, according to its website is to “foster a community with great coffee – a community of farmers, millers, roasters, baristas, and coffee drinkers.” Cauthen said the quality of Joe Van Gogh’s coffee has elevated the shop for years.
“But there is something to be said about having a company that backs you and gives you more opportunity,” Cauthen said. “We are going from a single-owner, private company to a little bit more accessible to things we were never to before have ever had before. So, when this new micro-lot, single origin, fair trade, picked-by-someone’s-grandmother comes in we can afford it and afford to give it to the community.”
Joe Van Gogh’s retail development manager Jami Shangler added that The Green Bean also has access to the information about the farms where the coffee is coming from.
“We have such a community with the farmers, which is amazing and is rare in some cases, being able to have a complete, direct line,” Shangler said.
For instance, Stephanie Kelley Joe Van Gogh’s brand manager mentioned one brand of coffee, Cafe Femenino from Peru that has a program that supports women that produce the coffee. Kelley said she had the opportunity to meet the women and Robbie Roberts the owner of Joe Van Gogh, was going to meet them this July.
“So, the women with a specific co-operative, they came together,” Kelley said. “Peru was actually the first country that this program was initiated in 2004 and it has since grown and is in a number of other countries such as, Sumatra to Mexico to Nicaragua and Brazil. So, it is just empowering these women.”
This is just one of many other coffees that Joe Van Gogh and now The Green Bean has to offer.
“I am excited to just share this kind of information with the staff here,” Kelley said. “Joe Van Gogh is also excited, I mean this is a really fun opportunity for us too. It was something Robbie Roberts, the owner of Joe Van Gogh, when it was presented to him he knew he wanted to pursue.”
Roberts, in an email, described The Green Bean as having been and is still a “Greensboro trendsetter.” Roberts went on to write that Joe Van Gogh, “felt attached to the Green Bean since it opened, and we had the pleasure of roasting its coffee from the beginning.”
Audrey Stephens the Elm Street store manager has been with The Green Bean for six years and has “watched its inception” since even before it opened.
“I went to a New Year’s Eve gathering in this space before they revamped it,” Stephens said. “So, The Green Bean has been apart of my life since 2001 and this chapter definitely is extremely exciting.”
Stephens said when Southard decided to sell the business she first consulted with Joe Van Gogh. Stephens said that The Green Bean did not even make it on the market before it was sold. Stephens calls this “a natural progression” for the business and is thrilled to be under new ownership.
Cauthen said for The Green Bean the new shift in ownerships means “a lot of cool things.” Cauthen said some of these cool things include training programs and access to more specialty coffees.
“For The Green Bean’s staff it means a living wage and benefits for our full time employees,” Cauthen said. “Which, in the world of coffee, is a rare thing. So, we are really excited about it.”
For Stephens, who used to be a small business owner herself, the change in ownership has inspired her to bring her full focus to The Green Bean.
“It means that they are investing in me,” Stephens said. “Which makes me want to invest my time here because I am being shown how valuable I am. That is a really big deal, that is a huge deal and has far reaching effects in anyone’s quality of life.”
When people think about The Green Bean, Cauthen says that they think “institution” because of their long-standing reputation as community-oriented business downtown.
“Whether it is our rotating art that happens every month–we have a curator on staff who brings in a lot of local artist–or partnering with local vendors for our food.” Cauthen said. “It has been a big deal, it is who we are. Fortunately for us, it is also who Joe Van Gogh is. They are really into getting involved in the community and tailoring to the people around them.”
Cauthen said the only worry that he and Stephens had about the switch in ownership was: Who was going to be in charge of them and in charge of carrying on the integrity of the well-known and revered coffee shop? Now, after a month of Joe Van Gogh’s ownership Cauthen and Stephens both agreed the new partnership really works for them.
Shangler was in charge of overseeing the transition of ownership and she said on Joe Van Gogh’s end, they are really excited to get to know The Green Bean’s staffs and the community of Greensboro as a whole.
“Having a bigger connection to Greensboro has been our main focus,” Shangler said. “Right now, it is getting to know what The Green Bean is and what it means and going from there.”
Joe Van Gogh has coffee shops in both Raleigh and Durham, but the addition of The Green Bean is something new for Joe Van Gogh. Kelley has worked with Joe Van Gogh for 10 years and she said it is the first time that the company has acquired an existing business.
As far as changes are concerned, Cauthen said that they will come “slow and steadily” after Joe Van Gogh gets acclimated to the community. Stephens said the foundational changes that have already occurred are only going to inspire the continued changes that occur.
“Those first foundational changes have been to invest in the employees, the staff, the space, the equipment, in education and training,” Stephens said. “These are things that then inspire the people who work here to be excited about any change that may come.”
This, in turn, will help communicate those changes in a way that excites people and draws their reception. Stephens said Greensboro can expect to see a “deepened relationship” with the community, even more so than The Green Bean already has.
“Again, we are talking about foundations and the most amazing foundation is our wonderful reputation and our solid and committed relationship to the community already,” Stephens said. “Greensboro can expect to see more of that in bigger and better ways.”
Cauthen said one thing is certain: the quality of coffee is only going to get better.
To learn more about Joe Van Gogh and browse their selection of Cafe Feminino, check out their website www.joevangogh.com/.