Dave Baldwin knew he had a special partner to start his new business venture. His daughter, Erin, has Down syndrome, and it has been her challenges in life that inspired him and his wife to start Furnace Hills Coffee Company.
The Baldwins, who live in Furnace Hills (their coffee business's namesake), said, “Our daughter was living in a home in Wisconsin and things weren’t going the way we thought they should, be so we brought her home.”
Once home, Baldwin knew his 37-year-old daughter would need something to do. There were phone calls and inquiries made to the state regarding job availability for the developmentally disabled.
“We weren’t able to come up with anything. There was a wait list for jobs for the developmentally disabled,” explained Baldwin. “We said 'this is not going to work.'”
Determined, Baldwin took matters into his own hands and ultimately, his research and Internet surfing brought him to a website featuring Aspire.
Aspire is a leading Chicago-based nonprofit that helps children and adults with developmental disabilities reach for their dreams.
“Jim Kales is the guy who is the CEO of Aspire, and he started a not-for-profit coffee roasting business where developmentally disabled individuals work,” Baldwin explained. “When I saw this, it got me to thinking. I thought if they can do it in Chicago, I can do it in Maryland.”
And do it in Maryland he has—specifically in Westminster.
In April 2010, Baldwin got Erin started with small roasters, making coffee for family and friends in their home. “We did this to make sure we were doing OK,” joked Baldwin. “And we lived in Furnace Hills, so that’s how we came up with the name for the company.”
Last May, they expanded their sales beyond family and friends. Just last month, they made the move to the storefront at 71 W. Main Street.
“As we grew, we went to a larger, gas-fired roaster,” Baldwin explained. “We also needed to hire someone to work with Erin. Through a Facebook update we found Lia.”
Lia Moore, a Walden University graduate student majoring in mental health counseling, started working with Erin last September.
Now the two women work together Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Main Street store, roasting beans for the company’s seven coffee offerings.
“I help Erin put the beans in the roaster and add the blend,” said Moore. “Erin selects the settings and starts the roaster.”
Once the roast is completed, the coffee beans are placed in labeled bags and ready to sell.
Moore estimates about 100 pounds per week are roasted and bagged to sell in a variety of venues.
“We probably sell about 30 pounds a week at the farmers market on Railroad Ave. in Westminster,” Baldwin said. “We also brew and sell cups of coffee at the farmers market.”
The rest of their production is sold through numerous accounts with coffee shops, bakeries and online sales.
Baldwin explained there are many “special” aspects to the Furnace Hills Coffee Company. Certainly their coffee is produced from high-quality, organically grown beans, but they embrace the goal of employing developmentally disabled people.
Their commitment is evident in the support they give to other entities dedicated to the same goal.
“Each bag of coffee we sell, we give $1 to an organization that works with developmentally disabled orphan boys in the Ukraine,” Baldwin said. “Each pound of our Telunas blend we sell, we give $1 to community development in Southeast Asia.”