Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Mark and Peggy Hudon are like regular people now.
Their kitchen smells of coffee only in the morning. The rooms of their home are filled with things like furniture and household appliances, instead of 100-pound gunny sacks of raw coffee beans from Columbia and heavy equipment.
After operating the Hood River Coffee Co. out of their Wasco Street house for 12 years, the Hudons have finally moved their specialty coffee roasting business to a new home — blissfully away from home — on Tucker Road.
“Last weekend was the first weekend in 12 years I didn’t do something related to the business,” Mark said. Even when the Hudons were trying not to work, the phone and fax, the cumbersome equipment occupying several rooms, the friends and acquaintances dropping by to pick up a few pounds of their favorite roast made it impossible to escape.
“I really feel that running the business from home had become a lot more stressful than any of us realized,” said Peggy, referring to Mark and their 4-year-old daughter, Ellen, who has known her home only with the constant sounds and smells of the coffee roasting business.
Those days are gone now that every last machine and bean has been moved to the company’s new digs at 1310 Tucker Rd. The brand- new building, finished just over a month ago, was designed by Mark so that “everything flows the way we wanted it,” he said.
From a garage door where sacks of beans can be delivered and stacked just feet from the roaster to a special corner spot for the “after burner” — a towering machine that burns the acrid smoke created from roasting beans by incinerating it in a 2,500-degree flame — the coffee company’s new home is a long way from, well, home.
The move was long overdue. When the Hudons first started their company in 1990 — then primarily a gourmet coffee bean mail-order business — they could do most of it from their laundry room. After they bought their first roaster and perfected their own style of roasts, the business grew quickly as local restaurants and stores started buying their beans. Soon the main floor of the couple’s house was occupied by all things coffee.
Throughout the 1990s, the couple continued to add business accounts throughout the Gorge. They created special blends for local stores and coffee shops, becoming known for the consistency of their roasts. As their business grew, so did their accumulation of equipment and supplies needed to meet the increasing demand.
Things got even busier when Peggy, who handles the marketing and business end of the company, started marketing to the Portland area about a year and a half ago. Her efforts proved fruitful as several venerable establishments — including Caprial’s Bistro and Elephant Delicatessen — dropped their previous coffee suppliers in favor of the Hood River company.
The Hudons went from roasting a few hundred pounds of beans a month to about 4,000 pounds. Mark does 16 separate roasts a day, each one starting with 25 pounds of coffee (a batch loses about five pounds in the roasting process). They produce 35 different blends and “straights” using about a dozen “varietals,” or raw beans, for more than 200 regular accounts.
In February, the Hudons hired their first employee, Anna Pojtinger, who Peggy calls their “right hand gal.”
Along with the main area of the building dedicated to roasting, measuring and packaging beans, the company’s new digs have ample second floor office space, a retail room where people can buy beans and a “cupping room,” where clients can sample different roasts.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Peggy said. Although the Hudons’ roasts are now created in an “industrial chic” building instead of their living room, the Hood River Coffee Co. is still very much a family affair.
“Ellen helps me measure beans,” Mark said. “She has her own little bucket.” When she was a toddler, Mark would create roasts with her on his back in the baby pack; now she climbs on the stacks of beans as if they were a jungle gym and even has her own “office” next to her mom’s.
Mark says that having created a successful business with his wife — one that has grown enough to require its own building — is satisfying.
“But being able to be with Ellen every single day,” Mark said, “that’s more important than anything else.”
And now, like regular people, they can all go home at the end of the day.
Coffee beans can be bought by the pound at Hood River Coffee Co., 1310 Tucker Rd., and also at the following Hood River locations: Wy’east Naturals, Rosauers, The Gift House, The Mixer Shop at Hood River Liquor Store, and the Mt. Hood Country Store. In Washington they are available at Loafer’s (Bingen), and A&J Select (Stevenson).