BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – This corner coffee shop is everything it should be.
Chris Swed, has been tinkering with coffee since college and is now just hours away from a grand opening for his coffee shop and roasting business in downtown Fort Madison.
The current manager of the Fox Theater has been not-so-quietly roasting his way into the palates of coffee aficionados in Fort Madison and beyond for the past several years. It’s not uncommon to see him pedaling brews in neighborhood parks, on sidewalks downtown and at citywide events.
All while popping popcorn and ushering in movies at the downtown theater.
He said the idea of having his own cafe and roasting business came about quickly
“We were originally going to do just a cart and buy coffee from somewhere else and just prepare it. Because it’s the social aspect that I enjoy,” Swed said.
“After running the numbers, it was hard to make that work so we thought maybe we should just do all of it. Maybe we should roast and do coffee – and that was a really big change for me because there is nothing social about roasting coffee.
“It’s just me sitting in a room by myself for four, five, six hours sometimes doing the same over and over again – a lot of science, which I enjoy. But it’s not overly social.”
To that end is Swed & Co. Coffee, a business that has gone from the cart in the park to a full spectrum coffee house at the corner of 7th and G in Fort Madison.
Swed has launched a wide open space with WiFi and room for about 30 people to spread out. There’s also nook where he has a stainless steel roaster that pipes the warm tones of coffee roasting into the air above downtown Fort Madison.
The new location has been four months in the making with the past two months being the aesthetic parts. The building is owned by Barker Financial Group, who Swed said “is catching on to the heartbeat of the town.”
“I think they’ve really bought into the idea that this is the opportunity for Fort Madison to really make some strides forward,” Swed said.
The partnership that formed between Swed and Barkers resulted in moving the timeline up for the completion of the project.
Located just east of “The Bunker” which is another downtown endeavor underway by the Doherty Baseball Academy, under a Barker lease, Swed has created a comfortable, bright, and inviting cafe with roasts for every taste bud.
Swed is offering a full range of coffees brewed in-house, and an array of lattes and other different drinks. They will also have homemade pastries, gluten-free snacks, oatmeal, and a rotation of lunch menu items.
A grand opening will be held this Saturday Feb. 27, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with lunch being served. He said the kitchen will close for a while after the grand opening to assess the needs and efficiencies of the opening. The cafe will remain opened.
Hours going forward will be Monday through Friday 8 to 2 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday will be 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Swed said those hours will be fluid and will react to business trends and demands.
“Our hope for this is we wanted people to realize a place like this can be in Fort Madison, although most would say this seems like a feel of something you would get in bigger city,” he said.
“We made this just as much for the town as we did for ourselves because we wanted to create a cool place to hang out.”
He said the timing is good considering the addition of riverboat excursions, the Amtrak depot moving back into Riverview Park, the addition of four or five new businesses downtown, and even the news of the new marina. All of this is creating renewed energy around the downtown area.
In the northeast corner of the cafe is a polished four foot coffee bean roaster that is vented through the ceiling. Swed said on the right days with heavy roasting, the aroma can be waft up to four blocks away.
He said his roaster will do up to nine pounds per batch. He can do different temperatures and closely monitor to the process to allow for tweaking for taste and depth profiles.
Green coffee beans go into the top and burners in the bottom heat up the drum where the beans hang out and release gases and break down. After the prescribed amount of time, the beans are dropped into a cooling bin where they are then packed up and shipped to customers, or used at the cafe.
He said coffee beans come from different parts of the world with different prices based on processing. The roasting process is what fine tunes the flavor profile.
“We are trying to continue that on. We can only take what is in the coffee and just bring out certain flavors.
His passion for the beans came from a small cafe in Greenville, Illinois, where spent a lot of time and got to know the owners.
He then learned there was barista competition and saw that aspect of the trade.
“I’m really competitive and that really got me into it, but then my brother-in-law started a roasting company and cafe and I was helping him at a lot of his events,” he said.
“I fell in love with brewing coffee for people because of that social aspect. It wasn’t until I moved to Fort Madison when I decided to start my own company.”
In addition to the drinks, Swed also sells the beans packaged for individual sale.
More information on the new location can be found Swed’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/swedcocoffee