Appleton, Wis. is a hip little college town with a classy vibe. In this city in the Fox Valley, there are plenty of coffee shops to start the day, or unwind after work or class. But, one such place has become a community institution.
Introducing Copper Rock Coffee Company. This family-owned coffee shop has been serving up fresh brews in Appleton since 2002. In a market saturated with coffee shops both large and small—and with plenty of competing chains—it weathered the Great Recession and numerous other challenges to become the place to get coffee in the Fox Valley. We recently looked into how they made it, and how Copper Rock roasts their quality coffee.
Making Copper Rock’s Craft Coffee
Copper Rock owners Emily and Bill Heiges are Wisconsin natives. Over the last 17 years, this husband and wife team has watched their business and their family grow. Now parents of four, Emily and Bill experience a lot of long days between home and the coffee shop. Having spent time in Colorado where there’s a thriving coffee culture, they’ve also become expert coffee roasters with an arsenal of different roasts under their belt.
It’s a secret that’s slowly getting out: Copper Rock Coffee Co. roasts all of its coffee beans on site at their downtown Appleton location. The equipment is found right on the first floor, one room over from where you can order your favorite freshly brewed roast.
Roasting coffee is a long process that can take hours to complete. While some enthusiasts still use a cast-iron pan to roast beans at home, producing large quantities of coffee takes some special equipment. Emily and Bill have their own industrial-grade coffee roaster. With the machine, they use beans from growing regions like El Salvador, Costa Rica and Kenya and roast them to perfection.
There are dozens of different coffee roasts and blends available at Copper Rock. The roasts come from all different parts of the world, but some may only be available at certain times of year. This is because Emily and Bill pay close attention to growing seasons and crop yields at the source. Doing so leads to a better flavor of coffee without having to charge more by the pound for each roast.
Copper Rock’s coffee is also available by the pound. Whether you want to try their coffee for your own shop or bring some home, ask about purchasing their craft-roasted coffee when you visit.
Starting a Brewery
With two locations in Appleton, this family-owned business keeps growing by the day. Within the last few years, Copper Rock has even expanded into other refreshing drinks: beer. The coffee shop’s sister business, Copper State Brewing Company, is based just off of North Broadway in Green Bay.
“We chose the name Copper State because it was similar to Copper Rock,” Emily explained. “As well as because of the rich copper culture of Green Bay.”
Nowadays, Copper State is just as successful as its coffee shop counterpart and still growing. With 13 different craft beers available and a handful of seasonal brews as well, there’s something for every beer lover at this Green Bay institution. The beer options run the whole spectrum from the lighter Silent Canary to the Chocolate Coffee Peanut Butter Porter. There are even some sours and seasonal options available for almost any taste.
On top of their craft beer experiments, Emily and Bill have food available at the brewery. They’ve also recently added food to the gastropub’s biergarten. Now visitors who come to the Green Bay location for craft beer can get a bite to eat and a taste of their famous coffee as well. You also might find some merchandise like their custom beer steins, which support the brewery directly.
On top of the freshly brewed coffee, Copper Rock and Copper State serve a few other treats, such as baked goods, sandwiches and even homemade gelato. This makes Copper Rock the perfect spot for a bite to eat and some quality coffee in downtown Appleton, no matter the time of day or night.
Near the register, visitors might also find some stoneware coffee mugs they won’t find anywhere else. Featuring the coffee shop’s Colorado-inspired mountain logo, you might find a stoneware coffee mug in your favorite color. These stoneware mugs are safe in the microwave and dishwasher, so they’re the perfect companion for any Copper Rock roast. You might even find some more unusual styles we don’t list on our website, or pieces from our kitchenware line like the Melting Pot.
“We chose Sunset Hill Stoneware because we wanted a quality, local, handcrafted product,” Emily explained. “We have been a customer from the beginning of our business, and love the relationship we have with them!”
Emily added that she has eight of our stoneware mugs of her own at home.
Copper Rock even offers a special for anyone looking to add some stoneware to their collection.
Stoneware mugs aren’t all you’ll find at Copper Rock though. In addition, you’ll also find hoodies, hats, thermoses and camper mugs printed with the shop’s logo. The hoodies and sweatshirts are particularly handy in Appleton, especially during cold autumn and winter nights.
Becoming a Community Space
Over the course of almost two decades, Copper Rock Coffee Co. has become the place to be in Appleton. Business groups and other organizations use the coffee shop for seminars and meetings. Local bands and musicians play on a small stage in the back room, entertaining anyone coming in for a drink on the weekends. It’s even a popular spot for students from Lawrence University and local high schools to study or work on projects. It’s even become a popular, low-pressure spot for first or second dates.
You might also find paintings and other art from area artists on the walls at Copper Rock. Some of the paintings lining the brick in the main room include splatter paintings from Sunset Hill Stoneware’s own Jordan Johnson. These one-of-a-kind paintings won’t be found anywhere else in the world. A few are even for sale.
“Some artists want to sell their work, others want it to hang up in the shop,” Emily said. “It’s gotten really big.”
Emily and Bill are proud of the community space their coffee company has become. Their family values fuel that. From the board games that are free to use on the shelves to the big, cozy lounge chairs, their coffee shop is one of the most popular places to meet in Appleton because they pay attention to details.
“It’s the little things that matter,” Emily explained. “That’s why we’re still here.”
Sunset Hill Stoneware looks forward to providing continued to support to Copper Rock Coffee Co. in the future.