We love music. Music has been an important part in the lives of many key Populace players. Our founder played in bands as a youngster and even had his first foray in entrepreneurship hustling tickets to shows at a local venue. Our co-owner and design lead has been a lifelong musician as well. Just about every person who has ever roasted a batch of populace coffee plays an instrument, has been in a band, or has even been on tour! Music is so important to our vibe and aesthetic, we have curated playlists for our cafes and have public playlists you can find on Spotify! Music and coffee have a lot of similarities. It is cool to think of a flavor profile as a musical composition. You want a coffee’s body to compliment the acidity the same way you want a bass line to fill out and compliment a lead guitar riff in a song. Maybe I’ve thought about this too long. Or maybe I’m on to something.
We were founded and currently headquartered in Bay City, MI. Bay City is a smaller city in mid-Michigan, located in the Saginaw River just before it opens into the Bay of Lake Huron. It is historically a logging town, and wasn’t particularly known for its food and beverage scene in the years before Populace was founded. But since then, many independently owned businesses have opened in our downtown. It is hard to deny that many small business owners who get their start in a small town with a cheaper ease of entry or cost of operation, ultimately fall victim to the siren song of a big city or major metropolitan area, where demand for speciality products is higher, eager employees are sometimes more readily available, and of course, clout or street cred comes more easily when you can say “we’re a coffee company based in (insert trendy up and coming city here).” But for us, Bay City will always be our home. We’re lucky to be located in a community that has our backs and where we can make a tangible impact on the lives of its inhabitants.
We donated $30,000 during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. When things got very bad, we saw most of our long time wholesale partners having to involuntary close and lay off their employees without any certainty of if or when they’d be able to open their doors again. We have the luxury of being able to sell bags of coffee online, so we thought “how do we utilize this platform to help our partners?”. We came up with the Small Business Support Program, where participating businesses were able to attach their personal branding to a retail bag that would be sold on our website. For each bag sold, the participating business would receive a full 50% of the revenue. The businesses used their existing social network of devout patrons and advocates to push sales and supplement their loss of traditional revenue from in-person services. What started with about a dozen long-time wholesale partners quickly grew to over 100 participating businesses including cafes, restaurants, hair salons, photographers and more. Practically every form of in-person business that was directly impacted by restrictions were encouraged to join up. By the end of the program, we had donated over 30,000 dollars and helped businesses cover their expenses without traditional revenue. It was an amazing experience and definitely kept us busy during the peak of the shutdown.
We are advocates for the environment! Every single bag of coffee leaving our roasting facility has corresponding carbon offsets purchased. Meaning that whether 2 pounds of coffee is being shipped to Detroit or 60 pounds of coffee is being shipped to California, we are contributing funds to conversation programs who actively offset the carbon produced through shipping. All of our mailers, packaging tape, and retail bags are also completely compostable. Our café uses natural, biodegradable cups, straws, and paper products as well. You can learn more about our dedication towards environmental sustainability here.
Our staff is made up entirely of women. Our café manager is a women, as are our bakers and baristas. Our roasting team are women as well, including our head roaster and production staff. While this has never been an intentional decision, it just sort of worked out that way. And we are super stoked to be able to elevate talented women in the specialty coffee world!