Coffee Beans Get Fresh Roast
New store offers fresh-roasted beans for coffee enthusiasts.
There’s a new coffee place in town, with an emphasis on roasting coffee beans.
Fresh Roast Coffee & Tea opened on Nov. 3 in the Creekside Commons shopping center.
For owner Thomas Wilkiel, the store’s opening is the culmination of nine months of looking for a suitable location.
“I have lived in Arlington Heights and now live in Hawthorn Woods,” he said. “I picked this location because the shopping center is so busy, and it’s close to my house.”
A lifelong coffee fan, Wilkiel has an eclectic background. Previously, he worked in a distribution center and was also a co-manager of a Jewel grocery store.
It was the recession that spurred him to open Fresh Roast. "I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do what I wanted," he said.
The store is a one-man enterprise, with Wilkiel wearing many hats. He roasts coffee beans when the store is not busy so he can concentrate on each coffee's roast profile, ensuring a consistent flavor. Wilkiel is also responsible for marketing the store, and plans for Fresh Roast's website to go live soon.
Fresh Roast's coffee is sourced from all over the world, including Peru, Costa Rica and Kenya. The unroasted coffee is stored in bags with the country of origin stamped on the side. Organic and fair trade coffee beans are available.
Prior to opening Fresh Roast, Wilkiel trained for four days with Diedrich Manufacturing in Ponderay, Idaho, where he learned roasting techniques.
To guarantee freshness and flavor, coffee is roasted on-site in front of Fresh Roast's window. The store is stocked with bins for coffee; however, Wilkiel does not fill the bins to capacity, and only roasts two pounds at a time.
"I only roast in small batches so customers are assured the coffee has been roasted within the last one to 10 days," Wilkiel explained.
Other products include tea, infusers, pots, and canisters. Wilkiel sells some locally-made products, including chocolate made by The Cocoa Cabana in West Dundee.
As 7-Eleven is located in the same shopping center and sells brewed coffee, Wilkiel cannot sell fresh-brewed coffee in his own store due to an exclusivity clause in his rental contract. That doesn’t bother Wilkiel.
“I knew I couldn’t sell prepared beverages going into the agreement,” he said. “It was either I move into this location, which is in a busy shopping center, or I go somewhere else that’s quieter and sell brewed coffee.
“I’d rather focus on roasting coffee beans, anyway.”
Customer Lyuba Dragilev made her first visit to Fresh Roast on a recent Saturday afternoon. “I was in the area and thought I’d stop by,” she said while purchasing coffee. “I’m happy to get coffee to drink at home from this store.”
"Most of my customers want fresh coffee, and they want to know where their coffee is from. They also want to support a local business," Wilkiel said.
He estimated about half of his customers have returned.
"I try to be like a bartender on [the television show] Cheers and remember the coffee my customers have purchased. I like to say 'Hey, what did you think of that coffee you got last time?'" he said.
Wilkiel offers samples of brewed coffee in his store and at nearby Hair Sensation. He likes the shopping center, calling other retailers at Creekside Commons "supportive."
Down the road, Wilkiel said he would like to open a second store, but does not have any big expansion plans. He said is planning a roasting event so customers can learn about the process.