Sustainability Center adds one

Longtime locals Matt McQuilkin and Jim Chapman aren't afraid to admit they're coffee snobs. For the past several months, they've meticulously studied roasting techniques in a miniature coffee machine in their garages at home, taking fresh coffee beans, cooking them and then evaluating the end product for richness, flavor and body.

"It's a science experiment. It's a passion. It's a love," Chapman says.

The two fledgling entrepreneurs recently purchased a larger 25-pound steel coffee roaster. The investment is central to Chapman and McQuilkin's new business endeavor, Black Coffee Roasting Co., slated to open in the coming weeks at the Montana Sustainability Center at the corner of Wyoming and Russell streets next to Home Resource.

Black Coffee Roasting Co. will purchase ethically grown beans and roast them on-site, exhibiting a holistic approach to commerce that fits squarely into the Montana Sustainability Center's overall vision.

Home Resource co-directors Lauren Varney and Matt Hisel hatched the idea for the Montana Sustainability Center in 2005, envisioning a one-stop environmentally friendly shopping center filled with like-minded businesses. The duo successfully pitched the idea to Rocky Mountain Development Group President Rick Wishcamper, and in 2008 Wishcamper, along with several private investors, formed Berkeley United LLC. The group then purchased the 24,000-square-foot Wyoming Street building Home Resource occupies today, along with a 3.3-acre plot of land slated for development.

Since the purchase, Wishcamper, Hisel and Varney have nurtured dreams for the property. With the addition of Black Coffee Roasting Co. and another business, Bad Goat Forest Products, which will soon begin selling locally grown, sustainably harvested lumber, those dreams are slowly becoming reality.

But as the economy continues to struggle, the vision is shifting. Rather then erecting a commercial building adjacent to Home Resource, the group will divide and sell the property to individual businesses.

"[The building] depended on a whole set of financial pieces that essentially got torpedoed by the economy," Hisel says. "In a different economy we would certainly be looking at a completed Montana Sustainability Center right now."

Regardless, McQuilkin and Chapman are excited to get in on the ground floor. They're currently evaluating which coffee bean supplier has the freshest product and polishing up the new roaster.

"It's a beautiful machine," says Chapman.

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