First, a little history about Jacob, the founder of Cottonwood. Having grown up in South Dakota, he set his sites on attending college in Minnesota (Carleton College) to study medicine. After a rocky academic start and a stint working at the Mayo Clinic, Jacob reevaluated his priorities and realized his true passion for the Great Plains and South Dakota, in particular. He moved back in 2003, bought a small farm and started a small organic produce farm. Farming, while exceedingly rewarding, did not pay the bills, so he took a job as a community organizer for a non-profit in Brookings, SD while continuing to farm in his 'spare time.'
One of the many responsibilities of a typical community organizer is to meet and talk with the community. In Brookings almost twenty years ago, even though it was a college town, there was no traditional coffeehouse. So, on the back of a literal napkin and with no business experience, Jacob hatched a plan to make one.
Downtown Cottonwood Coffee
In January of 2006, Jacob and a small team of employees began building what would become the first official Cottonwood location at 509 Main Avenue in Brookings. The doors officially opened in July of that year, to much fanfare from the local community, as a coffeehouse was clearly something they wanted. Cottonwood Coffee downtown is the classic coffeehouse, with great natural light, wooden booth seating, high ceilings and, of course, expertly crafted coffee drinks.
With the overwhelming success of the first Cottonwood location, Jacob began to explore the idea of opening a second store; this time focusing more on hand-crafted foods. As an organic farmer and admirer of the prairie landscape, it made sense to bring these together in an approachable from-scratch menu. In 2008, Cottonwood Bistro opened in Brickwood Plaza on the east side of Brookings. While many of the core elements of Cottonwood are present at the Bistro, the vibe is certainly different. It is more open, airy and, of course, food-centric. The Bistro is well known for its hearty breakfasts, casual lunches and now, convenient evening hours. But even if you come late in the day, remember, breakfast is always on the menu!
Expertise - Authenticity - Pride of Place
Expertise – We constantly strive to be experts on our craft. From roasting to brewing and service, we are always looking to improve; never satisfied with good enough. We do not, however, use this pursuit of excellence to be condescending, off-putting or unapproachable. We believe strongly that great coffee should be enjoyed by regular people.
Authenticity – When new employees ask about the official dress code, we use that as an opportunity to talk about authenticity. Our employees are not robots with scripts. They are unique individuals that seek to make authentic connections with our customers. Our philosophy is to be kind, open, approachable and honest with everything we do.
Pride of Place – We value our place in the world, also known as the Midwest, the Upper Great Plains, South Dakota, and Brookings. We draw from the heritage of those that were here before us and work to support and improve our community however we can. This includes: supporting local charities and non-profits, local athletic groups, and conservation efforts.
Cottonwood has not always roasted coffee in house. We worked with PT's Coffee in Topeka Kansas until 2010. At that point, Jacob took another leap of faith and started roasting. Through trial and error and with the help of some important mentors, he has become an accomplished and award-winning roaster. We now not only roast for our stores, but for many other coffee businesses regionally and across the United States.
Jacob has refined a very specific roasting method that starts with careful sourcing of green coffee from countries all over the world. We take this process very seriously because our roasted coffee can only ever be as good as the green coffee we buy. We also make sure we are buying from farmers that are paid fairly and use sustainable farming practices.
We roast on a small-batch classic cast iron drum roaster in a facility attached to our downtown coffeehouse, All of our coffee undergoes frequent quality reviews. Jacob is a certified Q Grader, which is one of the most prestigious certifications in the industry. In simple terms, it means that he is a demonstrated expert in the evaluation of coffee and coffee quality.
We absolutely, unquestionably guarantee the quality of our coffee. If any experience with us does not meet or exceed your expectations, we will make it right.