A hot idea

Steamboat Coffee Roasters

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— When the new Alpine Bank in Steamboat Springs decided to dispense coffee with its deposit slips, bank president Scott Gordon realized a big stainless steel urn and a stack of tiny foam cups wouldn't get it. Instead, he turned to Steamboat Coffee Roasters to turn his tellers into baristas, and to supply him with better beans. Gordon's bosses bought the plan and now the "Bean Counter" at the bank in Central Park Plaza sells coffee to benefit local nonprofit organizations.

Every 10 days, the placard at the coffee bar in the bank lobby bears the name of a new nonprofit that is benefiting from each sale this week, it's the Chariot Racing Association.

"We're not in the business to make money from selling coffee," Gordon was careful to point out.

Instead, the Bean Counter is a way to market the bank, provide an amenity for customers and the general public alike, while aiding worthwhile local organizations. After covering its costs for Steamboat Coffee Roasters premium beans, the bank donates the proceeds of coffee, espresso and latte sales to the nonprofit of the week.

"It allows us to work with 24 organizations a year and provide a service people crave," Katie Howell of Alpine Bank said.

Howell and Gordon say they would have had a difficult time making the Bean Counter a reality without the assistance of Linda and Dennis Melton at Steamboat Coffee Roasters. The bank decided early on it didn't want to contract with an independent coffee bar because it wanted to control the customer service opportunities the Bean Counter represented. Gordon also rejected the idea of hiring a separate staff to man the coffee bar, Instead, he wanted all of the bank's employees, including himself, to be trained in steaming the milk for lattes to precisely the proper temperature.

The Melton's were there from the beginning, helping to plan the Bean Counter when the new bank was still in the design phase. Steamboat Coffee Roasters was rewarded with the contract to retrofit Alpine Bank in Glenwood Springs with a coffee bar, based upon the success of the operation in Steamboat.

Steamboat Coffee Roasters is a two-year-old business established by the Meltons upon their return to Steamboat. They first moved to northwest Colorado in the late 1980s after a job transfer. After a few years, they left for the Front Range, only to return for the lifestyle. They purchased 20 acres and the ranch building that went with them in the south valley.

"This has always been a dream of ours to operate a coffee roaster here in the mountains," Linda said. "We lived in New Orleans for a couple of years, where we experienced first hand, the culture of great food and fresh roasted coffee from a local roaster."

The Melton's do most of their business wholesaling fresh roasted coffee to local merchants. Their customers include several dude ranches, coffee shops, restaurants, condo associations and small markets.

"We do sell quite a bit of fresh coffee beans to locals, but our main focus is on wholesale supply," Linda said. "Local residents have to search us out, but when they do, we love to sell them fresh beans right from the roaster."

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