Dark Territory: Emily Kappesser and Nickie Browne and Reconstruction Coffee Roasters
Reconstruction Coffee Roasters is a woman-owned and -operated company in Villa Ridge, Missouri. Master roaster Nickie Browne roasts in a commercial roastery outfitted with two Mill City Roasters, where manager Emily Browne handles sales and logistics. The company recently underwent some structural changes, with ownership changing hands and the Reconstruction Coffee Roasters trajectory now heading towards a new target.
Setting the Scene
Reconstruction Coffee was founded in September of 2020 by Emily Kappesser and her brother Clayton, with his wife Erin. “Coffee has always been in our homes,” Emily says.
The roastery started with no concrete plans to become a cafe, or to pursue wholesale. Clayton did the research and started the company with an MCR 1 –”to not get in over our heads,” Emily says–and, together, they nurtured the brand until it was recognizable and valued by the Villa Ridge community. They hosted events like tours and cuppings, worked the pop-up circuit, and curated a social media presence based on family and warmth.
In July of 2021, the team upped their roasting capacity, adding an MCR-10 to the roastery.
When Clayton decided to move back to Chicago in early 2022, it became clear that it was time for Reconstruction Coffee Roasters to change hands. The company was offered to a regular customer, Deb Griffin, who Emily describes as a “serial entrepreneur.” Deb accepted: she had the vision and resources Reconstruction needed to scale. In the transition, the brand remained unchanged; Deb’s bailiwick has been guiding Reconstruction in a sustainable and evolved direction, not changing its bones.
Emily became the roastery manager. Her relationship with the company has changed now: while she still carries one-half of the weight of the daily work, most of the big-picture planning falls to Deb. Now Emily’s tasks focus on sales and daily management of the company. “My husband is happy,” she says–”I get a paycheck now.”
With her background in wine and craft beer, Nikki Browne joined the roastery team mid-management transition. “Roasting was never on my bingo card,” she says. But she was eager to learn, and many of her skills translated to the role. Plus, it was an opportunity to be creative in the food and beverage space again, which she missed after the pandemic affected her previous work.
Nickie came to the Reconstruction team on Valentine’s Day of 2022. Before he left, Clayton trained her on the roaster and taught her the roast profiles for Reconstruction’s coffees.
Her biggest challenge in learning how to roast was committing to one specific roast profile for one coffee. She sees a lot of potential in every batch, and deciding on one product out of a handful of possibilities proved itself difficult for such a creative mind.
Plus, repeating the profile was a challenge too. “I didn’t expect [roasting] to be so precise,” she says. “I thought it would be easy to replicate.”
During busy weeks, the team calls in their emergency–part time support Anna Ogent for help in the roastery and at local farmers markets. The operation, which started as a family business, still keeps the same atmosphere of invitation and encouragement, both with teammates and customers.
A group of regulars serve as Reconstruction Coffee Roaster’s taste-testers for all new blends. One customer, for whom Nickie delivers weekly coffee, gives the team detailed feedback on how their coffee behaves depending on his homebrewing method.
And, since the company is now owned and operated by women, both Emily and Nickie have felt a shift in the way they all work together. The whole team understands the time constraints that come with having kids, so everyone steps in to help when life tosses the schedule out the window. “It’s a weight off that you didn’t realize was there,” Nickie says.
The Reconstruction Coffee Roasters Menu
Reconstruction Coffee Roasters has eleven products on the menu, including three single origins: a Colombia, an Ethiopia, and a Guatemala. For the company’s second anniversary, new blend Dark Territory and single origin Kenya were just released.
Dark Territory comes as a response to customer’s requests for darker roasts, which Nickie has tried to be mindful of in her new creations. The expansion of the menu has been easier since she roasts full-time, and has support and easy communication from the small team.
And, now that Nickie is more comfortable and seasoned as master roaster, the team has debuted their first limited releases: a Honduras for October, and an espresso line, which is also new territory for the brand, for November.
They also sell growlers of cold-brew, which comes in three different varieties. One is a classic, made with their Crossover blend; the second, Bootlegger, is aged in a local distillery partner’s whiskey barrels before roasting. The third is flavored: banana nut. This subset of their menu is wildly popular and only growing in demand.
However, despite the sustainability of refillable growlers, shipping the glass bottles has proved a challenge both logistically and costly, so the team has plans to overhaul their method and look into aluminum cans as a cheaper and less breakable alternative.
With Deb at the helm, Reconstruction coffee is focused mostly on wholesale accounts, although with an upcoming expansion to the company’s presence in the area, that could soon change.
Ultimately, the team is dedicated to being the best neighborhood roastery they can be. They continue to host many community events including the original cuppings and roastery tours. They even offer a Coffee and Yoga experience, a partnership with SiriAmta Kaur that takes place in the green space behind the roastery.
Bring Reconstruction Coffee Roasters Home
You can pick up a bag of Reconstruction Coffee at a number of shops in Franklin County (Andy’s Produce Too and 3, Pinckney Bend Distillery); Gasconade County (The Fancy Pheasant); or St. Louis County (The Annex Coffee and Foods, Honeymoon Chocolates, Micro Meadows, Seedz Cafe & Provisions, Third Degree Glass Factory, Valley Park Elevator and Hardware). If you’re in the area, you can pick up your order from the secure lockers in front of the roastery. You can also shop their full lineup on the website, or follow them on Instagram or Facebook to keep updated with the brand’s upcoming changes and growth, which will be revealed in the near future.