For Arick Davis, co-founder of Last Mile Café who developed his love of coffee at a young age, environmental sustainability and the ethical treatment of people is at the core of his business. After working in unsatisfying nonprofit and technology roles, Davis and his co-founders decided to build a company that they wanted to work for and that represented who they were. After forming The Last Mile cafe as a coffee roaster and an online retailer, Davis is now preparing to open a brick-and-mortar coffee shop in Southeast Grand Rapids near Davis’ childhood home. Davis and his head of coffee, MacKenzie Tollas, joined The MiBiz Podcast to discuss the mission behind the sustainable-first business and why cutting corners simply is not an option.
On why the Last Mile Cafe staff is committed to making the world a better place:
ARICK: “That’s why we came into this. We wanted to do the right thing. Our team is not in this business to cut corners. Getting sustainably sourced coffee, really going through and trying to do the due diligence to make sure that it’s coming from a place in a way that is safe for the people that are farming it, and producing it here in a way where our employees are being taken care of. It's hard, but it's the right thing to do.”
On how operations are informed by being Black- and woman-owned:
ARICK: “For us, again, it goes back to why we started this business. We didn't feel represented. There isn't a coffee shop where I go there and I’m like, ‘This is the perfect spot for me. I like the coffee. I like the music. I feel comfortable and I feel welcomed here.’ That's what I’m trying to give to everyone: This idea that you can come here, you can be comfortable. This is for you. Good quality, good tasting coffee is for you. Environmentally friendly businesses are for you.”
On expanding with a brick and mortar cafe in Southeast Grand Rapids:
ARICK: That’s the neighborhood I grew up in. I’m so excited. I literally used to ride my bike and walk around that neighborhood, and like, wow. It just means so much to me. This neighborhood, this huge, massive ZIP code has one or two coffee shops, so it feels underserved.
On Last Mile’s partnership with Rising Grinds Cafe:
MACKENZIE: It was a lot of fun. Destiny is one of my very good friends, and I was fortunate enough to pop in there and experience Rising Grinds. … Just being able to help them get set up … was probably a little bit of a trial run for what I’m doing at Last Mile right now.