Alterra Coffee Tastefully Brews a New Brand

Alterra Coffee is now Colectivo Coffee

¡Viva Colectivo! Short Vimeo Photo

So early yesterday morning we woke up to big headlines in the coffee news: Alterra Coffee is now Colectivo Coffee.

Wow. Really? Milwaukee’s locally born and raised brand? What’s the scoop?

Well, according to sources, Alterra owners Lincoln and Ward Fowler and Paul Miller say they are parting ways with Mars, Inc., the global distributors to whom they sold the brand name in 2010. By changing their name, they will move forward as an independent and locally owned company.

I’m not necessarily interested in their business plan. But their marketing plan fascinates me. Once again I say wow. I’m in total awe of the gurus who ground this campaign—anyone know who is the agency? By noon of yesterday, everyone from On Milwaukee, to the New York Times, to the San Francisco Chronicle had announced the news. And Colectivo Coffee was cruising along with its re-branded website.

Here’s what I think is wonderfully creative and brilliant. The Fowlers and Miller have taken something so commonplace as public transportation and made it meaningful. Sure, colectivos are nostalgic to them because back in the early days of their business they rode these funky buses throughout the Guatemalan countryside learning about coffee. But they make colectivos meaningful to us too. They acquire this hippy-cool 1958 bus and use it to tell a wonderful story. They talk about the everyday men and women that work in Guatemala and use colectivos as their daily mode of transportation.

“Colectivos gather people together at stops in the community,” say the owners. “It’s the beginning of the day and the end of the day. They’re places where people form relationships.

“Our cafes are places where people gather. We bring people together from many walks of life. If our cafes could be put on wheels, I think they would be colectivos.”

Aren’t these just the best branding words ever? They completely define the community spirit that embodies specialty coffee cafes. I’m ready right now to go hang out in a Milwaukee Colectivo Coffee!

Check out both these awesome videos: This short story on their name change and this longer version about the bus. The quotes, the storytelling, the people, the music, the imagery…both videos are done so lump-in-your-throat well (and I’m so jealous)!

Blessings to Colectivo Coffee and your new brand!

Alterra Coffee changes its name to Colectivo Coffee

¡Viva Colectivo! Bus Vimeo Photo

Wednesday Webs: Thinking About Summer


Summer is on its way! My poppies are blowing in the wind and temps are rising! I find my thoughts filled with the potpourri of the season—gardens, fresh food, new recipes, gatherings with friends and family, and a list of accomplishments I hope to achieve.

This week my links are equally as random!

Old School Branding with Historic Architecture

Gaston School Gallery and SchoolGrounds Cafe, Cottage Grove, WI

Isn’t this most quaint, inviting schoolhouse ever? I’ve always admired this building as I’ve driven past on my way to Madison—its unique architectural lines, the cozy setting, and the decades of learning that surely transpired within its walls. You can imagine my excitement when in recent years it opened as the Gaston School GallerySchoolGrounds Cafe.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Eric Willman, general manager of Gaston School Gallery–SchoolGrounds Cafe, where he describes how historic architecture benefits their business and how they’ve used it to create a successful brand. The gallery and cafe are owned by David Morrow and Eric’s wife, Alissa, heads up the bakery department.

Eric’s conversation is fascinating! If you’ve been aspiring to set up shop in a cool, old building, you for sure want to hear what he has to say.

So check out this, my second podcast. And stop by their stunning shop at the intersection of Hwy N and I-94 (exit 244) in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. It’s a perfect way to wrap up Historic Preservation Month!

Early Morning Mural

12th Street, Philadelphia, PA mural

We’re back! Philadelphia is definitely an ugly duckling city: At first, it’s not much to look at; but each time we visit we see a little more of its underlying beauty. The town is growing on us!

Last night we stayed in an AirB&B rowhouse. And to get the full living-in-Philly experience, this morning we hung out at the local corner coffee shop—Ultimo Coffee, as recommended by our “neighbors.”

Along the way, we found this mural on 12th Street. More art  for my collection!


Yes, Graffiti Can Be Art!

Graffiti Mural Program, Mother Fool's Coffeehouse, Madison, WI

One of my favorite Madison, WI, neighborhoods is Willy Street (technically Williamson Street in the Marquette Neighborhood) and one of my favorite places there is Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse. It’s got the most delicious soup inside and this beautiful graffiti art outside.

According to the Daily Page, Mother Fool’s started its graffiti mural program in 2001 when local artist Don Wettach was looking for a place to “paint his graffiti and not get busted.” Now he and other Madison artists update the shop’s outside wall with a temporary graffiti mural on monthly or bi-weekly basis, depending on the season.

Kudos to Don and his fellow artists for their beautiful art. Such an eclectic richness they add to the Willy Street community!