By Chris Loud
Mundos Coffee Roasting Company opened their second location in Suttons Bay, only a year and a half from opening their first location on Boon Street in Traverse City. Their precise roasting, flavorful specialty coffees, and stylish shops have quickly landed Mundos as a favorite in the ever-growing coffee shop community in the region.
The entire Clark family, from parents Dan and Melissa, to their five children, are all in some way involved in the business. Dan’s oldest daughter, Sarah, even brought her fiancé, Miles Eastman, into the family business. Sarah manages mainly the Traverse City location, and is responsible for most of their now signature style, both in store decor and on social media. I sat down with Sarah at the new Suttons Bay location, catching her in between her many responsibilities at the shop.
Before sitting down with me, Sarah was reacclimating a barista, Jane, who had worked at the Traverse City location before, but it was her first day back after living in Australia for the last six and a half months. They tasted some of the new coffees, spoke of beans from Ethiopia and El Salvador, and commented on tastes ranging from butterscotch and chocolate, to blueberry and strawberry notes.
“When my dad was 15 years old he and his friend had the dream of opening up a coffee shop,” mentioned Sarah, “but he really didn’t like coffee until about 5 years ago.” For Dan Clark, the lure to the coffee shop was more about the aurora and community aspect, and not about the coffee itself. He had an appreciation for artisan foods and coffee, but didn’t really find his coffee passion until he tasted a Rwandan pour over. It changed his mind about what coffee was. It wasn’t just a bitter, watery, burnt liquid for caffeine consumption, but when done right, can be smooth with layers of tastes and rich flavor, and a balance of acidity and sweetness.
“A few years ago our family of seven went on a six-month road trip with our Avion camper, and along the way we stopped at all these different coffee shops,” remembered Sarah. “In my dad’s office at our house he has a board with all the different coffee bags from the different coffee shops pinned to it. From that experience he started his own roasting, buying samples of green coffee, and roasting it at home, starting on air popcorn machine.”
Sarah describes her father as a perfectionist, with not only an entrepreneurial mind, but also a mind for science. His passion to get it right lead to a moment that Sarah admits was out of character for her mother Melissa, the “treasurer” of the family business. Her father wanted to get a small commercial coffee roaster for the house, and her mom surprisingly agreed. They hooked up the roaster in their garage, and from there the Clark family started to hone their craft. Sarah’s younger brother Jack really took to the roasting, and together with his father roasted a lot of coffee in the garage as they perfected their methods. Jack just turned 16 years old, and does a lot of the coffee roasting for Mundos.
After roasting for a while in their garage, they began serving coffee and giving away bags to friends and family, and they would experiment with different pour over methods and serving styles as well. Another pivotal moment came when Sarah and her Dad took a road trip to Seattle for the Global Specialty Coffee Expo. “That was kind of an eye-opening experience,” recalled Sarah. “This little world of coffee that we thought we were diving into is huge.” From that experience, they were able to meet a contact they had, and continue to develop a great relationship with the distributor of the green coffee, who also had a great relationship with the farmers themselves. This was key to the Clark family knowing and trusting their coffee sources, and being kept aware of new and interesting coffee becoming available.
They began selling their coffee online, and then decided to look for a space. While they had originally hoped to be downtown Traverse City, there was something about their current location on Boon St., south of town off of Woodmere, that caught Sarah’s eye. She envisioned the open bright space it is now, and loved it. Sarah remembered her father, when pitching the idea to the entire family, had described the business plan as a slow, five-year plan to opening up a shop. After opening that first location, what was supposed to be a long process turned into opening their second location already just a few years after they began roasting in their garage. This is no doubt a testament to the unique family team the Clarks have cultivated.
Each Clark family member seems to bring their own unique super power to the business. Dan, the father, has always been entrepreneurial, starting and selling successful businesses his entire life. His wife, Melissa, brings a practical side to the business, runs the numbers, and manages the locations. Young Jack, Sarah’s brother, is very technical minded and is becoming a coffee roasting pro at just 16 years old. Sarah’s other brother, Adam, just turned 18 and is now a stakeholder in the business. As I interviewed Sarah, Adam stopped by the Suttons Bay shop with an armful of supplies, and Sarah quickly pointed him towards something he could fix. Even Sarah’s fiancé, Miles, is now the pastry maker for the company. Her youngest brother and sister are still in training, but are also being groomed for the family business.
Sarah, the first-born Clark sibling, and also a photographer and writer, has an eye for design and style. When you walk into a Mundos coffee shop, the first thing you notice is the very intentional, subtle yet striking contemporary style. The industrial features of the spaces are softened with white tile accent walls, clean and meticulous decor, with splashes of natural colors from small plants, or featured pottery pieces. When the family was looking for their first space, Sarah and her father differed greatly on which location they preferred. In the end, the location that Sarah liked was chosen. A proud moment for Sarah, and a true testament to the trust that Dan has in his family, and the spirit of collaboration that has allowed the business to thrive.
However, Sarah admittedly is not as much interested in the actual roasting as other members of her family, and takes a “this is what I’d like to do, is that possible?” approach with her father when it comes to designing the spaces. In the first location Sarah advocated for the open concept room, and they took down a middle wall to accommodate that vision. At the new site, she wanted to do the same, but was quickly disappointed when she learned the concrete structural wall in the middle could not be removed. Working within the space, the now L-shaped design of the coffee house gives it a unique and intimate vibe.
For pronunciation help, Mundos actually rhymes with “bun-dose” and is not pronounced “moon-dose.” It’s named after the friend who dreamt of opening a coffee shop at 15 years old alongside Dan many years ago. The friend’s name is Jeremy, whose nickname was “Jere-mundo,” and then just “mundo.” They do embrace the fact that many people pronounce it like “mundo,” (moon-doe) the Spanish word for world, and include a globe in their logo as a play on that word.
Before leaving, I was offered an Ethiopian macchiato. I’m not usually great with tasting, but I was impressed that I could really recognize the blueberry notes, a sign of a well-made specialty coffee. The new Suttons Bay location is located on St. Joseph St., tucked in at the back of a short courtyard off the main street, between Bahle’s and Roman Wheel. Some spots in the shop have views of the water, and their patio looks out on parts of the harbor.
If you want to stay up to date on Mundos Coffee Roasting, follow their Instagram page @mundosroastingco, or check out their website at MundosRoastingCO.com.