Mighty Missouri Coffee Co. just celebrated a birthday. It’s been three years since they opened their first shop, but they’ve been in business for seven.
We talked to the owners, Brian Jackson and JamieLee Kramer, about how their coffee shop journey began.
Q: How did you get started in the coffee industry?
I think I have always had something of an entrepreneurial spirit (though I never really liked calling it that), and Mighty Missouri Coffee was an extension of that. I graduated with a degree in communications from the University of Mary in Bismarck, was working in marketing, interested in everything, and some unusual opportunities came up that eventually became roasting third-wave coffee in Bismarck.
Q: What made you choose your “partners in crime” to own it with you?
I began Mighty Missouri Coffee in 2012, and it was growing into something of a wider distribution network and really cool partner coffee shops, but there had never been a place where people could go to have a “cup of Mighty Missouri Coffee.”
We had control of the product from the farm, to the process, to the roast profile, but then when it came to brew, we had no place people could go for the full experience. A customer-turned-friend, Eric Hawronsky, owned B.C. Bagels and was doing a fantastic job. We partnered up on a new storefront where Mighty Missouri would handle the coffee program. DJ and JamieLee Kramer, a wonderful couple originally from Bismarck, had jumped in with us on that venture and soon after became partners.
I think we’ve been really blessed as a team because there seems to be a working synergy between the Kramers and me, and, together, I think we’ve created an atmosphere and experience that is worth noting in Bismarck — especially knowing the uphill battle we were facing, jumping into the coffee industry in a pretty saturated market — in a very grassroots kind of way.
Q: What have you learned about owning a business since you’ve been doing this for 7 years?
I learned that I don’t know much! When I began seven years ago, it was very difficult and often very lonely. Looking back, I was biting off more than I could chew because it is no small thing to start a manufacturing company, and then to do it as the sole employee… there was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. But a lot of tears. I think my confidence was pretty quickly shattered. It was slow growth, but we began to find our way. I and my new friends at the IRS began to find our way. And when we started the storefront, we were part of a team that all wanted to build a positive community in Bismarck. A lot of important conversations happen to take place over coffee… and for us to be a part of that is a big honor. We don’t take it for granted.
Q: What are you looking forward to in the next few years for Mighty Mo?
I guess looking back, every step forward felt more like a huge, daunting leap. I was stressed out. But over this time, especially since we opened our coffee shop storefront locations, there are people excited about the mission of Mighty Missouri Coffee. And now these big “cliff jumps” into the unknown are things I am looking forward to, with the company of good friends. We are always airing out new opportunities. It’s really exciting because there is no shortage of new opportunities. But immediately, we are making new changes to our menu that I think is kind of doubling down on featuring local producers, which we have always wanted to do more of. And on the roaster side, we have a brand new website with a coffee club and subscription, so people are now getting fresh roasted coffee delivered to their door as frequently as they want. It’s been really a great way for folks to experience the brand and always have a supply. We’re excited about that. And in the next few years… who knows. It would be great to have new storefronts and a larger team, just as long as we can continue to stay pretty tight-knit and smiling!
Q: Any new locations on the horizon?
We’re always keeping our eyes peeled for fun opportunities, but our priority is doing what we do well in the moment. So, hopefully, some new eyes see this interview and give us a try, leave us a review, maybe try something new off the menu. That’s what it’s all about.
Q: You guys do a bike race, correct? What’s that about?
We have partnered with Tim Mitzel and the North Dakota Fellowship of Christian Athletes the past handful of years with the BisMan Triathlon. Last year, we put on the first-ever Mighty Missouri Classic – a road bike race that starts along the Mighty Missouri in Washburn and ends along the Mighty Missouri at Misty Waters in Bismarck. This year it’s taking place Saturday, September 28th. You can register at mightymocoffee.com, under “events.” All proceeds go straight to ND Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the work they do. It’s an absolute blast. For more info, go here
Q: It’s been 3 years since your first storefront opened and I see you refreshed your brand! Tell us more about the brand refresh and why it happened and was needed…
I grew up in Hazen and loved every minute of it. I still go back every chance I can to spend time on the lake. I always thought North Dakota has plenty of adventure available, you just sometimes need to get creative. So I wanted to tie our coffee with the spirit of adventure available in North Dakota.
Every bag has always been stamped with “Another Day, Another Adventure,” and I used to have a Lake Sakakawea sunset as the background of all our labels and marketing materials.
I got to know Ben Brick, a local designer and loved his style. He had awesome North Dakota inspired designs, and we started looking at a new package. Every detail on the new bag is intentional — from the North Dakota flag-inspired eagle design, carrying a Mighty Mo coffee mug, to the 1850’s Lt. G.K. Warren maps printed on the inside.
That process led to a tightened brand that was needed and I love. We want to be loud and proud North Dakota, so we ought to have beautiful packaging, too.
Q: What do you love most about ND?
In the summer, I love spearfishing at Lake Sakakawea with friends and family. In the fall I love mountain biking in the area and on the Maah Daah Hey trail. In the winter I’ve found a new love of snowshoeing in the Riverdale, ND area. And you can’t beat the spring fishing on the Missouri. But doing all of the above with friends.
Q: Where do you get your beans and why did you choose to get them from there?
We work with a few different importers to get beans from all over the world. We buy most of our coffee from Guatemala, because it is the base of our espresso and it is our “Mighty Moonrise” coffee. But we also get a lot from Colombia, Mexico, Ethiopia, and we try fun coffees with wild flavors from all over. But we cup all of our coffees, which are really incredible coffees that we are excited to offer, and then roast and release them into the wild. It’s fun.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
It’s been fun looking back to humble beginnings and seeing just how far we’ve come, and just how far we have to go. I hope people get a chance to take some of their time and visit us at one of our storefronts — at 701 Cycle and Sport by the Memorial Bridge in Bismarck and at the Bismarck YMCA — and you know, visit us at mightymocoffee.com, send some North Dakota gifts to their friends, and help us continue to do what we love, always in a “We Heart North Dakota” sort of way. Thanks!
JamieLee is a partner on the storefront side. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What made you want to open a coffee shop with Brian?
We wanted to open a shop and do it well with intention. We reached out to Brian after we got his name from some mutual friends and heard how good of a roaster he is. We had the passion to focus on community and making a welcoming space, he had the passion to roast coffee really well—dream team! We started the conversation with him about our dream of opening a shop in our hometown and it was sweet history from there
Q: What roles do each of you play?
When you’re an owner of a small business, you’re a jack of all trades! All three of us help out on every front, however, we have each found our strengths and try to keep our main focus on those. DJ does espresso training and budgeting, Brain roasts the coffee and focuses on growth + advertising, I (JamieLee) do social media, event planning and help out behind the bar.
Q: Where do you see Mighty Mo in the next few years?
I’m learning that business is always evolving and learning how to keep my dreams fluid. I didn’t think we’d have two shops in two years (which was awesome!!), so even if I told you where I see us in a few years, the plans will change. I can tell you this, we will be here as welcoming spaces for people to gather. It’s so fun to be a part of the community in this way!
Q: What’s your menu like? Do you cater to food sensitivities? Will it change at all?
Our menu is full of options! We wanted to make sure if our customers couldn’t eat or drink certain things, there would be an alternative option. For our coffee and smoothies we have alternative milk options, fresh press juices are awesome for everyone and any of our sandwiches can be made into a lettuce wrap for those who can’t eat gluten, as well as having salad options + vegan cookies! I am always dreaming of new menu items and I have a few things I’m working on currently that I think everyone will be excited about!
Q: So, three years as a storefront!! What did you guys do before that?
Before this, DJ and I were living in Oregon and working at a youth camp with Young Life, it was such an awesome experience! We are so thankful for our time there for many reasons, one being it was in Oregon we saw coffee shops inside bike shops and got the idea for our first location!
Q: How does the new branding feel? Tell us why you went this route.
WE LOVE THE NEW BRANDING! We have North Dakota flags hanging in both shops and Ben Brick (the designer) pointed out how awesome it would be to have that be the inspiration for our new branding! We feel this branding fits our style as a company really well + shows our love for ND in so many ways.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add? Any events coming up?
It has been such a blessing to us seeing the Bismarck + North Dakota community support our dreams in such a big way. Thank you to all of our customers for making these last 3 years awesome! Can’t wait to grow with all of you!
We’re always dreaming + planning for ways we can improve, we are really excited about some things we have planned!
Here are some events we have coming up —
This Thursday, August 8th, we have a pop-up art show featuring Bill Brien, stop by our YMCA location from 5-7pm!
Every last Monday of the month we have yoga in our shop at the YMCA locations. You do not need to be a YMCA member to join in. It’s $10 for a 1-hour beginners yoga class + one 12 oz drink.
September 28th we have our Mighty Mo Classic – a road bike race from Washburn to Misty Waters…Come join in the fun and race or come cheer people on!