The Roasterie's history filled with ups and downs - KCTV5 News

Faces of Kansas City: The Roasterie's history filled with ups and downs

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Twenty years ago a young and successful local businessman had a dream about coffee. That dream would take him from restless nightmare to a rich and robust American success story.

If it looks like business is booming at the Roasterie, it is. Surrounded by tons of coffee beans, workers are in rhythm on the production floor of the coffee company air roasting the beans, then packaging them up for distribution.

"It's a great time to be in Kansas City, and I would say it's a great time to be in the coffee business," said Danny O'Neill.

But business wasn't always so great. O'Neill started the company 20 years ago, leaving a successful career in the corporate world to work out of his Brookside home. 

"Put a pallet on the ground and then pick up the bags of coffee that weighed about 150 pounds and haul them down to the basement and then we roasted it down there," he said of his early business operations.

Everything was going as planned until O'Neill hit a brick wall of sorts.

"So then I spent the next three months knocking on doors in Kansas City trying to sell coffee and I didn't sell a single bean," he said "(I thought I made a mistake) All day, every day hundreds if not thousands of times."

"What kept you going?" said KCTV5's Brad Stephens.

"Total fear of failure," O'Neill replied.

He said he found success after volunteering his time and his coffee at charitable events.

"You know the old notion the nuns would say, ‘you get back 10 times what you give,' but it's way more than that. It's just the right thing to do," he said.

O'Neill's official title with the company is "bean baron" and that's appropriate as several times a year he hunts worldwide for what he considers the most flavorful coffee beans on the planet.

"We've been through all of Central America, South America many times, I've driven to Panama twice. We've been all through Africa and India," he said.

O'Neill expects the Roasterie to sell well over 1 million pounds of coffee this year and said what's remarkable is that it's the result of a simple business plan he began two decades ago.

"We aspire to buy the best coffee that we can find, roast it the best way - which for us is air roasting - and then get it to the customer as fast as possible. It's simple, but it's not easy," he said.

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