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Officer Mike Jones has been in law enforcement for 18 years – the last 14 with the Evanston Police Department – and as he nears retirement, he said he didn’t want to fall into a pattern of isolation that he has seen retirees do in the past.
“I always had this vision of starting a small coffee shop just to stay social,” Jones said. “When cops retire, they suffer from separation anxiety and they’re often depressed. I don’t want to have that problem when I reach the next phase of my life.”
As he did his research, he realized more people in the coffee shop business are leaning into coffee roasting rather than opening shops.
Jones, who lives in Naperville, said he saw coffee roasting as a better match for him.
“It fits my personality a little bit more,” he said. “It’s all about developing and building relationships based on your style of roasting. It’s a lot more personal.”
Jones launched Badge Brew Coffee Roasters five months ago and has been providing his beans to local businesses as well as offering direct sales to the public from his online shop. Comfort Desserts and Double Clutch Brewery currently use his espresso, and he is hoping to offer his products at small local markets.
Badge Brew Coffee offers four types of beans in its signature collection: The Recruit (light roast), The Academy (medium roast), Full Pursuit (dark roast) and Retiree (decaf). Each flavor is defined by a different stage of an officer’s life, Jones said.
Each blend is handcrafted and sourced from fair trade farms. Jones has an industrial coffee roaster in his garage and roasts 2 pounds at a time. Part of the sale proceeds support local organizations such as Evanston’s Officer and Gentlemen Academy.
Initially, Jones wasn’t going to use a law enforcement theme for the roastery, but he realized he already had a built-in clientele. Jones goes to first-responder conferences and sets up booths to sell his beans to officers, paramedics and firefighters.
But the “badge” in Badge Brew isn’t just referring to the shields worn by first responders. The roastery’s website asks “What’s your badge of honor?” and says “It’s our mission to honor each hard working individual for all the badges we wear in life.”
“It’s about bridging the gap between the community and police officers,” Jones said. “I see it as a mutual relationship. For me, when I think of a badge, I think of a badge of honor. I want to make coffee for the everyday person. No matter what you do in your life, you’re a service to someone.”
The Aux, the future commercial hub for Black businesses in Evanston, is awaiting the City Council’s review of its request for ARPA funds. Once it launches, Badge Brew Coffee is set to be the official roastery.
When The Aux opens, Jones wants to invite Evanston youth to help him develop other coffee profiles, specifically a taste that reflects Evanston.
“Roasting has been so eye-opening for me, I can’t imagine what it will do for younger generations,” he said. “I want Evanston youth to help me create because this is their community, they need to have some input and come together for something that represents Evanston.”