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Meet the Owners - Lynn and Lynne
Posted on January 27 2023,
Some businesses start with an incredible amount of intentionality, and then some start by happenstance. But, truthfully, those are the ones that carry the best stories. The Twin Valley Coffee story is nothing short of incredible, a fixture of destiny instead of deliberation.
Coffee in a Popcorn Popper?
It all started with Lynn Burkholder.
If you know him well, you won't be surprised to hear that a visit from friends inspired him to roast his own coffee. However, there was a major twist to the story.
Merle and Rita Nisley were traveling from their home in Ontario, Canada, when they paid a visit to the Burkholder home. Merle is a coffee roaster and brought freshly roasted beans to share. Lynn and Lynne were almost exclusively tea drinkers, so instead of a coffee grinder, they had to use a blender! Bizarre? Maybe. But the taste that came out of this moment of ingenuity was far from an ordinary cup. It's not an exaggeration to say that the cup of coffee they shared that evening changed everything.
Lynn continued to experiment with roasting, and what did he use to roast his first batches of beans? What does anyone use to roast their first batch of beans? A hot air popcorn popper. (Yes, you read that right). And he did what every entrepreneur ever does - turned a hobby into a hustle.
He honed in on the perfect combination of beans and heat, listening for the first crack and then again for the second. Using the hot air popcorn popper on hand worked for a little while, but soon the sacred tool of every coffee drinker was required - a grinder. (We'll get to that later.) The experimentation continued still, and the excitement of it all grew. Finally, with wide eyes and eager dreams, it seemed that Lynn was on to something.
What is a Hobby to An Entrepreneur?
It just so happens that Lynn is the textbook definition of a serial entrepreneur. What is a hobby to an entrepreneur if not a chance to build a business? And who else has the passion, stamina, and excitement needed to stick with that business until it actually makes something of itself, if not an entrepreneur? Those who know the true meaning of entrepreneurship understand that it doesn't equal wealth. Money is merely a byproduct of the thing that holds real value- pure opportunity.
These traits fueled every moment of inspiration for Lynn and stabilized him in the belief that he had to try. Lynn and Lynne loved dreaming and growing. And in the discussion of this newfound venture, Lynne said to him, "if we were going to fail, let's do it with a bang, not a fizzle." These words would keep them moving forward as the fear of failure would not define their lives and make them miss multitudes of opportunities. So, Lynn offered a sip here and a cup there and a fresh bag of roasted beans to anyone who would take them. And soon, he wasn't giving beans away; he was selling them.
It didn't take long for the demand for his popcorn popper coffee to grow, and Lynn began researching what it would take to build his own roaster. Yup, he was going to build it. If there were a book on 101 signs of entrepreneurship, this would be at the top of the list. After successfully building his first roaster, he soon discovered that he could produce enough perfectly roasted coffee beans to approach his first potential customer - Weaver's Orchard. We'd say the rest is history, but it isn't. You can still visit our favorite local produce store and purchase Twin Valley Coffee. Friends and neighbors, now willing to pay, were stewing in anticipation of the next cup as their first initial taste proved extraordinary. The journey had just begun.
The Farmers Market that Started it All
Twin Valley Coffee went from something friends and family brought home from a visit to the Burkholder home to a locally known bag of coffee you could pick up at Weaver's Orchard. Where was this thing going next? That's what Lynn and Lynne asked themselves often in those days. There were still a myriad of Burkholder children running around. There was still a full-time web and graphic design job to be done. But one thing they both knew was that this one, out of all of the other adventures they'd taken before, was going somewhere. However, the question remained firm in their minds - where?
Enter stage left: The Elverson Farmers Market. Twin Valley Coffee was asked to participate, and the answer was at first very clear to Lynn and Lynne. Every Saturday? You have to be kidding! That's a commitment they were just not interested in making. But local customers persisted. The Elverson Borough Newsletter included a note to its readers that if you see Lynn and Lynne, be sure to ask them to participate in the Farmers Market. When that little tidbit of small-town news reached the Burkholders, they began to understand that Twin Valley Coffee had a life and a community of its own. That gentle push, which stayed pretty consistent, was just what they needed. So, what choice did they have but to say yes?
The very first Saturday, they woke up bright and early and began to prepare for the market, but little did they know that it would be the first of a long string of Saturdays to come. After that, Saturday mornings became something to look forward to. Every week they brewed fresh coffee to prepare, then went to set up their tent, and their journey began as official farmers market vendors.
Lynne recounts the first time Lynn had to leave the market to refill their large coffee cambro. She remembers not realizing that he wouldn't return for quite a while and that she'd be left alone to sell the coffee. However, it didn't take her long to see that this was exactly what she was meant to do. She found magic in drawing potential customers in with a sample of caffeine perfection, and from that day forward, she was the manager of the Twin Valley Coffee stand - the first of many things she's single-handedly managed for the good of the company.
A small sample would always turn into a new customer, and Lynne saw the true value and potential in the product her husband Lynn was producing. "Your life is about to change!" This phrase would become the staple declaration as a new cup was served to a new customer. And boy, did that ring true for not only the TVC newcomers but also for the Burkholders. Their experience at the market meant they got a chance to form relationships overflowing with life and cultivate partnerships with other members of the community, including TVC newbies, other vendors, and more.
The Farmer's Market will always be remembered as Twin Valley Coffee's incubation period. From partners to cheerleaders, family was really what came of it all. Did we mention that it was during this time that Lynn conceived the idea for our Signature Cold Brew? Aka, the most popular drink Twin Valley Coffee has ever sold.
The Famous Roadside Stand
Remember that time Lynn and Lynne Burkholder casually started dabbling with roasting coffee beans in a hot air popcorn popper, but then it became so popular that everyone wanted a taste of TVC goodness? Well, what was in store for them next would blow their minds.
The Elverson Farmers Market was where Twin Valley Coffee's newly formed die-hards got their weekly fill of beans and a fresh cup of coffee. It was also where Lynn and Lynne met so many new faces and created many new TVC superfans. But there was only one problem. Each TVC coffee addict, new or old, had no way to get a cup of freshly brewed coffee any other day of the week except for Saturday at the market. Lynne felt each customer's agony over this realization and did what any good entrepreneur's wife would do - looked Lynn dead in the eyes and said, "you need to figure out how to sell this every single day of the week." His response? Build a solution, of course.
Cut to the Twin Valley Coffee roadside stand. Lynn built a tall wooden table, and hung lights over top in the fall of 2010, and from six to eight every morning, you could stop by for a hot cup of coffee. Lynn would wake early enough each day to brew coffee and get the stand ready for business. Its first open season was the brisk and beautiful fall. When winter came, you could still find Lynn sitting at the stand each morning. What is winter to a Canadian with a double-lined jacket on his body and Steger Muk Luks on his feet? Not Lynn's problem; that's what it is. Spring and Summer months were equally as enjoyable for the Burkholders to serve coffee to the community, who made it clear that the roadside stand was exactly what they needed.
Lynne wonders now if the six Burkholder children looked out the window in embarrassment each morning. But some of them think she'll do well to remember that the first business venture thrust upon them was one in which worms were bought in bulk, repackaged in their garage, and sold to fishermen for a season each year. The sign out front very plainly advertised "WORMS." Anyone within 20 miles likely remembers the sign, and many of the Burkholder kids are still asked, "so, like, did you have worms, or did you sell them?" So no, Lynne, the children were not embarrassed. If anything, they were grateful for this very positive step in the right direction and free coffee. They'll always remember the free coffee.
Lynn and Lynne took a step back and realized that coffee was one of the most commonly shared experiences. They saw how it single-handedly brought people together in the community. Conversation, realizations, and plans all being discussed over a shared cup. This quickly became their "why," and that reason was exactly what they were looking for.
What’s Next for Twin Valley Coffee?
Since the old gazebo, Twin Valley Coffee has truly become a place for the community. Where friends can connect, young and old, conversations can be started that enrich the mind and promote sensitivity, where parents can stop before dropping the kids off, and students can grab a quick cup to keep them fueled for the long day ahead. It has been an incredible connector to diverse communities.
If the beginning was quite the story, the journey ahead will be worthy of many retellings. From more growth, expanding relationships with growers, helping coffee farms support their laborers, and crafting uniquely inspired drinks, Twin Valley coffee will always have its "why."