New roaster is enjoying the ride

EMPIRE – As a professional cyclist – racing at the U.S. Pro National Championships four times – Derek Prechtl knows a thing or two about the daily grind: getting up every morning at 4:45 a.m. in order to get in three hours of cycling before heading to his day job.

"I've always (had) a cup of coffee or two or three before all my training rides," Prechtl said. "I'm a super coffee lover."

Prechtl has found a way to convert the daily grind to the daily "ground." Prechtl and his wife Kelly recently opened SOGOOD Coffee in Empire after toying with ideas for their own business. They wanted something they were really into. But they didn't want it to be cycling.

So Prechtl purchased a coffee roaster and started teaching himself the tools of the java trade. Through trial and error, reading books, and what he refers to as "guerrilla" education, Prechtl learned the coffee business.

He began importing beans from an international importer in Minneapolis, roasting them on site and bagging them up for retail and corporate sales. Many of the beans, which come from places like Yemen, Kenya and Columbia, are fair-trade.

He then began giving cups of the coffee away, hoping for feedback from his friends. One of the people that he gave coffee to was a head representative for Nordica Skis. The representative was so impressed he decided to give some miles to Prechtl's coffee.

"He said, 'we should do a national campaign using this coffee and our new Speed Machine skis,'" Prechtl said. "So we ended up making up about 3,000 bags of Nordica Speed Machine coffee."

That was his first big account and gave him his startup money and some quick national exposure.

The more Prechtl gave his coffee away, the more he heard "this coffee is so good" and the name SOGOOD Coffee was born.

Locally, Prechtl's coffees are available at Oryana in Traverse City and Deering's in Empire. He ships 300 pounds of coffee a month.

"I roast (the coffee) and I either bring it to the office or bring it to your door and drop it off," he said. "I have total control over how fresh the coffee is. When it hits your door, it's one day old."

SOGOOD Coffee is located at 12020 S. Leelanau Highway on M-22 in Empire. He shares the building with Mimi Wheeler and Grocer's Daughters Chocolates. It's a combination Prechtl says is hard to pass by.

Prechtl still plans to keep up his cycling, only at a much slower pace. This year he expects to participate in only 20 to 30 races, which is down from the 50 to 100 he usually does. In addition to starting his business, he recently got married, adopted one child and his wife gave birth to another.

In the future, Prechtl hopes to join his love of coffee and cycling.

"When the weather gets warm I hope to deliver it while riding my bike. How cool would that be?"

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