Strange Brew is a local coffee shop that has been a staple in our community for years. They serve as a place for meetings, study groups, church groups, crafting groups, and coffee lovers alike, or for people who just want to sit in a comfy chair and read! When you step inside, the amazing smell of coffee blends and confections greet you, as do the friendly baristas. You immediately feel at home. Strange Brew was even so kind as to send Adam Savage, one of the Mythbusters, a bag of Robot Rampage coffee in a thank you basket after ones of the owners, Toni Carr, completed a side project with him. Red Alert has been so fortunate to partner with this amazing establishment. Thank you Strange Brew for your sponsorship!
Here are a few words from one of the founders of Strange Brew, Toni Carr:
What’s your name, and relation to Strange Brew?
My name is Toni Carr, my husband Daniel Carr and I both own Strange Brew.
How long have you been a business, and how long have you been in Greenwood?
We’ve been in business ten years, on April first, and we’ve been in Greenwood this entire time.
Any ideas to franchise, and expand outside of Greenwood?
If the right opportunity happens, but we’re also very careful. We see a lot of coffee shops try to expand and grow, and they just end up collapsing. We’ve seen it happen four, or five times just around here. They open one, then they open a couple more stores, then they all close at once. So we’d rather perfect our one, then if someone wants to franchise, then we can work that out. It’s more important for us to have one solid location.
How did you guys get started, both with the business, or in coffee?
I had worked in coffee shops, then I was a personal assistant, then I did office management. My husband actually worked in IT, and it came about I had wanted for years to own a coffee shop, and this opportunity came up, and we jumped on it. After a couple years, he quit his job, and started working here full time as well.
So how do you feel your shop ties in, or fits into the community? You’re the local coffee shop that everyone’s talking about.
After our first year, especially, the idea of keeping everything really close to home became really, really, important to us. When you spend a dollar at a local business, 70 cents stays in the local community. When you spend a dollar at a big business, you’re talking maybe 10 cents staying. It’s important for us to grow our community, it’s not just some person sitting there being rich, in another state, it’s me, and my husband, struggling to meet ends meet, but also making sure we support the local community. That’s part of the reason we do so much outreach, so we can support our community, because if you don’t support your community, your community can’t support you. Somebody once said something along the lines of “You can spend all your time trying to be famous, or you can spend all your effort and time trying to make your friends famous.” That’s kind of the way we feel. We’re going to be better off if our community is helped out. You guys are young, and you’re going to do great things in your life, and you’re going to remember us, and when you come back to town, you’re going to come here and support us, and maybe your kids will as well. That’s our whole idea, we’re going to help build up our community, and they’re going to help build us up as well.
I’ve noticed you sell local artwork, or at least as long as I’ve been coming here, probably longer.
Yeah, we could buy art for the store, and hang it up, and have some lame prints, with fancy gates and hotel stuff. Or, we could change it every month, and support a local artist. When we sell our local art, we don’t take a commission like most art galleries do. If a piece costs $20, the artist gets $20. That’s a very important thing for us too, to support our local artists.
I noticed that this entire place is basically a piece of artwork. Who designed all of this, and who painted it? (Gestures to the wall with a cafe painted on it.)
It was actually a Center Grove graduate, named Amanda Johnson.
What was the thought process of allowing Red Alert to choose and sell our own coffee? How has that affected the coffee shop?
For us, it’s really cool to see kids doing something technical, when I was in school, there was no robotics program, ever. It was just football, and other sports. All the art, and english after school clubs got canceled, and all of the poetry groups too. Since all of our groups got canceled, it’s really exciting to see Center Grove supporting the robotics community, and letting you guys get really technical and stuff, or what you’re doing right now with the media aspect as well. That’s great training for later in life, so you want to support that. It’s kind of cool to let you guys pick your own coffee, and not have us pick one for you. To let you taste it, decide what you like, kind of mix things together, to come up with your own blend, and make it more about you guys.
[I remember when we did that, it was a lot of fun getting to pick it out, all of the flavors were amazing, but we got to choose one that said, “This is really what we want to say about our team.” Strong, bold, highly caffeinated, just like all of our students… Yeah, it was just a great experience.]
I guess you kind of answered this before, but I want to ask it again, what started Strange Brew?
It was actually, my husband wanted to own a bar, and I wanted to build a coffee shop, and I won. So we ended up on coffee. It was in the upswing where there were coffee shops everywhere , and now there are only a few left, and we’ve been able to hang on. Before we did this, we were driving to Bloomington every weekend to get our coffee fix, and that was really aggravating, because the only other thing around here was the place called Latte-Da, and they ended up closing down when all the Starbucks came in, and that was kind of sad. So it was basically, if we wanted good coffee, we were going to have to make it ourselves.
How did you get your name?
It’s kind of a funny thing, it’s a play on Macbeth, you know, “Boil, boil, toil, and trouble” It’s also a Creme song.
Where do you see Strange Brew going in the next five years?
Hopefully still here, right now we just want to be able to stay here in the community, stay strong, and keep our doors open. It’s a small business, a week by week struggle at that. I would love to see another Strange Brew open somewhere, but I don’t know if that will happen in five years.
Anything else you want to say to the community?
I think the most important thing for us is for people to understand how local we are, not just our work, but our beans are roasted locally, every week. The coffee doesn’t sit on the shelf for six months, it’s fresh, every week. We do other things as well, we work at local beer breweries, and give them beans, and they make beer out of it. You guys should never drink though. During the summer time we do things like co-ops with farmers markets, use that for our sandwiches and soups.