Arkansas coffee roasters use e-commerce to steam up a slow downtown
BOONEVILLE — Light flooded in from the floor-to-ceiling walls that lined the building’s entrance, showering Mandy Lovan as she chatted with a customer and measured out coffee beans to bag for the woman.
The woman was one of Stirling Roastery’s few in-person customers for a business that almost exclusively sells its product online.
Mandy and Rod Lovan opened Stirling Roastery on North Broadway Avenue in late October in downtown Booneville. It is the second business the couple owns in the area.
Stirling Soap Company sits across the street from the roastery. The Lovans opened that storefront in 2019.
“It was a natural pivot once the soap company got to where it was a sustainable business,” Rod Lovan said.
Booneville Mayor Jerry Wilkins credits the move with starting a re-emergence of the downtown area in Booneville.
Wilkins said the success of the shop gave owners the confidence to establish their own businesses in the area.
“He’s got the ball rolling for us basically,” Wilkins said about the Lovans.
For about a year, businesses have continued to move back into the buildings downtown, said Susan Bulger, director of the Chamber of Commerce for Booneville and South Logan County.
“We’ve seen a lot of people taking pride in rejuvenating our businesses that have been shut down,” Bulger said.
The hope would be to eventually establish a real historic district, Rod Lovan said.
The Lovans own five buildings downtown. When they moved to Booneville from Texas, they wanted to do their part to revitalize the town, Rod Lovan said.
“Now Booneville’s getting a facelift out of it,” Rod Lovan said.
The roastery and soap companies bring jobs back to an area where large industries have abandoned the town, Wilkins noted.
The business model relies heavily on online sales, which bring in 99% of the revenue, Mandy Lovan said.
“It’s the only model that will work for rural Arkansas,” Rod Lovan said in regards to independence from local support.
He sells to all 50 states and internationally.
“I’ll sell more soap in Italy than I will in Arkansas this year,” Rod Lovans said.
The roastery offers nine variations of coffee, and the soap company produces between 50 to 60 individual scents.
The coffee beans come from an importer in Minneapolis, Mandy Lovans said. Eventually she would like to get the beans directly from the farmers. The beans come from all over the world, from India to Guatemala.
“It’s going to have a much better flavor than anything you’re going to pull off the shelf,” Rod Lovans said about the coffee.
Eventually the couple would like to open a coffee shop to accompany the roastery. That was the original plan prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s too risky for us to do right now,” Mandy Lovan said.
Although the soap storefront has been open since 2019, the company has been in business for nearly a decade.
The Lovans said it’s important for them to enjoy what they do, explaining why they focus on soap and coffee.
“We’re both coffee fiends and coffee snobs,” Rod Lovans said.
Rod and Mandy Lovan met while serving in the U.S. Army. Rod is originally from Subiaco. Mandy is originally from Ohio.