These guys know a hill of beans

Hansa Coffee Roasters, Libertyville
Libertyville Attorney Anthony Moree chats with general manager and barista Adam Paronto after picking up his daily coffee. Employees at Hansa often recognize customers by name. (Tina Johansson)

Just when you thought the big players have dominated the highly competitive java market, two former bankers have started a coffee shop with a wholesale roasting business in downtown Libertyville. The place has become a haven for area coffee lovers.

Walking into Hansa Coffee Roasters, you will be awakened by the intoxicating aroma of freshly-made cappuccino. Moreover, you will be unfailingly greeted by Adam Paronto, the general manager, and his assistant, Tessa Downs. Both are baristas. If you are a regular customer, they’ll remember your first name.

“We value our customers treating them like family members or friends,” said Kevin Kane, president of Hansa which is half-hidden from Milwaukee Avenue, the main street. You can’t miss it because the building is painted white with “coffee” in big letters and it is next to the Metra station.

His sentiments are echoed by Tom Maegdlin, director of sales. The two are equal partners in the venture launched on Oct 4, 2013 without much fanfare. “We had 300 followers on Facebook when we opened,” Kane recalled with obvious pride.

What’s so special about their coffee?

“We use high quality beans grown on family farms well-known for their harvests. We roast them ourselves,” explained Kane, pointing out that the beans are bought from an importer in Minneapolis who scouts for the best coffee beans in Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world.

Hansa Coffee Roasters, Libertyville
Coffee roaster Keith Lilja of Round Lake Beach with some green (raw) coffee beans before he places them in the roaster at Hansa. The benefits of coffee drinking are great, being that coffee is very high in antioxidants, says Adam Paronto, general manager. (Tina Johansson)

“Our coffee is not for people looking for convenience, buying a cup on the go quickly,” he said.

“The bulk of customers want their coffee done right – quality versus convenience,” he added.

Hansa offers variety. On a recent day, it offered a Guatemala brew with what Paronto, the barista, described as containing subtle cocoa powder, candy lemon and cinnamon graham cracker tasting notes. Another choice of the day was a Columbian coffee with aromas of cherry, raisin and baking spices. Coffee is served in porcelain cups rather than paper. Refills are free as long as you drink it there.

Also available are pastries from Holcomb Hollow bakery in Mundelein featuring gluten-free and vegan delights.

The 2,500-square-foot shop in a former garage, originally used as an auto parts store, has been transformed into a friendly, homey and comfortable haven for coffee lovers.

 

I was the only middle schooler with a travel mug full of coffee on the school bus.”-Tom Maegdlin, co-owner of Hansa Coffee Roasters

 

The two owners said while they did most of the remodeling themselves, they did not find the right plumber until they tried out six of them.

Some regular customers bring their computers with them, turning the place into their mobile offices while sipping their brew.

“When you walk in you smell coffee roasting. You really get good quality coffee here,” said Johnny Auer, director of marketing at Woodland Foods in Waukegan.

“The service is good and they know what you drink (if you are a regular customer),” he added.

Justine Grosvenor of Grayslake, a public relations consultant, called the place “very friendly and the coffee great.”

“There’s no other coffee shop like this,” added the New Zealand native.

The two owners used to work at the Libertyville branch of the Associated Bank but had always wanted to be entrepreneurs.

It was only natural that they went into coffee because Maegdlin had been literally immersed in it since he was six.

“When I was young, my mother used to make me a concoction of coffee, milk and sugar to coax me out of bed,” he recalled fondly, not knowing he would make a career out of his favorite drink.

Hansa Coffee Roasters, Libertyville
Tessa Downs, a barista and assistant manager, displays a beautiful heart shaped coffee she created for a customer. (Tina Johansson)

“I was the only middle schooler with a travel mug full of coffee on the school bus,” he added.

Maegdlin started working at what he described as “mediocre” coffee shops when he was in high school. Not until his senior year did he find his “dream” coffee job at Altera Coffee Roasters in Milwaukee where he worked around huge roasters producing thousands of pounds of coffee a day and met with people traveling to Guatemala and Brazil on coffee-buying trips.

“The energy, the culture and the seriousness of the staff was intoxicating,” recalled Maegdlin who received a bachelor’s degree in urban planning from the University of Wisconsin and worked as a stock broker before becoming a banker.

Before he and Kane launched their joint effort, Maegdlin, 29, who lives in Grayslake with his wife, Alexandra, a consultant for Winger Marketing in Highland Park, had started selling coffee he roasted himself online under the Hansa name which he said he chose in homage to the medieval trading guild, the Hanseatic League, known as the Hansa. His family on his father’s side, he said, came from Rostock, Germany, which is also known as Hansestadt Rostock.

Kane, 62, who lives in Libertyville with his wife Janet, a retired teacher, is part Irish and part Italian, but all-American as a businessman. With a B.A. degree in communications from John Carroll University, he worked as a bartender on Rush Street before becoming a commodity trader at the Chicago Board of Trade and later a banker. It was while working as a bartender that he said learned the importance of good customer service which he made a pivotal point in their coffee business.

In any event, one day the two men decided their future was in coffee and quit their jobs as bankers. Before long, they were driving to Indianapolis to pick up their espresso machine bought on E-Bay. Hansa Coffee Roasters was born.

“We’re happy we finally opened our own business. Tom (his partner) is actually better than he said he was. Because of that, we really have superior products and unmatched customer service,” said Kane.

Besides selling coffee by the cup and coffee beans by the bag from several single origins and blends, Hansa is opening its wholesale market to restaurants. And it plans to open another café when “the right location comes along.”

Always trying to offer the best possible coffee, Kane said, “We’re the biggest critics ourselves in what we do,” adding, “We’ll continue to invest in people (employees) and in our products.”

Hansa Coffee Roasters recently put a feature on its website allowing customers to easily place online orders for bags of coffee and have them shipped directly to their homes or offices or somewhere else for a gift.

When placing the order, customers also have the option of choosing whether they would like whole bean or ground, choose whether they like it to be a “subscription” (automatically repeating) or a one time order.

For information visit the website at http://hansacoffee.com/

Hansa Coffee is at 755 N. Milwaukee Avenue (west side of road) in Libertyville. Call 847.226.8815 for the cafe, or 847.219.1955 for the roaster.

Hansa Coffee Roasters, Libertyville
An hourglass shaped drip coffee maker, like the one Agent 0007 used, takes a few minutes, but it’s worth the wait. (Tina Johansson)

 

Hansa Coffee Roasters, Libertyville
Jennifer Burkhart and her son Aiden, 12, enjoy cappuccino. (Tina Johansson)
Hansa Coffee Roasters, Libertyville
Adam Paronto waits on customers. (Tina Johansson)
Hansa Coffee Roasters, Libertyville
Kevin Kane, co-owner of Hansa with some of the artwork featured in the place. The owners painted and updated the old garage to make it into the current coffee house. (Tina Johansson)
Hansa Coffee Roasters, Libertyville
Customers have their brew while working on laptops. (Tina Johansson)

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