In the caffeinated world of coffeehouses, Freaky Bean is just a sprout.

But Jon Stratton and Andrew Kessler, the pair of young entrepreneurs who started the shop in Scarborough, are used to moving quickly. They met seven years ago while working at Starbucks on Congress Street in Portland. Though both moved on from being baristas, years later, the two began a new collaboration when they started talking about opening a cafe of their own.

That conversation began in the summer of 2005. After parsing their business plan, taste-testing different roasts and coming up with a name – thanks to Stratton’s wife, Dawn – in June 2006, the Freaky Bean Coffee Co. opened its doors on Route 1 in Scarborough. It was an instant hit.

Now, a year later, Stratton, 37, and Kessler, 29, have purchased the Seattle roasting company that provided their beans and are moving its headquarters to downtown Westbrook, where another one of their coffeehouses will open in July.

“We wanted to create a whole coffee experience,” Stratton said of the concept behind the Westbrook location. Not only will coffee be roasted on site, but also customers and passers-by will be able to watch it happening.

Patrons can sit at a mahogany bar and sip their favorite blend in front of a smaller roaster, while people making their way from the boardwalk along the Presumpscot River to Main Street through a hallway adjacent to the coffee house will be able to see the commercial roaster at work through arched windows.

Currently, the roasting company, formerly known as Jousting Penguin, supplies coffee to businesses in Canada and five U.S. states, as well as to the American Diabetes Association, which sells packages as a fundraiser. All of the roasting, packing, storing and shipping will all be done from the 8,000-square-foot building on Westbrook’s Main Street.

“We think this is going to be a destination spot,” Stratton said.

The space they are leasing was formerly occupied by printing company Full Court Press, which consolidated its office next door. The Westbrook location will also be home to the company’s administrative offices, as well as an employee training center, complete with mock coffee bar. About eight employees will be hired in Westbrook.

The co-owners considered Westbrook in their search for a first location for the Freaky Bean, but according to Stratton, “the numbers didn’t work out.” Stratton said new development nearby, including the Disability RMS building and the Dana Warp Mill, changed that.

“You couldn’t ask for a more ideal place,” Stratton said, looking out onto the Presumpscot River, which runs behind the downtown building. “There’s no way Westbrook isn’t going to be a thriving community again.”

Erik Carson, director of economic and community development in Westbrook, said he is particularly excited about the on-site roasting and the renovations being made to the back of the building.

“I think it’s going to be great for the downtown,” Carson said.

The re-bricking of the building’s backside is just one of the many renovations Stratton and Kessler have made in an attempt to recreate the space’s original look. By keeping the tin ceiling, refinishing the hardwood floors and exposing the brick walls, the owners hope to give the coffee shop a “community feel” that’s unique to Westbrook.

Kessler said their goal is to provide a place to bring people together.

“That’s what we want our coffee houses to be – the center of the community,” Stratton said. A third location in the Portland area is scheduled to open in January 2008.

Though Stratton and Kessler are modest about their success in Scarborough, their customers are quick to tout their favorite hangout.

“We’re regulars,” said Sylvia Most, a town councilor who was meeting with local volunteers to work Scarborough’s 350th anniversary book. “I get work done here. It’s provided a meeting place, especially for small business owners.”

Mark Koerber, who lives in Saco, stops in a few times a week to sit down with a book and enjoy what he calls “the most comfortable coffee shop in the Portland area.”

“I would like to see Freaky Bean replace all coffee shops,” said Koerber, who calls their coffee “the best” because it’s full of flavor without being harsh. And he should know – he drinks it black.

Audrey Danforth, of South Portland, comes in every day for her decaffeinated iced soy latte. Originally, Danforth came in because Starbucks, her former favorite coffee stop, was too far away. Now, she said, “I would go way out of my way to come here.”

And the best part for Danforth? She doesn’t even have to order.

“I come in and they know what I want and they know who I am,” Danforth said.

That’s a highlight for the owners, too.

“I like interacting with the people,” Kessler said. “You see people on their good days and their bad days. It’s like being a bartender of sorts.”

The Freaky Bean is so popular, even the competition is excited for its arrival in Westbrook. Mike Wowk, who owns The Daily Grind, a drive-through coffee shop across the street from the new Freaky Bean, is also one of its customers.

“The one in Scarborough is a mile from my house,” Wowk said. “I’ve been there. I think it’s gorgeous. I’m excited.”

Wowk said he is not worried about competition because he believes the two businesses will attract different customers.

“I honestly think there’s enough room for both of us,” Wowk said. “Plus, they’re going to do roasting here, which is pretty cool. It’s going to give a nice smell to the downtown.”

(freakybean6)Jon Stratton, co-owner of the Freaky Bean Coffee Co., pauses briefly in the Main Street, Westbrook, space that is being renovated for a new coffee shop and coffee roasting facility.(freakybean1)Upgrades to the rear exterior of the former Full Court Press building on Main Street in Westbrook are proceeding as the building is about to become a Freaky Bean coffee house.(CFreaky Bean026)Jon Stratton, left, and Andrew Kessler are expanding their coffee shop into Westbrook.


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