Fleetwood native Mike Adams has been doing his part to literally save lives for over 30 years as a first responder. Now, he wants to save lives in the figurative sense, one cup at a time.
At the beginning of October, Adams opened the doors to the new site of Firehouse Coffee along Route 222 in Maxatawny Township — the culmination of more than a decade of work.
Built on the site of the former Smith & Croll General Store and Maxatawny Post Office, Firehouse Coffee serves gourmet java to go by the cup or bag, all roasted on location by Adams himself.
Varieties range from traditional medium, dark, espresso, decaf and breakfast blends to complex flavored coffees such as Backdraft, with notes of bacon and maple syrup; Ladder Truck, an aged malt whiskey and vanilla combination; and Trauma Mama, a mix of wild rum and caramel.
It’s all prepared using what Adams describes as “the Cadillac of coffee roasters,” a computerized piece of equipment that ensures he replicates the same great taste with every batch.
“Our roaster has so much capability,” Adams said. “It’s all about time and temperature with the bean, and this is all computerized, so I can program it and reproduce that coffee over and over again, whereas a lot of the old roasters can’t do that.”
Firehouse Coffee offers whole bean and ground, with K-Cups expected to go on sale “any day now.” Baskets and other gifts are also available for purchase.
While there are no plans to add seating to Firehouse Coffee, free samples are always provided, and Adams is currently in talks to become the provider for a local café.
Learning the ropes
A professional flight paramedic in the Lehigh Valley who graduated from Reading Hospital, Adams first sought to break into the coffee business in 2007 under the Java Medic Coffee brand.
The original idea was for a coffee marketed specifically to health care workers and sold online, though the actual roasting was outsourced at the time.
“I drank a lot of coffee as a paramedic,” he said. “Years ago, it was all volunteer, working 24, 36 hours straight sometimes just to keep units in service.”
The Java Medic name didn’t get a whole lot of traction, so in 2012, Adams — who has also worked with various western Berks County firefighter and ambulance services — decided to go with Firehouse Coffee.
But the biggest change occurred two years ago, when Adams took a trip to California with designs on potentially buying a roasting business.
Instead, he wound up learning the art of roasting at Boot Coffee Campus.
“At that point, I’ve been on medevac for 29 years, and I essentially just decided if I ever want to transition into a new career, now is the time,” Adams said. “And growing the business the way I wanted moving forward, I needed control over the roasting.
“I learned how to profile coffee and how to work to get coffee to where it was that I felt it was some of the best coffee that I ever tasted.”
With the skills and access to resources he needed, next Adams was searching for someplace Firehouse Coffee could call home.
When he eventually settled on an old, dilapidated former general store at 15877 Kutztown Road, he had no idea of the building’s 100-plus-year-old history — or how much work was ahead of him.
“I had no idea how bad the property was,” Adams said. “It was basically filled with all kinds of junk. My family helped me tear everything down and worked with me to get the property cleaned up. We went through I don’t know how many dumpsters.”
Working with almost entirely local contractors — including nearby Fegley Signs, relatives of the Fegley family that owned and operated the store after Smith & Croll — Adams came to appreciate the legacy of the property, dedicating a corner of the new building to old photographs.
“It’s such a little gem of history in Maxatawny Township,” he said. “I’m sure they sold coffee.”
Despite the scope of the project, the bright red industrial-style structure that stands in the former store’s place is exactly as Adams imagined it.
“What you see on 222 is the vision of what I always thought it would be,” he said. “It’s identical. Not one part of the building is not what I envisioned.”
A Firehouse for a neighbor
As Firehouse Coffee becomes more established, Adams, 50, plans to shift his professional focus to the business full time.
“I think this will be a second career for me,” he said. “I never did anything else. I’ve been a part of emergency services for a very long time. I joined when I was 16.”
Yet, unsurprisingly, Adams expects he’ll remain very involved and a positive force in the community, albeit in a different way than he has always been in the past.
He hopes that revitalizing a rundown property and, in the process, restoring a piece of the area’s history, is a positive introduction and a sign of the type of neighbor he hopes to be.
Adams also continues to support his brothers and sisters, offering on-duty first responders a free cup of coffee on every visit and 10% off for all first responders on any purchases.
“I want to be a business that is community-based,” he said. “The plan is to serve the community well.”
Firehouse Coffee also sells its products online at firehousecoffee.com and ships across the U.S.
Address: 15877 Kutztown Road, Maxatawny Township
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Source: Berkshire mont