A Jackson Mega-brew: Heavy metal star with Jackson roots collaborates with Coffee Choices owner on business relaunch
JACKSON — A few short weeks ago, Susan Reiter wasn’t sure how much longer she was going to be able to keep Coffee Choices open.
On Monday, she was marking a new beginning and a new look to her enterprise. Coffee Choices is now Ellefson Coffee Co. — as in David Ellefson, the bassist from the heavy metal band Megadeth who grew up in this southwest Minnesota community.
Reiter bought Coffee Choices seven years ago from Karen and Don Wells, who had operated the business for seven years before that. She had gotten to know Ellefson over the years, as he often pays visits to his hometown.
“David always stops in here when he comes home,” she said. “He and I both love coffee, so we talk about that.”
That mutual passion led to a collaboration between Reiter and Ellefson on Urban Legend, a roast described on Ellefson Coffee Co.’s website as “a rich, bold, Earthy blend of premium Latin American, Indonesian and East African coffees.” Also part of the Urban Legend effort was paranormal investigator and writer Adrian Lee, whose book “Mysterious Midwest: Unwrapping Urban Legends and Ghostly Tales From The Dead” contains the story of Mary Jane Terwillegar, the subject of the Megadeth song “Mary Jane.” Terwillegar is buried in a Jackson County cemetery.
That teamwork between Reiter and Ellefson led them to take their business relationship one step further following discussions that began in November.
“Last year with the Highway 71 bridge reconstruction here, it really devastated our business,” Reiter said. “What people don’t know was that I was literally a day away from listing this business with a broker.”
Reiter called Ellefson to let him know of her intentions, because she didn’t want the sale or closure of Coffee Choices to have a negative effect on Ellefson’s personal business endeavors. That led to a conversation about a potential new direction for the downtown Jackson coffee shop.
“His team came back … and they were like, ‘Would you be interested in being David’s first brick-and-mortar store?” Reiter said. “We couldn’t say no to that opportunity. We started working on some stuff together and it came together really quickly and really easily — it was literally five week or six weeks ago that all of this started to happen.”
December was a very busy month filled with preparations for Coffee Choices’ relaunch as Ellefson Coffee Co., and the business marked a soft re-opening last week. The interior has a new look, both in the paint and decor.
“I was definitely ready for a rebrand, a refresh,” Reiter said. “I think every business needs that every seven years.
“He (Ellefson) started throwing around ideas of what he could bring here, and everything on the wall is from his personal collection. We’ve got gold records, personal guitars, memorabilia from various concert tours and gifts from fans. We’ve got a lot from other bands and artists as well, and more is coming.”
A jersey from Max Cavalera — a Brazilian singer, guitarist and songwriter who plays in heavy metal bands — and a guitar from the metal thrash brand Dopesick are also in the store. Memorabilia from bands such as Anthrax, Korn, Machine Head and Lamb of God is also on the way, Reiter said, adding that many rock stars are in the beverage industry and future plans include offering some of those products.
Reiter also said Ellefson Coffee Co. wants to engage in an effort to “support the sobriety movement — that’s something really important to David.
“One of the things we really want to do is have this not just be a place for those who have struggled with these issues, but to remove the stigma for those directly victimized by this disease as well as their friends and families,” she continued.
“We also want to do what we can to support the artists’ community. I look at us as the island of misfit toys, of freaks and geeks. …. There’s an undercurrent of very talented people around here in all ways. I want this to be a place for people who are told to grow up, fit in or be quiet — for them to have a safe place to go and know there's a place for them in the world, too.
“You’ve got your vegans and your carnivores, your Bible-thumpers and your left-wingers, that can all sit side by side here. This is a melting pot where you can all come together over a cup of coffee, and have a respectful place to have a discussion and escape from the world a little bit.”
Ellefson Coffee Co. is currently open from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 6:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays, though Reiter expects the hours to expand soon. CDs and vinyl from Ellefson’s EMP music label will also be for sale eventually, and Ellefson himself is expected to attend an official grand opening event sometime in April.