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Locally roasted Smalltown Coffee picked up by Strack and Van Til

The flagship Strack & Van Til store in Highland is selling the locally roasted Smalltown Coffee and may eventually expand the distribution.

Local coffee roaster Smalltown Coffee is now being distributed at Strack & Van Til's flagship store in Highland, and could eventually be rolled out at all 20 of its supermarkets across the Region.

Smalltown Coffee started out hard-roasting coffee beans in Highland, then shared space at Windmill Brewing in Dyer, and is now working to open a new roastery and coffee bar in a historic 148-year-old building at 306 E. Goldsborough St. in Crown Point. 

Smalltown has mainly been distributed thus far at coffee shops like Grindhouse Cafe in Griffith and Cafe Fresco in Crown Point, as well as through a subscription service and online sales.

"It's Stracks. It's a big deal," said Annette McKeown, who co-owns the business with Elizabeth Steel. "It's been great for exposure."

Smalltown Coffee has been selling 12-ounce bags of its whole bean Highland Roast, "a smooth, traditionally processed South American coffee with a delicate roast profile, and sweet finish." A portion of the proceeds benefits the Highland Community Foundation, which replaces dying and diseased trees and funds public art, such as the murals in downtown Highland and the sculpture at 45th and 5th Streets.

"We made a lot of roasts and this is the one Highland residents picked at the Highland Music and the Market," she said. "So it's for Highland and selected by Highland residents."

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Strack & Van Til had been looking for another way to support the Highland Community Foundation, got linked up with Smalltown, and started selling it at its store at 9632 Cline Ave., the original store that grocers Ernie Strack and Nick Van Til teamed up to open in 1959. Smalltown's Highland Roast is sold in its own display case up by the front.

"We were blown away by the location," McKeown said. "We thought we'd just be in some bad corner, but we've been well taken care of by them."

They have had talks about potentially carrying Smalltown Coffee at all 20 Strack & Van Til locations if sales are strong enough in Highland.

"The big thing is the additional exposure," she said. "It's exposing new people to freshly roasted whole bean coffee. Much of the coffee is grocery stores is older."

Strack & Van Til has been stocking more locally made products in recent years, such as smoothies from Frozen Garden in Valparaiso and craft beer from breweries like St. John Malt Brothers, Offsquare Brewing and Shoreline Brewing.

"They're a local company and remember what it was like to start small," McKeown said. "We all need to help each other to grow the local economy. Any products that come from nearby tend to be of higher quality and are better for the environment because they're not transported as far. It just makes sense."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.