A brewing story: the man behind the coffee

by Jennifer Speight

The coffee shop is abuzz with the sounds of laughter, good conversation and the music of Ingrid Michaelson as rare sunlight pours through the windows of the downtown building.   This is the shop that Myron Bontrager owns—the Electric Brew.

His story is simple. Bontrager said he has always loved coffee, but after traveling with his wife to Latin America and having his first experience with roasted coffee in Costa Rica, a seed (or a coffee bean) was planted, figuratively speaking of course.

Bontrager has spent most of his life as a pastor. He tells the story of the beginning of his involvement with the Brew by saying, “It was kind of a fluke.” Bontrager said he’d come to a point in his time as a pastor where he wanted to do something in the community that went outside the scope of church.

After a talk with Brenda Kauffman, the previous owner of the Brew, he found out that she needed to sell the Brew. Bontrager and a friend partnered up and bought the coffee shop. This gave life to the seed that had been planted in Costa Rica.

Bontrager enjoys the challenge of the business side. With the recent economic downturn, he revealed that the Brew had fallen on hard times. He was fortunate, however.

“I never missed a paycheck for anyone.”

The year 2009 actually showed the Brew bringing in a slight profit. In fact, December of 2009 showed the best profit margin the Brew has ever seen.
Bontrager credits this profit to the extremely loyal customer base of the Brew. He said that Goshen natives in general are loyal to local businesses, but that people are also interested in the Brew’s cache of Fair Trade Coffee and spending with integrity.

Bontrager himself is a Goshen native. He was born at the Goshen Hospital and grew up in the neighboring communities of New Paris and Middlebury. Though his life has taken him to London, Brazil, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Spain, Ireland, Kenya, Sudan, the Dominican Republic and many other locations, he has landed here, in Goshen, and he states that Goshen is home.

Though he’s traveled the world, he now says his world is more of a four-block radius. He is a half-time pastor at the church at Downtown 808, lives on Fifth Street and works at the Brew. The Brew, with the word “coffee” inscribed on the wall in countless languages, definitely shows signs of the Bontrager family’s world travels, while also still feeling like home.

Bontrager has a good work ethic and said he finds it easier to work a lot because he genuinely enjoys what he does. However, Bontrager’s goals within the next five or ten years include one that is completely unrelated to his job: he wants to spend more time with his wife, two sons and four grandchildren.

His favorite beverage from the Brew? Black coffee. His expert advice reveals that different roasts are more appropriate at different times of the day.

For the first thing in the morning, he loves a good Sumatra coffee ground. It’s a medium-roast full-bodied coffee. In the afternoon, he likes a lighter, Central American or high-grown bean, like Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, or Honduran. He doesn’t like the dark roast at all.

In addition to his work at the Brew, Bontrager enjoys watching the Indianapolis Colts play, making his own wine and watching the customers in the Brew.

Bontrager said, “One of my favorite things to do is to go behind the bar and watch the customers and see them as they enjoy life. It’s nice to provide a place of joy in someone’s life.”

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