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Coffee With a Cause: Yellow Bike’s “Hero Roast” shares stories of recovery and success

Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 7:04 AM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (CBS 3 Duluth) - A northland coffee shop is brewing up a roast with a reason.

Compelling conversations over coffee - a common concept, but the owner of Yellow Bike Coffee, Shannon Cornelius, made it personal.

“Anything I do, there has to be some definition of purpose behind it. I guess I’m just old, and I’m just done. I’m done wasting time, wasting energy, and wasting life,” Cornelius said.

Yellow Bike Coffee's owner, Shannon Cornelius
Yellow Bike Coffee's owner, Shannon Cornelius(CBS 3)

Shannon Cornelius founded Yellow Bike Coffee in Hermantown in 2017. The shop quickly became a place for the community to gather, until COVID hit.

That slow season gave Cornelius a chance to really sit down and think about what would come next.

“It was like 9 p.m. going down Central Entrance and it was like ghost town. Nobody. I was with Shaun Floerke and I was like ‘do you feel like you got a crash course in like... yourself?’ and he was like, ‘Yup.’” Cornelius said.

The desolation gave her an idea. Yellow Bike had never sold its own coffee bags, so her and her team dove all in, packaging her shop’s coffee.

For Cornelius, it was about more than money. She wanted to really “pour” into the community.

The coffee isn’t just a bag of beans. It’s also a way to share inspiring stories.

Each bag has a QR code on it that brings you to a podcast episode which features a person that is showcased on the coffee bag.

Hero Roast QR code leads to podcast episodes
Hero Roast QR code leads to podcast episodes(CBS 3)

“What if I just told stories of people and connected these coffee bags to stories of people. The first two things that came to my mind were Jonny Reznick and Shaun Floerke,” Cornelius said.

She met those two while helping bring food and coffee to healthcare workers at the start of the pandemic.

She says she was motivated by their involvement in the Northland.

Shaun Floreke is a former judge and the CEO of the Duluth Community Foundation. He focuses on recovery reform through the court system.

“It helps turn the dial toward hope and impact in connection, as opposed to everything sucks, we’re all going to die, it’s all hopeless,” Floerke said of his work.

Jonathan Reznick is the owner of The Rambler food truck and MidCoast catering company.

He is a Drug Court graduate, and has been in recovery since 2011.

“Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, it’s a lot. So between that, starting a business, getting back into the community, and really starting to learn about yourself, What you’re about, what you like, rejoining society is a hell of a lot of work,” Reznick said.

Cornelius also included Julie Vena, a former addict who is now the program director for Duluth Recovery Alliance, and Zach Walters, a former addict, and a boxer who opened his own self-defense gym.

Those four shaped Yellow Bike Coffee’s first series of the “Hero Roast”.

“I realized I accidentally created a recovery theme, and ironically a lot of people in recovery are huge coffee drinkers. So I was like okay, this fits,” Cornelius said.

The associated “Finding Fire” podcasts are a way to share stories of success, despite the circumstances.

“Just learning so much from people who have gone through really hard things in their life, and how they’ve chosen to address them, and how they’re living a much better life. We can all relate to that,” Cornelius said.

Each bag is designed and branded to help tell the story. for Shaun Floerke, there’s a little irony too.

“Shaun burnt down his house roasting coffee. He tells that story in the podcast,” Cornelius said.

“I Really love coffee. I always say to people if coffee were illegal, i’d be in prison,” Floerke said.

Cornelius says the Hero Roast is just the beginning of Yellow Bike Coffee’s effort to “brew up” hope, one cup at a time.

“We’re filled with phenomenal people here. I just want people to know who they are. I want people to benefit from their amazingness like I’ve benefitted from their amazingness,” Cornelius said.

Each bag in the Hero Roast series is also attributed to a foundation, with some proceeds going to Recovery Alliance Duluth, the Duluth Community Foundation, and the Jungle Gym.

Click here for links to the Finding Fire podcasts and more information about Yellow Bike Coffee.

Yellow Bike Coffee's "Hero Roast' series
Yellow Bike Coffee's "Hero Roast' series(CBS 3)

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