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The Working Women Behind Cape Cod Coffee Roasters

by Lisa Markley

Molly and Cate MacGregor are making important decisions. They huddle over their computers at their respective desks, just two feet apart, continually updating one another on their work, asking for and sharing opinions.

The dynamic and energetic sisters chat excitedly about their passion for coffee, the environment and their sustainability initiative. Since purchasing Cape Cod Coffee Roasters, the sisters have doubled their wholesale customer base and have made an imprint on the community with their commitment to fair trade and environmental awareness.

Molly, 32 and Cate, 30, stumbled across the established Cape Cod Coffee Roasters two years ago. Molly, who has a background in environmental construction, looked at purchasing the building and property as a real estate venture. Then she met Demos Young, a third generation coffee roaster.

At 81, Young was looking to step back from the daily operations and stress of running a business. The passion for his work was contagious and Molly was intrigued. She asked her sister to meet Young, who'd grown up on a coffee plantation in Kenya and worked in the trade in Central and South America. The man's taste is so discerning that he can tell you what part of the world the bean came from and even what the growing conditions were.

The sisters recognized the potential when passion met opportunity. After some thought, they decided to invest their savings, not in a real estate transaction, but in their future. The combination of Young's roasting knowledge and the MacGregor's business savvy, combined with a wealth of enthusiasm, has proven to be a winning combination.

The MacGregors feel lucky to have Young to mentor them. "A lot of roasters that are just starting out make some expensive mistakes," explains Cate. "Having Demos to guide us is invaluable."

"We have such a good team," adds Molly, referring to their staff of ten full and part-timers. "We need that eagerness. Everyone here is invested and eager."

Young, who established the business in 1970, explains, "I built this place in order for it to be a resource for Cape Cod." Young's own children pursued other careers, but he says the MacGregor sisters are like his kids. "These girls aren't in it for the money or the grandeur. They're dedicated to growing this business. They're willing to stick their necks out."

"Molly is very easy to get along with," Young continues. "She has a real presence and has so many attributes. Cate is very good at dealing with information and with customers. Those are skills that they brought with them."

The business offers nearly 50 types of coffee, including three types that are organically certified. All are 100% Arabica and artisan roasted.

The MacGregors chat enthusiastically about several upcoming projects and developments that will align them even more closely with their mission statement of "purchasing top grade coffee beans from growers known for premium, quality coffee."

The beans they purchase have been grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified (™) farms. It is this certification which ensures that the environment is protected and the farmers and their families have a secure and decent income with access to education and medical care.

As Young explains, many of the coffee farms in Africa and Central America are small, family-owned operations that belong to co-ops. Thanks to the generosity of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one such operation in Rwanda has benefitted from a grant.

Cape Cod Coffee Roasters is located at 348 Main St (Route 130) in Mashpee

9:00 am-4:30 pm Mon - Fri
9:30 am - 2:30 pm on Saturdays

The facility is open for tours on Thursday at 11 am
Reservations can be made a day in advance: 508-477-2400

Buying savvy on the part of Young and the MacGregors has allowed Cape Cod Coffee Roasters to become the first and only in the country to offer this particular bean which is named Impala, based on the co-op where it's from. The roasters are still working on the blend and have been offering the coffee to walk-in customers at their Mashpee shop.

Among the other exciting projects that the MacGregors are working on are a renovation and expansion of their cafe and the development of a cold brew. After researching products for this new endeavor, they grudgingly admit that straws will be a necessity, but they draw the line on styrofoam.

Along with doubling their wholesale base, the MacGregors have expanded their business by participating in numerous Farmer's Markets, offering coffee subscriptions, and selling brewing equipment and gift baskets. They involve their customers with the Ambassador Club, where they encourage fans to request their product at their favorite stores and restaurants in exchange for Cape Cod Coffee Roasters' swag.

The MacGregors also host "coffee takeovers" where they travel to offices to present their product. They will also partner with organizations in their fundraising efforts.

Customers who visit the roasting facility, which is 100% solar-powered, can gather as much or as little information as they'd like. According to Bonnie Nowik-Cohen, a team member who wears many different hats with the company, personal experience is paramount for the customer. "We like to educate without the attitude. We want to enjoy and appreciate coffee with our customers. The camaraderie is wonderful," she explains.

Graduates of Cape Cod Academy, the MacGregor sisters each have degrees in Environmental Studies. They readily admit they were raised by hippies in Brewster, emphasize the green aspects of their business. All of the grinds and filters they use in production are composted. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used on the plant property. The home they grew up in was half house and half greenhouse. They inherited their entrepreneurial spirit from their father, who made his mark in real estate. Their mother contributes wherever she can, occasionally delivering coffee on the lower Cape.

There was never a real concern about their ability to work together in a business venture. Molly owned a jewelry store in Provincetown for five years with Cate working by her side. Even then, they balanced one another and found success.

The office they share speaks of organized chaos. Surrounded by pump pots, travel mugs, file folders, and post-it notes, Cate happily clicks away on her computer. Molly carefully maneuvers around her dog Louie, a small black labradoodle, who is sprawled at her feet.

Above Molly's desk is an inspirational vision board which she created as part of a group she belongs to called Think Tank. Along with colorful photos taken from magazines, there are empowering quotes, such as "Purpose and Passion, Speed Up Success and Doing What Counts." Most interesting, perhaps, is "Eat The Frog", a reminder to pick your most dreaded task of the day and complete it first rather than dwell on it.

Although much of Cate and Molly's time and energy is focused on Cape Cod Coffee Roasters, they are keenly aware of balance in their life. "It's important to take advantage of living on Cape Cod," explains Cate. "Each season, we make a list of events we want to attend or adventures that we want to take part in."

"Like jumping off the Sandwich Boardwalk or going to the Beachcomber in Wellfleet," adds Molly. When told about a Thanksgiving event at the Birdwatcher's General Store, in Orleans, Cate immediately researches it on her computer and as Molly asks, "How did we not know about that?", Cate replies, "I just put it on our calendar!"

When asked if they envision someday working alongside a future generation, Molly replies, "I guess we haven't really thought that far ahead. Right now I feel like this business is my baby."

Photographs published courtesy of Lisa Markley

Lisa Markley washed onto the shores of Cape Cod nearly 20 years ago and can't imagine living anywhere else. She has a physical reaction whenever she crosses the bridge and counts the minutes until she is able to return.

Originally from New Hampshire, Lisa is a proud graduate of the University of New Hampshire, where she earned her degree in Sports Communications. She went on to serve as the Director of Sports Information for women's athletics at UNH, a position she held for seven years.

Since moving to Cape Cod, Lisa has held jobs as a lumper, a gate guard at the dump, a FedEx delivery driver, a manager at a propane company and a team member at Agway.

In her spare time, she enjoys photography, running, biking and kayaking, as well as exploring every beach and back road from one end of Cape Cod to the other.

This is her third submission to She is currently working on her first novel.