David ChallOwner and Director of Operations

While attending school at the Spanish American Institute in Sevilla Espana, David fell in love with the daily ritual of sipping espresso at one of the many caffés in his neighborhood. The fresh espresso and pastry he enjoyed every morning were deeply missed when he returned to the United States. While other Americans were flocking to a new company called Starbucks, the quality of products available in this country were still not to the level he experienced while living in Europe. David decided to make it his mission to try and bring the Euro Caffé style to the Midwest.

In 1993 he decided it was time to launch Upper Midwest Gourmet and A Fine Grind Caffé near his Alma Matter, the University of St.Thomas. David started out by sourcing the highest quality products he could find and testing them in his own Caffé, A Fine Grind, which still operates successfully today. The Caffé allowed him to get instant feedback from consumers. As a result he was one of the first coffeehouses not only in the Midwest, but in the country to offer Chai Tea. The ability to identify and serve new and profitable products continued with Gelato, Acai, Yerba Maté, Boba Tea, Italian espresso, and Organic Fair Trade Coffee. He visits Italy regularly and drags his staff around the globe so they can be on the leading edge when it comes to identifying new trends and innovative ways for their customers to grow and expand their businesses. Whether sipping espresso up in the Italian Dolomites near the Austrian border or high atop the lemon groves down south in Sorrento, it’s is a tough job, but he is happy to do it for you.

Certifications: SCAA Certified “Barista Guild Association” Barista – Level 1

Jesse Grote - Roastmaster and Green Coffee Buyer

Jesse grew up in Wausau, Wisconsin and moved to Minnesota to go to the University of Minnesota for college. While in college he worked at a local cafe and met David as the cafe’s distributor. David hired Jesse to help with all facets of UMG and their friendship and business relationship formed from there. He graduated with a political science degree, but soon found that coffee was also a serious passion and together with David decided that starting the Flamenco roastery was in the best interest of both their futures. Jesse received top-notch roasting training from Willem Boot in San Francisco and with his own creative methodology started to produce Fair Trade Organic micro-roasted batches under the Flamenco Organic brand.

Jesse currently resides in New Hope, Minnesota with his wife, Brier, his son, Elliot, his daughter, Jemma, and his big ol’ dog, Thom. Sometimes he plays shuffleboard and softball.

Likes: References to obscure actors, the Green Bay Packers, Mountain Dew, assorted meats and cheeses, fantasy-football, Radiohead, and downloading music.
Dislikes: Cream-cheese frostings, allergies, airplanes, public speaking, and leaving Minnesota or Wisconsin.

Certifications: SCAA Certified Gold Cup Technician

Eric Schwarz - Shipping and Receiving Manager

Eric is the warehouse manager here at UMG.  He was born in 1967 in a town called New Holstein WI and yes he is a life-long Packer fan. His parents always told him hard work will get him far, boy were they wrong. He spent his summers and school holidays picking stones, bailing hay and working on his grandfather’s mink ranch. When he turned 18 his folks dropped him off at UW Stout in Menomonie WI and away he went, toiling away to get his degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Eric paid for his school by dismantling and building concrete silos and working his way up the ladder managing Stout’s dining services.  Five and a half years later he had his degree.  Eric had planned on moving to Colorado but only had enough money to make it to Minneapolis.

He took a job at the newly opened National Sports Center in Blaine and worked his way up to Hospitality Director and Event Services Contractor.  After 6 years of 90 hour work weeks and never really appreciating the sweet sport of soccer he decided to move on. Eric took a management job with Taher dining service and took over the cafeteria at Benilde St. Margaret’s. Although working in the school system was sweet. Only 154 days a year and getting paid for 365 days, he came to the conclusion that children should be seen and not heard. After all those years of being a highly paid baby sitter in the foodservice industry he thought he’d try his hand running warehouses.  He took a job at one of UMG’s old competitors, Marcel Coffee Gourmet and found that he liked driving forklifts and delivering products. That’s where he first met David Chall. He’d load his little van with biscotti and beg David to give him a job because, well you know what kind of guy Jon Lonnoman was. After a few years passed by he heard David was opening a new warehouse and was looking for help and he came a calling. The rest as they say is history.

Currently, Eric has a lovely wife named Susan married for 10 years, a crusty old rescue dog named Katie and a Harley Davidson Electra Glide. He plays in a folk rock country punk band named Woodshop and life is sweet.  He’s 43, bearded and bald. His back, knees and shoulders hurt constantly from hauling the Big Train but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He loves what he does and he loves the crew that he works with most of the time. That’s the story of E.

Kevin SeligEastern Sales Manager, Industry Trainer and Marketing Consultant

Born and raised in Michigan, Kevin moved to Minnesota nearly 15 years ago, met his lovely wife Lisa of 13 years and is raising 3 beautiful children. His journey in sales began over 13 years ago. Jumping into sales back then was a new career change for Kevin so it started out slowly with inside sales. He joined Upper Midwest Gourmet over 7 years ago and has never looked back.

His love for great coffee also began with Upper Midwest Gourmet when they added Flamenco Organic Coffee to their offerings. He has graduated from coffee loaded with milk and sugar to appreciating the nuances and characteristics of high end coffees.  Learning about and experiencing the coffee culture in which we live and serve, is what continues to drive his passion for what he loves to do.  Kevin enjoys the sense of community and relationship that is found within our industry. Serving customers and ensuring they stay successful under his watch, are two of the reasons he continues to enjoy this industry.

Prior to his life in coffee, Kevin has experienced many career changes. Some of these include; 6 years of service in the US Air Force, a Patient Care Assistant (Nurses Aid), Security Officer and working several retail positions. Most of these past careers involved serving the public so he was primed for many years for a career in sales. These past experiences have made treating customers with care and respect a simple fact of life for Kevin.

Some of the things Kevin likes include his love of gardening, camping, quiet nights on the patio with his wife, summer and the fall season.  He enjoys serving in his local church and raising his children with the support of the church in hopes that they can be positive influences in the world someday. Some of his dislikes are selfishness, disrespectfulness, chewing with your mouth open, mosquitoes, cold winters, slow drivers, and bad coffee. Kevin is shy by nature but does love to talk about topics relating to the coffee industry. He hopes his legacy in life will be that he was always known to be a honest and respectful to others and always willing to serve those in need.

Certifications: SCAA Certified Gold Cup Technician

Michael ApplenAccounts Manager, Website and IT Lead, and Social Media Consultant

Michael grew up not far from UMG in NE Minneapolis. He went to St. Charles Borromeo for grade school, Totino-Grace for highschool, and then moved to St. Paul and went to the University of Saint Thomas for college. Graduated from college with a Business Management degree and immediately started applying for jobs. The first place he interviewed at was UMG after finding an open sales position on the UST website. With David being UST alum and also this being the perfect small business environment for him to have the freedoms to thrive in he took the sales manager job and has loved his career ever since.

He is responsible for all website creation and upkeep, most IT and office supply controls, and POS/Media creation along with his job title which is sales. Michael really enjoys this industry and all the great people he meets everyday.

For fun he likes to spend time with his beautiful wife, Elizabeth, and his sons, Oliver and Augustus, in their home in NE Minneapolis or at their family cabin.

Likes: All Minnesota sports teams, Playing Red Stripe softball, Spicy food, All types of music, Apple gadgets, Kitty cats, Foosball, Disc golf, Coffee, Hoppy beer, Fine dining, Communication, BBQ, Traveling, His vegetable garden, and Open-minded individuals.

Dislikes: Bees, Ignorance, Clutter, Dishonesty, Rush hour traffic, and Imposters.

Certifications: SCAA Certified Gold Cup Technician & SCAA Certified “Barista Guild Association” Barista – Level 1

Alan ErbachRoaster, POS/Media Consultant, and Design Specialist

You would think a degree in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature from the University of Minnesota would warrant an incredible amount of job opportunities, but Alan found the contrary. Instead, he dove into the employment search with 20-some months of marketing and sales experience and some bitterness for toward corporate world. He was lucky to find a craigslist post looking for a roaster’s apprentice, where he quickly sent a resume and a letter explaining his lack of coffee background (instead, he promoted his beard). He received a phone call 20 minutes later.

Alan grew up in suburban Chicago. While he prefers the city-life, he enjoys going home every once-in-a-while to see his ma, pa, and identical twin brother. He came to Minnesota in 2002 and loved it enough to purchase a house in Northeast Minneapolis. He currently sings and plays bass guitar in a post-punk band. He enjoys painting portraits–a skill he has developed since high school. Brewing beer is a new passion of his. Alan is an acceptable bowler, reasonable 3rd baseman on his softball team,  and a dedicated  soccer player. When not spending time at home with his wife Kayla and two cats, you might find him at any number of Twin Cities bars with rock music and good beer. Since October 2008, Alan has worked diligently under Roastmaster, Jesse Grote.

Likes: Indonesian coffees, kittens, the Chicago Bears, Summit beer, foosball, riding his bike, sludge rock music, karaoke.

Dislikes: Cell phones, vegetables, doing laundry.

Certifications: SCAA Certified “Barista Guild Association” Barista – Level 1

Pat VanderkolkLocal Delivery Driver & Warehouse Assistant

Originally an eastern Wisconsin native, Pat moved to the Twin Cities in 2006 and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a German and French language degree. As a student, Pat focused his studies on development of the German language and French phonology. A few months after graduation, Pat was hired on as a warehouse assistant, because of his warehouse experience gained during the summer months between semesters. When Pat isn’t on the road delivering around the Twin Cities metro or in the warehouse, he spends his weekends as a counselor for a German camp in Bemidji or touring record shops for additions to this collection. Before UMG, Pat has worked part time as a balloon decorator (one of his passions), caterer, volunteer math tutor and parking lot assistant.

Likes: Writing and drawing, German cogents, His record collection, Playing bass guitar, Theater, The Green Bay Packers, NPR and Disc golf.

Dislikes: Not using your turn signal, Forgetfulness, Corn on the cob, Math proofs, His cat (only in the morning) and Dropped phone calls.

Pancho Valtierra HowieWarehouse Assistant

The youngest of the crew in the warehouse, Pancho is originally from St. Paul, MN. He graduated high school in 2009 and soon hopes to attend college in the fall of 2012 to start further educating himself. He enjoys the simple things in life. As far as outside of work, he enjoys hanging out with friends, working at his other job at BP Gas station and just living life.

Likes:  Going to the gym, Playing and watching sports, Listening and experimenting with all types of music, Indulging in various ethnic foods, and Working at UMG.

Dislikes: Not getting enough sleep, Bad coffee, Inconsiderate people, and Being hungry.

Carinna BlevinsCustomer Service Receptionist

Carinna just moved to the Twin Cities from Alaska at the start of this year (2013). She grew up in a small town in Florida, just an hour outside of Tampa Bay. She has  visited 35 states and is always working on seeing all of them, via road trips. She had a pony when she was little which is essentially every little girls dream. Carinna worked as a bartender & bouncer at a goth club. She is a self proclaimed movie buff and has been working on a screen play for about 5 years! HA!
Likes: Hippos, live music, nature, comic books, Stanley Kubrick, action & horror movies, sporting events, chai tea, and the art of spirited conversation.
Dislikes: Being patronized, drunk guys at shows, algebra, missing the bus, chick flicks, and oddly textured foods.

Evan Christensen – UP Cafe Manager and Lead Barista

Evan never anticipated having a career in the coffee industry, but over time Evan fell in love with the process and customers who enjoy drinking delicious coffee. In 2008 Evan started a relationship with Upper Midwest Gourmet while working as a manager for Overflow Espresso Cafe. Despite moving on from Overflow, Evan kept his relationship with UMG and eventually found an opportunity to become part of its team.
Evan currently lives in Lino Lakes with his wife Melinda and daughter Evey. His favorite past time activities are hanging out with family, watching movies, and brewing beer with his best friends.

Rachel Cupps – UP Cafe Barista

Rachel grew up in a small town in central Minnesota and all over Texas. She has worked in coffee for the last seven years and is very excited to continue with Up Cafe. While she works Rachel is also attending St. Catherine University with the hopes of attaining a degree in Political Science.

Likes: Reading, cats, coffee and chocolate.

Dislikes: Waiting in line for the bathroom, calculus and inconsiderate people.