Corey Gerlach is ready for a lifestyle change.
In the OTA region and far beyond, you may know him for his work with Soulcrate Music, but every time he stepped off stage as a performer, something else was brewing.
He was making coffee.
“I get made fun of on tours because I’m taking so long to make coffee or I’m bringing my own.” He smiles. “Then later, everyone would be, like, can you make me a cup, too, then? I see how it is!”
No one is mocking him now. A few months ago, Corey’s music partner Wes Eisenhauer bought a warehouse on North Dakota Avenue in Sioux Falls, and at the same time, Corey bought a coffee roaster.
He’s ready for something new, and he’s ready to call a little corner of that warehouse his own.
“I’ve been DJing professionally since 2008. It’s been great, it’s been a good living, but over time, after three to four nights a week, I’ve been thinking about changing things in my life,” he says. “I’d like to do something a little bit more regular,” he says.
It’s going to be called The Breaks, a coffee roasting company that just began operations this month.
“There’s promise here.”
Along with DJing, Corey has been working in a coffee shop for years. So for as fast as this idea has come to fruition, it’s an overdue endeavor.
He began at Great Plains Coffee Company in 1999.
“I was honestly just looking for a second job. I worked for my friend’s skateboard shop from 12–8, Monday-Friday, and I just wanted more money to buy some gear and stuff, so I’d work at Great Plains from 7–11 in the morning, then work at the skate shop all day, then skate at night.”
But it was always more than work. Even growing up, coffee made sense to him.
“I was always that kid who would go to the parent-teacher meetings and instead of getting that really awful orange juice from the containers, I’d be in the gym drinking the coffee instead. My parents have always drank the stronger-tasting coffees, too. It was just something I was drawn to.”
After Great Plains evolved into Coffea, Corey began work for Black Sheep Coffee and has been there since 2003. He just completed his final roasting shift there last month.
“Black Sheep has been so supportive of what’s to come.”
Getting The Breaks out the door
For now, Corey will roast on his own at the new “clubhouse.” There will be no storefront, and he intends to keep it that way.
“Storefronts don’t excite me that much,” he says. “I like the idea of roasting coffee, and that’s it.”
To start, he will sell his coffee to M.B. Haskett downtown, making all their drip coffee and their espresso, too.
“We will also be retailing the bags out of Hasketts, which will have more variety — we’ll sell what they’re brewing, but we’ll also have different offerings,” Corey says.
He knows his community appreciates a variety of coffee flavors, and he’s excited to offer something new.
“Everyone has their own roasting style,” he says. “People have different approaches. It can be very scientific, and it can be very artistic. I like to incorporate both.”
It’s fun to talk about coffee with Corey. It’s fun to watch anyone talk about something they love. And for as active as the beer movement has been in Sioux Falls lately, it’s nice to see the coffee culture growing, too.
“The climate of coffee roasting has gone to what they are calling the third wave of coffee,” Corey goes on. “The roasts have gotten quite a bit lighter over the years. Back in the 90s, the roast was always pretty dark — people were roasting to the point that you lost all the beautiful characteristics of a bean, whether it be the fruitiness or chocolate note or sweetness. Those are mostly captured in lighter-roast coffees.”
And that’s what we’re seeing more of today, he says. “Now when you see coffee, it’s a really light, different color.”
Corey appreciates coffee more than a lot of coffee drinkers do, but the presence of another roaster in Sioux Falls — his will be the fourth now, including Black Sheep, Coffea and Dunn Bros. — will hopefully bring about a greater awareness and respect for the process from farm crop to coffee shop.
“Coffee is still a very labor-intensive job,” Corey says. “It’s still being hand-picked, and when it gets to your cup, you think it took five minutes to brew. But really, the chain of events it took to get to your cup is pretty phenomenal.”
An overdue spotlight
As the Builder Program progresses, Corey is simply looking forward to camaraderie with other like-minded, ambitious creatives.
“Even just being around people like that is helpful to me — people who are trying to do something different than the norm.”
For as much of a leap as every single Builder is taking over these next few months, this is a really big personal leap for him.
“This gets me out of my comfort zone,” he says. “I’m not good at networking. I work by myself most all the time. Even when I’m DJing, I’m still by myself in a corner. Everything I do is always behind the scenes.”
Corey is so humble in his hard work — almost as if you’d never even know all that he’s accomplished, but he’s unstoppable, too, and this will be big for him. Even though coffee roasting is still quite solitary work, this will be a great addition to our community.
And it will be great for him.
“With the coffee, whether someone is drinking it at Hasketts or Black Sheep, that’s my coffee. People don’t know I exist, but I’m there all the time.”
Quietly working, all the time.