Lifelong Edina resident shares his passion for coffee and community.
As a kid growing up in Edina, Steve Brehm loved biking around town and spending time with friends. Along with his four siblings and many friends, he rode his Schwinn bike all over the streets and trails of Edina.
“Minnehaha Creek was a playground for me and my friends back in those days,” Brehm says, flashing a big smile accompanied with a chuckle. “We would bring our inner tubes, rafts or fishing rods and hang out there all day!”
Brehm’s family moved to Edina when he was 6 years old, and he’s lived in and around Edina ever since, other than his college years. He attended Edina’s Wooddale Elementary, Southview Middle School and Edina High School (EHS). He attended his 50-year EHS reunion this year. “Our class of ’72 is still really, really tight,” he says. Brehm married his wife, Gayle, in 1982, and together they raised their two children in Edina. Their children are now grown, and the Brehms have two grandchildren.
After all these years, Brehm still loves being an Edina resident, noting the constant improvements to the area. “Edina City services and the school system are second to none,” Brehm says. “City planning did a fantastic job with all of the local green spaces … I’ve always felt a sense of community living here.” He’s been a member of the Edina Country Club for over 30 years, and to this day still loves riding his bike on local trails.
His passion for the city of Edina is perhaps matched only by his passion for the coffee and hospitality industries. Although he prefers to fly under the radar, Brehm is largely recognized as a pioneer in the local and regional coffee service industry.
He’s the founder, CEO and president of Berry Coffee Company, based in Eden Prairie, which provides coffee, equipment and other refreshment services to businesses throughout Minnesota, the Dakotas and western Wisconsin. He started his company in 1979, making all the deliveries himself with just one vehicle—his personal station wagon. He now has a fleet of more than 20 trucks and vans delivering around 1,500 products and servicing coffee equipment.
Berry Coffee Company started out simply distributing coffee—it was the first exclusive distributor of Starbucks coffee in this region and is currently the largest regional distributor for both Starbucks and Caribou. Today, it also roasts its own beans at its roasting plant in St. Louis Park, cultivating a variety of coffee with beans that are sourced from around the world. This has given Brehm the opportunity to visit coffee farms in places such as El Salvador and Panama. “It’s really fun to be on the ground and meet the people who are actually picking and harvesting the coffee crops,” Brehm says. “It’s pretty special.”
Brehm appreciates that, with Berry’s roasting plant, it offers ultra-fresh, high-quality coffee to customers at a more competitive price. As someone who didn’t have a background in the coffee industry (not many people did back in the ’70s), Brehm says, “I jumped into this industry by accident, but it’s been a blessing to have been in a business and industry that I have so much passion for. People love to talk about and drink coffee. It’s a really fun product to be involved in.”
The business has also grown far beyond coffee. Today, it also distributes water coolers, soda, sparkling water, teas, snacks and much more, delivering to over 4,000 offices throughout the four-state region. It also supplies and services any and all required coffee-related equipment to its customers, with over 16,000 machines currently in place. “It’s fascinating to see the growth in the coffee service sector,” Brehm says.
All of this growth and success hasn’t gone to Brehm’s head, however. Rather, he recognizes how fortunate he is, and in both his business and personal life he seeks to give back. “Berry Coffee has contributed to nonprofit organizations for many years,” he says.
Brehm has served on the boards of multiple nonprofits throughout his career, including Youth Forum, which gives youth an opportunity to express their ideas, opinions, and needs to decision makers, community staff or to other youth. He’s also deeply involved with Matter (previously Hope For The City) of which he is one of the founding board members. With his business, Brehm is currently in the process of partnering with Matter to build a coffee house in Zimbabwe, complete with a roasting and production plant, which will help create jobs in the local community.
He credits his father for instilling this value of service and giving back in him and his siblings. “[I’ve] been blessed being able to work in a community and build a business … [and] be in the position to give back.”
Berry Coffee Company,
14825 Martin Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.937.8697; berrycoffee.com