Cabin Coffee: Just Be Happy and Have Fun

Dec 06, 2022

Cabin Coffee: Just Be Happy and Have Fun

By Erin Carew


Cabin Coffee gives customers the ultimate Northwoods experience no matter where the store is. Originating in downtown Clear Lake, Brad and Angie Barber, with their children Robert and Abbie by their side, started the shop to give locals quality coffee and a place to gather at their log cabin right by the lake.

It all started with a Sunday drive

“We were down in Des Moines on a Sunday in 2001 at a Bruegger's Bagels,” said Brad, “and I said to my wife that there is no coffee shop in Clear Lake.” 

From that single thought, they brainstormed all the way home about how they envisioned their coffee shop. They had always wanted a log cabin home, so they thought they’d try that theme at the shop. 

They then bounced names off one another until their seven-year-old daughter asked from the back seat, “What about Cabin Coffee?” 

That dream quickly turned into a reality. To date, there are 22 Cabin Coffees across the United States. 

Just Be Happy and Have Fun 

Cabin Coffee's slogan was born before the business was even an idea. 

“Angie and I were dating and she had been having a hard time at work. I told her, ‘You know what, sweetheart? Think about this: Just be happy and have fun.’” 

That inspirational message has been a constant in their lives ever since, and the message is apparent in each of their locations.

Cabin’s niche 

During the early processes of finding the best products to use at Cabin, Angie came to the realization that she could no longer have generic coffee in her life. The couple insisted upon roasting their own coffee in the stores so they can provide the best quality coffee. It is known that coffee portrays the best flavor characteristics if drank within 10-to-14 days after roasting. 

“It is part of our niche and it has opened up doors for us to do a lot of fundraisers with roasting our own coffee in our stores.” 

Cabin in the community 

Not only has the community of Clear Lake and Mason City given Brad the opportunity to open his own coffee shop, but it has given him a platform to make change in the community. Brad started the nonprofit United To Serve With Passion and Purpose. The organization partners with Cabin Coffee to create a sponsorship event in Clear Lake that gives around 40 other area nonprofits an opportunity to network with one another. 

“It brings people together for them to be able to see the good things that happen in life apart from all of the terrible things we see everyday.”

Their Clear Lake location has also become a pseudo-community center, with a lively atmosphere and events happening periodically.

“We've had people get married in our stores, get engaged in our stores, and we’ve had close customer’s pass who we have written eulogies for. Cabin Coffee is a place where we hope and pray when they leave there that they feel a lot better about themselves.” 

Their daughter started working in the business at 14 and slowly learned more about the business and its impact on the community. 

"I think the most important thing that she learned was that we serve people," said Brad. "She got that it is the only way to be happy in this life. We're built to serve."

Advice to other family businesses 

Running a family-owned business, Brad and Angie have been working by each other's sides with their son for many years. Throughout the years, they have experienced challenges that almost all family businesses will encounter but have learned great lessons from their journey. Here is a list of advice that Brad believes helps a family business succeed: 

  1. Try not to get emotional about things.

  2. Things aren’t as bad as they ever seem and things aren’t as good as they ever seem.

  3. Always treat each other with respect.

  4. Always have a healthy out to release stress. 

  5. Don’t get caught up in the drama. 

  6. Don’t get too discouraged. 

  7. Don’t ever lose hope. 

What’s next for Cabin?

Cabin Coffee continues to see a lot of growth, especially through its new drive-thru implementation. When Brad exits the company one day he anticipates that his son Robert will take over the business. 

Mostly, Brad hopes that Cabin will continue to be the place to just be happy and have fun.