Strange Brew Coffeehouse is one of the 10 finalists in the MWG Employer Services Business Game Changer Contest put on by Mississippi State University Athletics and its multimedia rights holder Bulldog Sports Properties.
A local coffee shop first opened in 2005, but its roots go deeper than that with the father of current owner Shane Reed having built the gas station Strange Brew now calls home. Shane’s wife Katelyn Reed described the station.
“It used to have an old maroon and white tile floor back in the day,” Katelyn said. "Shane was born and raised a Bulldog back in the day. Their family has always kind of had roots around the Starkville area.”
Katelyn said they still have interactions with customers who remember coming in to buy things like chicken nuggets when it was a gas station 30 years ago. She used the word “family” to describe the environment and atmosphere Strange Brew created.
“Now their kids are in school and they are getting coffee from Strange Brew, and it’s just a really big family environment,” Katelyn said. “My favorite times are when we see people who have come there when they stop by Strange Brew when they tour Mississippi State. Then they come by on graduation and we meet their parents. We get to see the progression as students go through Mississippi State over the years.”
Katelyn said part of the application process for the contest, which started in the fall, was an essay explaining part of the culture Strange Brew has in the Starkville-MSU community.
According to the Strange Brew's website, it roasts its coffee beans locally in Mississippi, and it has not only had an impact on the local economy, but also the community of Starkville. Katelyn said when Strange Brew first opened it offered something Starkville never really had.
“When Strange Brew opened, Starkville did not really have anything like a modern coffee house,” Katelyn said. “It has also been a place over the years for students to study late, when no one else is open late. Or be able to get a drink that you might only be able to get in bigger cities. Kind of cutting edge technologies.”
Katelyn said another way Strange Brew is part of the Starkville community is how it tries to employ students. Another thing setting Strange Brew apart is its use of social media and its sign to poke fun at MSU’s athletic opponents, as well as supporting MSU.
“It has been a way for us to connect with people as they have started at our store and then moved after they graduated,” Katelyn said. “We still use our social media as a way to talk to alumni that live all over the country. It is also really fun to show what all is going (on) in Starkville at any given time. Kind of entice them to come back and see us.”
The top winners of the award will be announced during Super Bulldog Weekend, April 12 to 14, and has an estimated value of $60,000 in business services and marketing value.
Joel Jasper, manager of MWG Employer Services said this award is the first of its kind, and MWG loves they are involved in this contest as they can provide local businesses recognition.
“It’s a terrific opportunity to recognize Mississippi entrepreneurs,” Jasper said. “Pay tribute to their hard work, and help them take their business to the next level. We’re looking forward to revealing the winner during the 34th annual Super Bulldog Weekend in April.”
The entries were also read by John Cohen, director of athletics at MSU, who said the athletic department wanted to show its appreciation for the local businesses that support them by helping them out.
“It’s rewarding to read in the entries how winning this contest would be a game-changer for these owners and operators,” Cohen said.
Katelyn said she thought about how big of a game changer this would be for a small business like Strange Brew, and she said it would mean everything.
“It is kind of hard to think about,” Katelyn said. “Because having an opportunity to partner with Mississippi State Athletics is not something that a very small business gets to think about. It would be so exciting to see our name on the jumbotron, it would just be the highlight of our year.”