Picture a tiny portable espresso machine, bobbing around in the back of a fruit truck, winding its way through the majestic mountains of BC and Alberta. That espresso machine has come a long way, and so has its owner, Mickey McLeod.
Mickey has, quite literally, carried his love of coffee with him wherever he’s gone. The now-vintage portable espresso machine currently stands on display in his home on Salt Spring Island. It symbolizes his unforgettable journey, what he playfully calls his “vagabond years”.
Call him what you will — vagabond, adventurer, rebel — Mickey has been a spirited entrepreneur from the young age of 17. Born and raised in small rural areas around BC, he learned at a young age the importance of doing good things for people and the planet. With this entrepreneurial spirit, and a love of the environment, he launched his first business in 1973, called Deluxe Contracting. He collected fresh fruit from the Okanagan Valley and distributed it throughout northern BC and Alberta.
At this time, Mickey met Robbyn Scott in Powell River, BC, and his life changed forever. Robbyn, a coffee lover and professionally trained dancer, grew up in California and had travelled in the back of a truck to Powell River with a group of friends. There was an instant connection, and they realized that they had many common interests and shared values, including an appreciation for organic coffee and sustainability. After spending a few years together, Robbyn moved on to pursue her dance career in the U.S, working in dance companies in New York, Boston and other cities.
After a few years with Deluxe Contracting, Mickey knew that he needed to continue work in the fresh mountain air and in the elements, so he turned to tree planting. He eventually took on a contract with BC Forest Service.
Several years later, Mickey moved to Mansell Farm on Salt Spring Island, and Robbyn joined him a few years after that. They started an organic market garden on a couple of acres, complete with greenhouse and animals.
This began a new exciting chapter of their lives, and it was a demonstration of their joint commitment to sustainability.
During this exhilarating time, Mickey and Robbyn also welcomed their lovely daughter Metta into the world.
After Metta was born, Mickey started his own custom sawmilling business, with one of his most exciting projects being the build of a West Coast timber and cedar teepee, shipped to northern Manitoba. As a young family, Mickey and Robbyn were inspired by their years together in the coffee cultures of California, Oregon and Washington. They eventually decided to marry their passion for great coffee and positive sustainable change to form Salt Spring Coffee.
Opening the doors to their first roasting café on Salt Spring Island, Mickey and Robbyn witnessed the incredible demand for freshly roasted organic coffee (the long lineups were proof!) At a time when specialty coffee was just starting to gain momentum, Mickey and Robbyn were often challenged with the question, “why organic?”, but they never gave up raising awareness about its importance. Ultimately, Salt Spring Coffee is the product of Mickey and Robbyn’s mission to “do good things along the journey of life and business.
In the 40 years since the launch of Deluxe Contracting, Mickey’s entrepreneurial journey has taken him throughout Canada, South and Central America, Africa and Indonesia. He and Robbyn continue to find new ways to improve the lives of coffee farmers and increase quality standards, and they’ve been inspired by the passion and dedication of partners such as Byron Corrales and Dagoberto Marin, two outstanding biodynamic farmers.
The “vagabond” years may be over, and the portable espresso machine no longer works, but the pioneering spirit lives on: in Mickey, Robbyn, and the entire Salt Spring Coffee team. They’re all committed to making a positive impact on the world, one delicious organic cup at a time.
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