Controversial 'conservative-minded' coffee company sets up shop in St. Albert

A controversial coffee company that markets to veterans and gun-loving Americans has opened a franchise in St. Albert — and, according to the company, it’s thriving.

Black Rifle Coffee Company, which imports, roasts and ships small batches of beans, markets itself as “the premier coffee company to the conservative customer.”

Its products include Silencer Smooth Coffee Blend, AK-47 Espresso Coffee Rounds and Combat Cocoa Canister. The company also sells clothing, mugs and other knick-knacks.

Black Rifle’s Alberta franchise has been operating since June.

“We’ve been sold out of coffee almost every week,” Darren Weeks said Wednesday on CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. Weeks, who is from Edmonton, is in charge of the company’s Canadian operations.

Coffee for gun lovers. American based Black Rifle Coffee opens up in St. Albert, with a mission to serve coffee to freedom-loving customers! 7:41

Evan Hafer, the company’s American president and founder, worked on his roasting skills while he was between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Black Rifle started as an e-commerce company, shipping its first beans in early 2015, and expanded as demand grew.

Last year, the company won wide exposure when it pledged to hire 10,000 veterans in face of Starbucks’ promise to hire 10,000 refugees after Donald Trump issued a travel ban for people from Muslim-majority countries.

The company also received promotional tweets from Donald Trump Jr. and talk show host Sean Hannity, which the company sponsors. 

Expansion to Canada

“We are a very pro-community, pro-family, conservative-minded company with real desire to provide alternatives to what we think is big corporate coffee,” said Conan Higgins, general counsel for the company.

Higgins said the brand distinguishes itself from competitors by selling small batches of fresh, great-tasting beans. He compared the difference in taste between Tim Hortons and Black Rifle brews to the difference between hamburger and steak.

He said it made sense for Black Rifle to branch out into Canada, a “smaller twin” of the American market, because Canadians are big coffee drinkers.

The company’s also trying to appeal to Canadian gun-owners, hire locals and support local groups. 

Black Rifle said it has already donated more than $30,000 to Little Warriors — a local charity dedicated to the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse.

Responding to criticism

As the company’s grown, so too has criticism directed toward its pro-gun stance and controversial marketing materials that some critics have labelled as misogynistic and gay-bashing.

“Is there stuff we have taken down because we realized people were interpreting our intentions differently than we expected? Yes, absolutely,” wrote Hafer in a March 27 interview on the company’s blog.

“I think everyone needs to relax a little bit, laugh a little more, and remember that we are joking,” he said. 

“We aren’t the evil monsters that some are making us out to be.”

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