Yorktown coffee roaster brews up support for the Bay in its community

This article was published in the April 2019 Bay Journal! Click here to read this article on the Bay Journal’s website.

The Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters shop is located in the historic Cole Diggs House, (circa 1730) in Yorktown, VA. Its owners, Celeste and Jo Gucanac, have created an environmental ethic in their workplace and organized local cleanups. ((Submitted photo))

The Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters shop is located in the historic Cole Diggs House, (circa 1730) in Yorktown, VA. Its owners, Celeste and Jo Gucanac, have created an environmental ethic in their workplace and organized local cleanups.

April 5, 2019

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay believes that the best way to restore the Bay is by forging strong, diverse partnerships with a wide variety of stakeholders — including businesses.

The Alliance works with businesses that are already environmental stewards, as well as those that require some guidance and support in their efforts. Members of our Businesses for the Bay program not only work to protect and restore the Chesapeake and its watershed’s rivers and streams, but help to foster environmental stewards in the workplace.

Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters in York-town, VA, a B4B member, takes pride in acting locally by spreading awareness about the work that is needed to support the Chesapeake’s restoration. The business, which specializes in roasting fair trade, organic or Rainforest Alliance Certified coffees, trains its employees to become environmental stewards while offering an environmentally friendly product.

“When we started living on the Chesapeake Bay, we wanted our kids to be able to go swimming, but our neighbors told us not to let them because of how bad the water quality is … that started to bring more awareness to us as a couple as to what was going on with the Bay,” said Celeste Gucanac of Mobjack.

With the Bay as their new backyard, Celeste and her husband, Jo, started Mobjack in Yorktown in 2007. At first, the couple didn’t know much about starting a business. What they did know is that they both loved coffee enough to make a career out of it and that they wanted to help support the Bay in some way. Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters was the result. After studying how to roast coffee using the most environmentally friendly processes, Celeste and Jo opened shop.

Mobjack’s partnership with the Alliance began when Celeste, while exploring articles and searching the Internet for information about the Chesapeake restoration, learned about the organization’s projects to conserve the Chesapeake. It started with Mobjack making monthly donations. Today, Mobjack is a proud Businesses for the Bay Gold Member.

In addition to sourcing socially responsible coffee beans and using recycled bags, Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters also has a “give back to the Bay” component. Celeste said that if an employee isn’t already an environmental steward before arriving at Mobjack, he or she certainly learns to become one. “We believe in something and we modeled our entire business after doing what we believe to be the right thing — helping to restore the Chesapeake Bay.”

Environmental stewardship in the workplace is essential to create awareness and expand people’s knowledge about how their everyday lives can affect the health of the Bay watershed. “Our employees get used to the way we operate, our efficiency, how we recycle and the way we care about our product, so it just becomes second nature to them because there is no other option,” Celeste said.

A major part of the Alliance’s Chesapeake restoration mission is inspiring communities to take part in stream cleanups, tree plantings, installing stormwater treatment practices and more. Working with businesses brings us one step closer to achieving this goal.

The Businesses for the Bay Membership Association encourages its members to take voluntary and measurable actions to protect and restore the Chesapeake as well as help the public understand the valuable role of the business community in sustaining the health of the Bay and its watershed. B4B members often participate in or lead stream cleanups throughout the year.

For example, January’s government shutdown included the services that clean up Colonial Parkway, a National Park Service road that links Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown, and runs right along the James River. A friend posted pictures of the trash coving the parkway during the shutdown on Facebook, and within minutes, Celeste responded by organizing a community cleanup. Three days later, more than 40 volunteers had signed up. The volunteers, a mix of Celeste’s family, Mobjack employees and members of the community, cleaned up 23 miles of the roadway.

“All of that trash would have gone in the river, no doubt. The river is right there!” Celeste said.

To encourage employees to participate in trash cleanups, Celeste and Jo close the store so that every worker can attend. This is to remind employees about why the eco-friendly production they do in the store is important. “When attending a stream cleanup,” Celeste said, “first, you learn how disrespectful it is to litter; secondly, you realize how little effort it really takes to make a difference; and finally, you get to see how much of an impact you can make.” Celeste said that she loves to see a source of pride develop in her employees as they help to pick up trash.

When asked if she has any advice for businesses that are looking to boost environmental stewardship in their workplace, Celeste said, “Just get out there and start doing something. It doesn’t have to be a huge orchestrated event, just get it started. It can be something small, because even just the little bit of effort makes an impact.”

What started out as an idea slowly grew into a place where people can enjoy socially responsible coffee, see firsthand how coffee is made, recycle everything they use and sign up for a local cleanup event. Celeste is passionate about how she and her husband have worked to create a healthier Chesapeake watershed, and is looking forward to learning more about how they can expand.

To learn about Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters, visit mobjackbaycoffee.com. For information about the Alliance and its business partnerships, visit allianceforthebay.org.

The views expressed by columnists are not necessarily those of the Bay Journal.

About Lucy Heller: Lucy Heller is a Chesapeake Conservation Corps member in the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Annapolis office.