After 44 years of providing coffee to Cache Valley and beyond, Caffe Ibis co-founder and owner Sally Sears announced in an interview she has sold the cafe and coffee roasting company. Finalized on Jan. 1, the business was purchased by longtime Caffe Ibis employee and current CFO Lesa Wilson.
“She and I have worked together for 13 years,” Sears said, “and I am looking forward to retiring.”
Wilson said she plans on serving many of the same roles as she has in the past and will remain in the CFO position. Though purchasing the business is a clear change for Wilson, it doesn’t feel as different as one may think.
“In many ways it doesn’t feel any different at all,” Wilson said. “I’m sitting in the same chair I’ve been sitting in for 13 years.”
Though she doesn’t know exactly what the future holds or what responsibilities and challenges may come down the pike, Wilson said Ibis plans on continual participation in the community and maintaining a quality product.
“We produce good coffee here,” Wilson said, “and that’s our primary, our core strength.”
Sears said she will still be involved with the company, but in a much more limited role — a coffee-maven emeritus.
“I will speak to the quality and I will speak when I need to, if asked,” Sears said. “But I’m just way in the background now.”
Wilson and her family moved to Cache Valley from Ithaca, New York, 13 and a half years ago. Underwhelmed with her first job in Cache Valley, along with the cultural and political differences of her new home, she didn’t initially feel like she’d found her fit. However, while on a women’s retreat, she heard that Sears and her husband Randy Wirth were looking for a bookkeeper for Caffe Ibis.
“They were willing to let me learn — I had never worked in a manufacturing environment before,” Wilson said. “Frankly, I wasn’t really a coffee drinker either.”
Though coffee wasn’t an important part of her life, Wilson said, it became such.
“I’ve very much learned to appreciate a great cup of coffee,” Wilson said.
She grew to appreciate Cache Valley, as well.
“We’ve grown to love this area,” Wilson said. “The mountains are great — being close to the hiking and skiing — it’s a really cool place to be.”
Working closely with Wilson provides confidence, Sears said, that the values and causes the business has stood for will continue, as well as “quality in the cup.” Because coffee prices are so low, Sears said Caffe Ibis makes an effort to pay additional premiums and to make sure as much money as possible goes to their farm partners.
“We have a local influence, but we really have a global influence,” Sears said. “And for us, it’s taking care of our farm partners.”
Sally Sears and her husband, Randy Wirth, who died in 2014, purchased the Straw Ibis Herb and Grain Company in 1976 with the goal of selling quality foods and organic alternatives. After nearly a decade of operating as Straw Ibis Market and Cafe, and all the while selling fresh-roasted coffee, Caffe Ibis Coffee was founded. The company puts an emphasis on producing organic, fair-trade and bird-friendly coffee.
Operating Caffe Ibis, Sears said, has been a bit like the demands of raising a child.
“On an emotional, spiritual level,” Sears said, “this has been my life for 44 years.”
Wilson said she recognizes the legacy Sally and Randy brought to Cache Valley. When the business was founded, Wilson said coffee wasn’t commonplace like it is today. And to start a business selling a product not entirely welcomed by the community takes courage and tenacity that should be credited.
“I appreciate everything they brought to this valley,” Wilson said. “I feel like there’s some big shoes to fill.”