Local coffee company provides jobs, fosters community for developmentally disabled

Erin and Dave Baldwin inside their 71 W Main St. shop. Photo by Atticus Rice.

Erin Baldwin likes to talk about her job as a coffee roaster at Furnace Hills Coffee Co. in downtown Westminster just as much as she likes the job itself.

“I like putting the labels on,” she said with a smile, sitting outside the Main Street shop that offers coffee by the cup and the pound. Working with family, creating Erin’s Breakfast blend and having fun every day also highlight her work.

A Carroll County resident with Down Syndrome, Baldwin is happy to be working at the small-batch, specialty roaster, which was founded with the mission to help employ adults with developmental disabilities.

Erin Baldwin has been working at Furnace Hills since she and her father, Dave Baldwin, opened their doors in 2010.

“We actually started in our kitchen,” said Dave Baldwin. “We moved here about six years ago.”

“She came home [from a Wisconsin group home] and needed a job,” he said of his daughter. “We were all new to Maryland and just started things up.”

Nationally, the unemployment rate for adults with mental disabilities is twice that of those without, according to a 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Furnace Hills is helping change the perception that adults with mental disabilities can’t perform in the workplace.

“It’s just wonderful that Dave and Erin are doing the business,” said Don Rowe, executive director of the ARC of Carroll County, an organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s really refreshing to see a person with a disability running her own business,” added Rowe. “It’s a wonderful statement for what people with disabilities can accomplish.”

Dave and Erin Baldwin are also hoping their presence at 71 W. Main St. can help revitalize the community.

“It would be great if we could get a cart with coffee on it and give out free coffee to those who need it,” Dave Baldwin said to a group of customers inside the shop as he explained their mission.

Erin Baldwin enjoys getting to know the customers, too. Expect her to introduce herself and ask for your name as you wait for your purchase.

Already, Furnace Hills has partnered with the ARC of Carroll County, helping to raise funds during their capital campaign one year.

“They made a special coffee that we sold and then the proceeds went to our campaign,” said Rowe. “They involved the people we support in the taste test. [They] picked their favorite coffee and that’s what we went with for the campaign.”

Furnace Hills also donates a portion of the sales from their Buddy Walk blend to the National Down Syndrome Society.

The roaster is also partnering with McDaniel College, putting out a McDaniel blend and Green Terror blend, both to be available at the Green and Go and Pub, according to Dave Baldwin.

“By the pound and by the cup,” he assured.

Although the Baldwins hope their downtown presence can have a positive impact on the community, they’ve extended their warm smiles well beyond Westminster—well beyond Maryland, even.

The roaster has an account in Iowa that has a weekly order of up to 60 pounds and is set to increase that number with the opening of a second location.

“We just shipped 21 pounds to Yakima, Washington,” Dave Baldwin said.

Furnace Hills also has strong relationships with the farmers who grow their beans.

“It’s all naturally grown,” added Baldwin. “All hand-picked.”

He hopes that as the business grows, so can the number of adults with developmental disabilities they hire.

The largest source of revenue for Furnace Hills comes from the Main Street shop with the website, furnacehillscoffee.com, right behind.

The Baldwins’ long-term goals include the business becoming a regional roaster.

“I want a Furnace Hills roastery in every region,” said Dave.

They already have affiliates in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

For now, Dave and Erin Baldwin will continue to grow their Westminster business and foster community on Main Street.

“It’s just wonderful to see someone start a business and see it thriving in the community,” said Rowe. “It’s great for the community and great for the family.”