To Jordan Karcher, the only thing more satisfying than a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning is being greeted by his Dalmatian rescue, Molly.
The comforting ritual of sipping coffee after their first daily walk inspired Karcher to launch Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co. in 2013. That’s when he discovered an untapped niche: While plenty of businesses sold pet toys and other merchandise to benefit animals, there were virtually none making products for people that supported animal welfare.
“Grounds & Hounds offers a unique way to impact animal rescue that lets our customers spend 15 minutes with their four-legged best friend, enjoying a great cup of coffee,” says Karcher.
Grounds & Hounds’ fair trade, organic coffee beans pack a caffeinated punch. The Lawrenceville-based company sells single-origin beans and proprietary blends — with names like Sit & Stay, Paper & Slippers and Morning Walk — online and in 20 local specialty food stores and pet boutiques, including all Giant Eagle Market District locations, Soergel Orchards, Animal Friends and Humane Animal Rescue.
Twenty percent of the proceeds from each sale is donated to animal rescue organizations, and Karcher makes a point to partner exclusively with no-kill and open-door shelters — in fact, Humane Animal Rescue was one of the company’s first rescue partners. Grounds & Hounds provided 500 pounds of dog food and 40 beds to Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts in Houston and the company was a co-sponsor of the Pirates’ 2017 Care-a-Van event, which brought them to St. Barnabas Health System with “therapets” from Animal Friends to brighten the residents’ holiday season
Karcher hopes that by purchasing his coffee, dog lovers will spark important conversations about animal welfare and raise awareness of rescues in Pittsburgh and across the country.
“We always hope to generate a chain reaction that leads to real differences in the community,” Karcher says.
But, he stresses, “The impact isn’t the only reason to drink it — it’s about the coffee as much as anything.”
Though the idea for Grounds & Hounds first took hold in 2013 when Karcher was working on his MBA at Notre Dame, he was excited to come back to Pittsburgh in 2016 and put down roots in the city his family has called home for generations.
“What makes us ‘Pittsburgh’ is the work ethic and community feel behind the brand. Pittsburgh has a very distinct work ethic where people collaborate and work hard towards a big picture goal,” says Karcher. “We feel like we can really grow and take a long-term approach to building a business in this environment.”
Although the business has focused on retail and wholesale for its first few years, Karcher recognizes that an increase in demand may mean opening pup-friendly cafés and implementing his business model on a global scale in the future. But for now, the mission is simple: selling premium quality coffee and helping dogs find forever homes.
Grounds & Hounds is kicking off the holiday season with giveaways through December 15 and just launched its limited-release winter blend, Snow Day. A top seller since it was introduced last winter, the dark roast features beans from Sumatra, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea and Colombia with aromatic notes of dark chocolate and ginger. Other popular items include gift bundles with coffee blends, mugs and apparel, a three-blend starter kit and gift blend subscriptions.
And they’re offering a special discount promotion just for NEXT readers: Enter NEXTPGH15 for 15 percent off your entire first online order through December 31.