The coffee man and the general store

Surprising things happen in a small town


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  • KARS Coffee & The Stillwater General Store



By Laurie Gordon

— When KAR's Coffee was an infant business, struggling to get wholesale customers, founder Kyle Ruetsch decided to go into the “Old Stillwater General Store,” which was then located on the hamlet's Main Street. He was trying to build KAR's Coffee and corral a coffee customer.

To Ruetsch's surprise, the owner, Joe Van Valkenburg, answered Ruetsch's sales pitch with one of his own. Van Valkenberg offered to sell the store to him. You don't often hear of such things. But in a small town, you just never know.

“After much negotiation and thinking about it, I decided I was going to give it a try," Ruetsch said. “I had a lot of food experience from my prior job (Vice President of Quality Control) at Fairway Markets in NYC and in surrounding areas. Fairway Market is also where I learned to roast coffee.”

Ruetsch's dad was CFO then and eventually CEO of Fairway Markets. In third grade, Ruetsch's parents decided to homeschool him, and he said a lot of his best schooling happened at Fairway Market.

“I would go to Fairway with my dad regularly, at least a couple days a week, since I was about ten years old,” he said.

Ruetsch grew up mostly in Great Meadows, NJ, a small town just outside of Hacekttstown. He moved to Stillwater around 2009 and has been living happily there ever since.

When Ruetsch bought the general store a few years ago, he decided to move the location to the next town of Middleville.

“The only reason we moved was due to not being comfortable with the building on Main Street, which pretty much needed to be completely gutted and redone. Whereas the Middleville location was in much better shape,” he said. “It is still within Stillwater Township, and also came with a building on site that was perfect for coffee roasting (all of our coffee is now roasted fresh right on premises).”

KAR's Coffee, LLC, was founded by Ruetsch in 2011 towards the end of his career at Fairway. He purchased the store a few years later.

At the store, Ruetsch said, “We really focus on doing the basic stuff and doing it to the best of our ability. We only deal with local vendors unless impossible (for example tobacco products) and we use only the best ingredients in everything we do. Our most popular food stuff is breakfast platters, muffins, scones, coffee, breakfast sandwiches, etc. Also very popular are the bags of our own fresh roasted on premises coffee and our full line of coffee and coffee brewing accessories. We close at 1 pm daily so lunch is limited, but I believe we have the best burger, hot dog and cheese steak around.”

KAR's Coffee and The Stillwater General Store is very much a family busienss.

“My entire family helps out, but I give special thanks to my father, Herbert Ruetsch, my mother, Joanne Ruetsch, my sister Shannon Ruetsch and her fiance Floyd Simmons and especially my wife Melissa Ruetsch and of course my three children Ava, Scarlett and Joseph who always keep me inspired to keep pushing forward,” Ruetsch said. “And I have to mention my teacher and who I consider like my second dad, Mr. Richard Pascale, who introduced me to and made me a master in the art of coffee. Without these people we wouldn't exist today.”

As far as the cooking, that's done by Ruetsch himself, as well as by his mother and father. His wife does a lot of the baking.

What does a good, old fashioned general store bring to the community?

“Well to start this general store brings the absolute best and freshest coffee available," Ruetsch said. "In a place like Stillwater, it's some place all the locals come in and run into each other and talk about their lives, the weather, whatever. It's farmers or mechanics or construction workers or other local business owners or police and volunteer workers. It's somewhere safe, it's warm in the winter, cool in the summer. It's a place you can come and always see a smiling face or run into an old friend or even better make a new one.... Plus it's convenient. The best part about it is it seems to bring the town closer together.”

And then there's the Farmer's Market. Once the weather breaks and summer is approaching, look for all natural, grown-in-Stillwater, no GMO or preservatives produce at the store. The market is operated by Goodness Grows right on the front porch.

KAR's Coffee & The Stillwater General Store is located at 904 County Road 521 in Stillwater, just a few minutes out of Newton. For further information, call (973) 383-5650, visit www.karscoffee.com or find KAR's Coffee & The Stillwater General Store on Facebook. The store accepts all major credit cards, offers take out and is very family friendly.

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