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Coffee bags from The Red Dot Coffee Company

Alumni Family Runs Coffee Business

  • By: Charis Negley
  • Published:
Ibach family in front of coffee shop sign

The Red Dot Coffee Co. (RDCC) in Northville, Michigan, was renovated from a historic building and is now a family-owned coffee house. It is a welcoming space for connection, community, and coffee lovers. 

Founder Arlita Ibach ‘85, her husband Butch Ibach ‘85, and their sons Chad Ibach ‘13 and Drew Ibach ‘17 each had a hand in bringing The Red Dot Coffee Co. to life.

A Family of Taylor Grads

As a Communication major at Taylor, Arlita had no idea she would have a future in business. Before starting The RDCC she was a flight attendant and also served in women’s ministry.

Arlita first had the idea to start a coffee house in 2013. Meeting people in coffee shops and learning their stories had been an important part of her life for years. She found that over a cup of coffee, one can share laughter, tears, and meaningful conversations.

“Our stories all have personal places of joy, celebration, hurt or disappointment. Perhaps a coffee shop could be a place to share these stories,” Arlita said.

God nudged her in this direction to create a space of ‘with-ness’ and community, pushing a question to the forefront of her mind: “Could I create a space where people can come in right where they are in their story; not where they’ve been or hope to be, but right now in the present moment.” 

Her husband and sons encouraged her to pursue this dream. They bought an old historic building in Northville in 2014 for renovation. Upon walking inside the house, Arlita knew immediately it was what they were meant to do.

A Safe Space for Stories

Arlita’s residence hall community at Taylor contributed to her desire to make a safe space for conversation like The Red Dot Coffee Co. Being at Taylor gave her the opportunity to explore her faith and discover a strong community to ask hard questions. 

“I was very involved with the girls on my floor,” Arlita said. “Women's stories fascinate me. I remember meeting friends for coffee and just had this desire like, ‘Tell me your story,’ and this curiosity about the story being told. That’s always been within me.”

Arlita wanted to create a comfortable atmosphere where people would feel encouraged to tell their stories wherever they are (like a “You Are Here” sign on a map, their “red dot”). Hence, The Red Dot Coffee Co. was born.

Bringing Red Dot to Life

Arlita’s husband and two sons played a big role in making this dream a reality. Butch was already a business-owning entrepreneur and a huge people person. Where Arlita had the aesthetic vision for the shop and the creative skills, Butch helped with the business aspects.

At the beginning of the process, Arlita sat down with her husband and sons and asked, “How do you see me relate with people?” That question was at the core of her business and continues to be.

The four of them decided to start The RDCC as a family business and talked over the store name and marketing strategies. Then, they all went to coffee school together.

Chad and Drew already had experience as baristas; they’d both worked at Taylor’s on-campus coffee shop, The Jumping Bean. They came home in May of 2016 and worked with Arlita and Butch constantly through The RDCC opening that July.

They opened The Red Dot Coffee Co. as a Third Wave coffee house, using high-quality coffee beans bought through direct trade. Third Wave coffee beans are named for the region where the coffee originated from, acknowledging the stories of the farmers who harvest it.

At first, Arlita never planned for The RDCC to roast its own beans, but eventually, her youngest son, Drew, had an interest in doing so. He trained for it in 2018, and in 2019, The Red Dot Coffee Co. started roasting its own coffee.

Pursuing Dreams for Eternal Purpose

At Taylor, no matter a student’s major, each person has unique, God-given interests and goals.

“Establish what your dreams are, what your desires are, what you’re passionate about, and what energizes you, and yet gives you rest,” Arlita said.

Arlita found that when she went into women’s ministry, there was an underlying rest that she was able to put together with the energy it gave her. She found the same thing when she opened The RDCC and continues to manage it—underneath, there is this passion of energy and rest, and that draws her into a deeper reality of eternal purpose. 

Arlita advises students to linger on those questions of ‘What is the point of this?’, ‘What is my why?’, ‘How do I relate to others?’ no matter where they are in their story.

For her, she finds God moving through one-on-one conversations with people. 

She initially thought that the most impactful conversations would be among customers, and while those have been life-giving, Arlita’s interactions with her staff have been even more of a “with-ness” that she didn’t expect.

“Every day, it’s different, and an invitation for conversations that matter,” she said.

Find Your “Red Dot”

Taylor’s Business Department and Communication Department equip students with a solid foundation in finance, management, marketing, entrepreneurship, public relations, economics, and more through real-world experience. Campus jobs offer a chance to learn a skill that can have a long-lasting impact. Register for a campus visit today to see where a Business degree may lead you!

Photos provided by Arlita Ibach