By Marilyn Miller
“What made you choose Minden, Louisiana?”
Derek and Debbie Peris have fielded this question many times since they opened the doors of Brick Street Coffee in the downtown Minden business district a little over a month ago. What makes the question an obvious one is the fact that the Peris’ home state of Washington is 2,500 miles away and the couple had never even visited Louisiana prior to purchasing the historic Temple/Crichton Hardware Store in downtown Minden.
Prior to coming to Minden two years ago, Derek and Debbie ran a Christian camp in Mt. Baker National Forest in Washington (three hours north of Seattle near the Canadian border) for 10 years. Derek managed the facilities used by the non-denominational camp and Debbie made sure the campers received three square meals a day.
Among the visiting preachers at camp were Tim Pruitt and his son, Timothy Pruitt. The Pruitts are pastor and associate pastor of the Evening Light Tabernacle on Hwy. 371, North, near Minden. That’s how Derek and Debbie learned of the small town of 11,000 residents in northwest Louisiana.
“When COVID happened, we had to shut the camp down immediately,” Debbie explained. Luckily for the couple, they already owned a coffee bean roastery, Barnyard Coffee Roasters, LLC in Blaine, Wash.
“Derek laid himself off from the camp and dove headlong into our roasting business,” Debbie said. In addition to on-line sales, Barnyard distributed to area groceries and coffee houses.
But as the COVID pandemic continued, the Peris’s became more dissatisfied with their situation. Their church was located just over the Washington border, in Canada, and the Canadian border was closed. Deciding to relocate, the couple narrowed down a list to Virginia and Minden, La.
“In Easter of 2021, we came here to visit. We just instantly felt like we were home,” Debbie recalled. “There was a welcoming spirit about the city. We loved it!” After one week of vacation, the couple returned home and put their house up for sale. They also sold half of their roastery business.
“It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” Debbie said. On Aug. 21, 2021, the couple drove 2,500 miles to Minden. “It was a leap of faith … Louisiana was a state we’d never been to before.” And all of the Peris’ family followed. “All four kids wanted to come … nobody was forced,” she added.
Of course, the on-line roastery orders had to be fulfilled immediately, and they located a warehouse on Lake Claiborne.
“We wanted to be in Minden, so we bought a house here,” Debbie said. “Then I saw this place (the old hardware store on Main Street) and just loved it. And it was up for sale … until it wasn’t … it was under contract,” she exclaimed. However, in December, Mr. Wimberly (in a nearby business) let Debbie and Derek know that the store was for sale again.
“On Jan. 2, 2022, we submitted an offer, and we closed in February.”
Then the “fun” began.
“If you’ve never owned a business before, you realize there’s more to it than painting the walls,” Debbie said. All types of testing had to be done, the Fire Marshal had to evaluate the building and report to the State, and, of course, the coffee house and roastery had to be designed.
The Fire Marshal approved the building in the Fall of ’22. In the meantime, the couple worked on the design. “We just sat in here day after day and stared. We were looking for a vision … what was it supposed to look like … and because we were forced to take it slowly, it came out like it did,” Debbie recalled. “We wanted nothing from the Northwest. We wanted what was here to be preserved.”
In November of 2022, Gnarly Bros. Construction began construction.
“Clint Powell and the Gnarly Bros. did a great job for us,” Debbie said. “Now it (Brick Street Coffee) looks like it has always been here … has always been a part of this town.”
The Peris family has already jumped into supporting the area, getting into the St. Jude auction, participating in some events with Sara McDaniel, and talking up their new town.
“We do what we can to promote the city and to get people to come here.”
In fact, two other young families, from Dallas and Arizona, have moved to Minden in the wake of the Peris family.
“We’re living in a different time. You can work from home,” Debbie said, espousing the perfection of “overlooked places” to live. “We want to know our neighbors again. Towns like Minden offer that opportunity.”
“There’s lots of potential here. Taxes are taxes and everybody pays them, but I do hope they get the electrical situation straightened out. We couldn’t have afforded a building like this in Washington.”
What about competing with the Broken Bean?
“We can both thrive here,” Debbie said. “There were 6,000 people where we lived (in Washington), and there were four coffee shops and a coffee bar inside a business.” And they all thrived. “We also want to be respectful of what the other business offers … we don’t want to duplicate menus.”
Debbie and Derek are enjoying the slower pace of life here. But you’d never know it by the pace of the couple and their 10 staff members when the doors of Brick Street Coffee open each day.