Rochester’s Coffee Connection

March 27, 2014

The Coffee Connection, founded in 2001 by Nancy Sawyer-Molina, employs only women with a history of substance abuse. Nancy noticed that when people transitioned from one stage of recovery to another, they often tended to relapse. The Coffee Connection offers long-term, continuous support on the journey to sustained recovery.


The first coffee shop in Rochester to offer Fair Trade coffee, the Coffee Connection sources hand-picked coffee beans from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru, and Ethiopia. All beans are roasted and flavored in-house.

When the Coffee Connection moved to 681 South Ave in 2006, Joy Bergfalk had just started “Project Empower” in Rochester, with the aim of empowering women and healing trauma and life wounds. “Nancy and I became friends in 2007 because we had the same conception,” says Joy. “My life has always been about dealing with traumatized people.”

Joy looks carefully for beans that haven't roasted fully.
Joy looks carefully for beans that haven’t roasted fully.

Joy started working with traumatized kids when she was in sixth grade. Her sister started the first free clinic on the West Bank in Minneapolis in 1969. “My whole family, and especially my parents were very amazing people. I was raised to believe that it was my job to save the world.”

In 2011, Nancy planned to retire to Peru and thought of closing the Coffee Connection, but Joy wouldn’t let that happen.

Today, Joy serves as the Executive Director of the Coffee Connection, but she doesn’t like to think of herself as the boss. “I talk less about being the boss, than this is my responsibility to make the decision,” Joy says.

If something goes wrong, nobody points fingers. “I don’t care who did it. We don’t need to know who did it — we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future,” Joy says with a smile.

“We don’t fire people if they relapse. We go after them and bring them back to work, because usually when someone is fired after a relapse, they keep on using,” says Joy. “We try to empower people as much as we can. We give people a safe place to spend time doing something good.”

Look for Coffee Connection beans on our shelves this spring.

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