Liv, Love, Local is a column highlighting local businesses of Vermont, especially cafés and restaurants in the Middlebury area. Through interviews with owners, I aim to highlight the specific successes and challenges that come with small business ownership in Vermont, the hard work owners and employees put into these businesses, and how these spots serve as places of community and connection building.
Monday, Oct. 2 will mark the two-year anniversary of Little Seed Coffee Roasters opening in downtown Middlebury. For husband and wife co-owners Anthony and Maggie Gerakos, this milestone is an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and successes they have encountered so far operating the local café-roastery. It is also an opportunity to think about what is in store for Little Seed, entering its third year in operation.
After moving from Brooklyn to Middlebury in 2021, the Gerakos spent their first year at Little Seed getting settled in the community, ramping up the amount of coffee they roasted and ironing out operations in the café space.
Little Seed now maintains several wholesale accounts to provide coffee weekly to local businesses, such as the Swift House Inn in downtown Middlebury.
“We've been able to kind of focus on our wholesale side of the business a lot more than we did in the first year because we have a really great team,” Anthony said.
Their beans are also available for retail purchase at places such as Momma’s Grocery and Wine in Cambridge, Mass., and Putnam’s Vineyard in White River Junction, Vt. Little Seed’s beans have previously also been sold at businesses that are currently on hiatus or closed, such as Farmer and the Bell in Quechee, Vt., and the beloved Darwin’s Ltd., also in Cambridge.
The wholesale and retail side of the couple’s business has grown naturally over time. “A lot of our wholesale accounts right now have come to us. It's very organic,” Maggie said.
Some customers come into Little Seed specifically to buy retail bags of their coffee grounds to make at home, which has created an exponential growth in business for the store since their first year, according to Anthony. “That's just really awesome to have happened,” he added.
Due to the growing wholesale volume, the coffee that Little Seed roasts is currently distributed in a roughly 60–40 percent split between wholesale and café sales.
With an established team covering the majority of café operations — taking orders, making drinks and keeping the area clean — the Gerakos have had time to continue developing their menu offerings at Little Seed.
The maple latte was a non-negotiable for their menu. Maggie recalled a customer who came by their first week and set a jar of maple syrup on the counter, declaring it a necessity on the menu of any Vermont café. But in the early days, the couple wanted to keep things simple.
“When we opened we didn't really have any specialty lattes. And that was intentional,” Anthony said. “We wanted to open, we wanted to…hone in on certain things.” Doing the basics right first was key to them.
Fortunately for flavor fiends, Little Seed has since broadened its horizons with rotating seasonal flavor options.
“It’s fun and we like to do things that are a little bit unusual,” Maggie said.
Coming up with offerings like lavender turmeric, orange cocoa and key lime pie requires lots of tinkering and experimentation.
“We experiment with a lot of things that actually don't make it onto the menu. And then the ones that make the menu, we're really excited about,” Anthony said.
For their recent key lime pie latte creation, the team dehydrated limes, ground them into a powder, and combined it with brown sugar to make into a housemade syrup. The flavor was the brainchild of a meeting between Anthony and lead barista Stefan Eisler, who has been with Little Seed since they opened in fall 2021. .
Not all flavors are successful, though. “I took palo santo and I tried to make a syrup with it. And it just kind of tasted like drinking like Vicks VapoRub,” Anthony said with a laugh. But the failed flavors make successes all the sweeter.
“We have something planned for the fall right now,” Anthony said.
Spoiler alert: It is a chamomile-fenugreek latte with a hint of honey.
Operating in Middlebury has been both an advantage and a challenge, the couple said.
“There's, I think, seasonality and a slight dependency on the comings and goings of college,” Anthony added.
It can be difficult for them to balance a staff with such large fluctuations throughout the year and even throughout a day.
Still, the Gerakos appreciate being in a small town with a tight-knit, supportive community. “I think that's definitely one of the benefits of opening like here versus [Brooklyn],” Maggie said. “People will want you to succeed and they feel more invested because you're part of their town.”
Opening in a space previously occupied by other cafés has meant that Little Seed has had to work to clearly identify who they are and how they are different from their predecessors. Previous businesses in the space, such as the Daily Grind and Carol’s Hungry Mind, offered food menus, but Little Seed chose not to do so.
“People come in in the winter and [ask] ‘What's your soup of the day?’ and I’m like, ‘Coffee,’” Maggie joked.
Little Seed does offer a selection of pastries made by local bakers Friday Harvest and Baked Goods as well as Blue House Bakeshop, and has worked to add more savory options to their menu. While Little Seed’s focus is coffee first and foremost, the Gerakos see the ability to offer delicious food options from other local entrepreneurs for customers to enjoy with their coffee as a win-win.
Anthony added that Friday Harvest and Blue House are both small businesses with female owners that do not operate from a brick and mortar store. “We see [doing business with them] as a positive that we're able to support these people. They're great at what they do,” he said.
Little Seed is located at 24 Merchant’s Row in downtown Middlebury. The café is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Olivia Mueller '24 (she/her) is a News Editor.
Previously an Arts and Culture editor, Olivia is an International Politics and Economics major with a Spanish minor. Outside of the Campus, she is a spin instructor for YouPower, an avid runner and hiker, and a member of the Middlebury Mischords a cappella group.