SOUTH WHITLEY, Ind. (June 3, 2019) – American Sugar Coffee Shop is now open in downtown South Whitley!
American Sugar Coffee Owner, Susie Johnson isn’t your average barista. Originally from California, Susie spent the last 15 years in healthcare. Susie left the industry to pursue a passion, and it’s more than brewing coffee.
About 10 years ago, life changed for Susie when she packed up from the west coast and moved to the Hoosier State to be closer to friends, and for a drastic change of scenery. That’s when she met her husband, Brandon–or as Susie said, ‘her better half.’
“Brandon and I had been friends for a while–we first met online,” Susie said. “I actually had a singing gig I was doing in Goshen one night, which is where he’s originally from. He was visiting his parents that weekend, and came to see me sing. He actually ended up saving me that night! I was so nervous, and of course my prompter died and I couldn’t remember the lyrics to the song I was singing, but he was quick on his feet to pull up the lyrics on his phone for me.”
Susie laughed about that moment being love at first sight. A year later, Susie and Brandon were married.
The couple moved to South Whitley because they wanted to settle in a rural small-town community to raise their family. Together they have six boys. “We love South Whitley,” Susie said. “We love the closeness, small-town feel and support of this community.”
The husband and wife team started American Sugar Coffee House as a way to pour into the community, and spread their passion for supporting veterans and men and women in the armed forces.
Brandon is a veteran and Active Guard/Reserve (AGR) Supply Sergeant in the Army National Guard, based out of the Huntington National Guard Armory.
“We’re very passionate about supporting our veterans and service men and women,” she said.
Along with running the day-to-day operations of the coffee shop, Susie devotes much of her time to the soldiers and their families, as a Family Readiness Leader for the Armory’s Family Readiness Group (FRG). “I’ve been a leader for the FRG for over two years–I spent time as an FRG Leader at the National Guard Armory in Warsaw, and now Huntington,” Susie said.
The Army National Guard defines a Family Readiness Group as an officially command-sponsored organization of Family members, volunteers, and Soldiers belonging to a unit, that together provide an avenue of mutual support and assistance, and a network of communications among the Family members, the chain of command, and community resources. FRGs help create a climate of mutual support within the unit and community. Basic FRG goals include supporting the military mission through provision of support, outreach, and information to Family members. FRGs play an integral part in the unit, Family and Soldier’s Readiness.
“We’re there for every drill to provide resources, and to just be there to talk with the soldiers,” Susie said. “We’ll do small things like provide coffee and doughnuts, and care packages for the soldiers, and we also plan events for the families to enjoy. We’re working on planning a family picnic this summer.”
When asked how many hours she spends volunteering as an FRG Leader, Susie just smiled. She said, “It’s worth every bit of time spent. I don’t know how much time I actually spend, I don’t keep track and that doesn’t matter to me. Being an FRG Leader has been so rewarding for me.”
For the Huntington Armory, there are just two volunteer leaders–Susie, and her friend Renee Schultz, who serves as the treasurer. Susie and Renee have become close friends, and Susie shared that Renee has been a huge support in starting the coffee shop. “Renee has been here to help and support me, and I’m so grateful for that,” Susie said.
One question Susie keeps getting is, “Why the backwards flag in your logo?”
“Our American Sugar logo is a heart with an American flag, which is actually flying backwards when you look at it straight on,” Susie said. “But from a soldier’s view, that flag is always flying.”
She explained that each soldier has the American flag on the right arm of their uniform. “Although it looks backwards to someone across from them, it’s always flying when they charge into battle.”
As business progresses, Susie and Brandon eventually hope to hire other servicemen and women, and veterans.
“We want to show our support any way we can,” Susie said.
American Sugar carries the sought-after coffee and products from veteran-owned Black Rifle Coffee Company. Along with coffee and swag from Black Rifle, American Sugar has an assortment of house blend drinks and freshly made baked goods like sticky buns, muffins and cookies.
“My favorite drink we have right now is the cherry bomb chai tea. It’s been a hot seller, and it’s seriously delicious,” Susie said.
American Sugar is exploring the idea of expanding the menu in the future, and they hope to add some entertainment to the coffee house. “We’d love to bring in musicians and have open-mic nights, and maybe game nights in the future. We’re just playing with the idea right now.”
“We are so happy that Susie and Brandon have not only started a business in historic downtown South Whitley, but we are honored that they would choose the community as a place to raise their family,” said Jon Myers, president of the Whitley County EDC. “We are also grateful for all they do for our country and our men and women in uniform and are truly blessed to have them become a part of our community.”
American Sugar Coffee House is located at 110 South State Street in downtown South Whitley. American Sugar is open Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Stay connected by following them on Facebook @AmericanSugarCoffeeHouse.
About Whitley County EDC
The Whitley County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is the lead economic development agency in Whitley County, Indiana. The EDC works closely with local, regional, and state partners to support our industry clients’ growth and success. Our mission is to lead a comprehensive economic development program that retains and expands employment opportunities for local residents and attracts business investment to Whitley County. The Whitley County EDC was established in 1992 and represents Whitley County, Columbia City, and the Towns of Churubusco, Larwill, and South Whitley. For more information about the EDC, visit: www.whitleyedc.com.
Susie Johnson (American Sugar Coffee House) – 574.327.8707 firstname.lastname@example.org