BEMIDJI. Minn. -- It started on a whim. Three years ago, the VanGrinsven family was sitting around the Christmas dinner table in Bemidji. They’re a family of firefighters, police officers, first responders and military going back a few generations, and they wanted to do something for local heroes.

“It started off as a joke,” Jeff VanGrinsven said. “You know how you sit around and talk as a family? ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do this or that?’"

The original idea was to make coffee and serve it to public safety personnel. Three years later, that idea has turned into a mobile coffee trailer and, more recently, a new coffee shop in Bemidji, with another coming next month in Crookston.

The business is called Heroes Rise. Its owners are Jeff and his wife Joan, their son Matt and daughter-in-law Charly. Another son, Nick, also is involved in the business.

“We were sitting around and we always had the itch to do like a family business,” Matt said. “We were huge Black Rifle Coffee drinkers. We were thinking with all the money we spent on that, we should start our own company and make our own coffee. We could give back to first responders, we could really control a lot of it.”

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Jason Riggs, captain with the Beltrami County Sheriff Department, gives Heroes Rise employee Adaiah Riggs his order. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Jason Riggs, captain with the Beltrami County Sheriff Department, gives Heroes Rise employee Adaiah Riggs his order. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

The family has a long history of what they call the EMS and military life. It all started with Joan’s great-grandfather, Harry Logan, who was a part of the original fire department in Royalton. Joan’s father, Alfred Kimmons, was the police chief in Onamia for 25 years and also was a volunteer firefighter and a first responder. Joan’s sister, Janice, became an EMT and nurse.

Jeff VanGrinsven was a police officer and later police chief at Royalton and Blackduck before moving on to a corporate job.

Before joining Heroes Rise, Matt was a flight paramedic. His brother, T.J., is a police officer and on the SWAT team in Williston, N.D. Matt’s wife, Charly, is a licensed social worker and mental health therapist.

Matt said it was T.J. who came up with the name for the business, “because heroes rise to the call every day and they rise every day to wake up for their shift.”

Jeff said while the mobile operation was popular with local coffee drinkers, he’s happy to have the new indoor location at the corner of Bemidji Avenue and 15th Street, where beverages and food are served.

Heroes Rise Coffee Company is located at 1426 Bemidji Ave. N, and is open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and closed on Sunday. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Heroes Rise Coffee Company is located at 1426 Bemidji Ave. N, and is open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and closed on Sunday. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

“The trailer has been great,” he said, “but it’s going to be nice to transition here. You get up sometimes at 4:30 in the morning getting that trailer ready for the day. It’s been a blessing, but it’s also been rough getting that thing going every day.”

The trailer also has allowed Heroes Rise to fulfill its mission to give back to first responders.

“This year alone we’ve given over $30,000 in coffee to first responders and other local heroes,” Matt said. “For us it’s a faith thing. We give away more and more coffee, but the good Lord keeps providing for us. We keep giving as long as there’s a need, and it seems like our needs are met in return.”