Daniel Joyce sits in the darkened interior of his humble coffee shop on his only day off. At a table made from aged farm wood, he sips on a craft beer and talks with enthusiasm as a fan hums overhead.
With a smile, his words give a heartbeat to ordinary objects, such as the acoustic guitar or the act of hanging drywall, as details spill out with the samurai discipline of someone dedicated whole-heartedly to his craft.
As a business owner, he and his employees accommodate all who enter the way your grandparents still describe small businesses from their youth. In his voice, you can tell that if he doesn’t have an answer, he’ll humbly apologize, and then find you that answer with his own newfound interest to the subject matter.
In our Amazon Prime world of now, Daniel and his crew are at the top of what they do, remaining true to the gracious mindset that first ignited the service industry. Located in Madison, the Mad Bean can be labeled as a coffee shop that sells smoothies, craft beers, and artisan sandwiches, but once you enter, it’ll be clear that its so much more than that.
What’s your background and how did you get into this line of work?
I graduated high school, and like everyone else, I immediately wanted to get out of town. I think a lot of us have that in common. I spent a few years in Chapel Hill, then a few years in Greensboro, and then I grew tired of the city. When I would come back around the holidays, I really did miss this place.
So we backtracked a little and came back home. Had to find a job so I worked in a few restaurants, but immediately felt like I could do more. I really felt like I had to start all over again and prove myself again. I did that for about a year.
Then I started to talk to Richard Miller of the Madison Dry Goods while I was working [next door] at Blue Naples. We would talk and I told him I was trying to start this handyman business called Hands-of-Dan. He really liked the idea and he actually threw me some work, so I started working on his house part-time and I saved up some money while working part-time at the restaurant. Then I woke up one day and just said, “Today is the day.
I decided to go full force into my thing. I knew it was a risk and at the end of the day, entrepreneurship is an everyday thing. One day downtown, I happened to peek into this building, and I noticed the floors were bad and it needed a lot of work so I knew it could be a great side project. I called up the owner and he agreed to show me around so I pitched him an idea where I could make some money [doing repairs] and he could get his building fixed at the same time so it was win-win.
About mid-project, I realized that it would be a cool place for a coffee house. Madison needed a place that is sort of like a hub for people to hang out and relax, so I pitched that idea to the building owner and he was quickly on board.
Soon after, I was decorating and putting in equipment. I gave myself a deadline so I could stop overthinking it and I just worked everyday up until that deadline. We were literally fixing the electrical the day before the Grand Opening in January of 2015.
The very next day, we turned around from doing construction to doing business management and we haven’t looked back since. People have definitely gone above and beyond to support and show us that they appreciate us being here. That small town support definitely goes a long way.
That first year, it was just me in here, working my butt off, about sixteen hours a day. It was beautiful. Then I finally saw it fit that we could hire some people, so we created some new jobs and that took some of the stress off me so I could go out and buy new equipment that we needed to push forward with our plans for the deli in the back.
We tested the waters with the coffee to make sure that [business plan] would work here in Madison and it has. Madison is a bit of an up-and-down roller coaster but if you get ahead of is, you always come out on top.
I saw that new potential, so I took the risk and installed the kitchen. Thankfully, Mom helped us come up with a menu so we created some great recipes and we launched that [update] in September of last year and immediately, sales doubled. It went through the roof and then we were able to hire more people.
That’s the unforeseen beauty of it because we never really considered that we would actually be able to create jobs. Our crew can come in, put in the hours, and they believe and support the business as much as the owners. Employees come from all over too, so it’s nice to see that the place has somewhat of a pull on the community.
I think we came in at a good time, because I think we were the only coffee house in the area. Then in April of this year, another small coffee shop opened in Eden, so now we’re one of two in the county.
But, initially, we kind of had a chokehold on that market so we spent a lot of time to develop the business in that first year. We really tried to step it up to claim a foothold, so if we did ever have competition, we wanted for them to have something to live up to and they would really need to have their ducks in a row.
Over the last five years or so, it seems like a lot of businesses in Rockingham County—despite their talent and service—simply did not make it. What did you guys do differently or what makes you stand out from other new businesses in the area?
Honestly, just hard work. It’s every day. I always wanted to own a business and then when that moment comes, you’ll find yourself at work on your day-off breaking down boxes, thinking, “Wow, I’m a business owner.”
It feels like menial things but everything matters. For the first seven or eight months, it was just me and then Megan [Self] started to pitch in, which helped me a lot. But that initial stress and the weight of everything was on me. I took it in stride and just kept pushing. I couldn’t draw a salary or pull anything out of the business for the first several months. I kind of coasted on tips, but I couldn’t take anything out of the business for personal needs in the beginning.
We had a small personal loan but that was paid off in June. Then, that money was freed up to go towards new labor so that’s what we did. I don’t believe in luck, but if you keep at it and believe in yourself, that faith bleeds over into everyone else. They will put their faith and support in you, too.
Is there a backstory to the name, The Mad Bean?
When we drink too much coffee, of course, we start to get a little mad, but the Mad in the name is short for Madison. That’s my hometown, born and raised…left…and pulled back. Maybe I also felt a little mad, but it’s Mad-Town—that’s where we’re from. We threw out of a couple of names, but when Mad Bean came out there, we said, “Whoa,” and pumped the breaks. We had a winner, there.
What about the logo? Is that from a local designer?
It was. With the logo, I had an idea of what I wanted so I took it over to the local tattoo shop and I met with the owner [of Inkternal], Alan Joyce. In a round-about way, I told him what I had in mind, but he’s a professional artist, so I basically just said, “I trust you. Do something.” He blew me away.
He started with my idea, which was more of a coffee bean caricature, but he morphed that coffee bean shape into this Mad Scientist, which was perfect. Since the first run of shirts, the graphic designer recommended we name the guy, so I said, “What about Henri?” and she said, “I was thinking the same thing!”
How do you choose the craft beers and the local coffees?
We’ve hopped around some with the coffee to test the waters, but we try to get it as local as possible. We started with some from Stuart, Virginia, called Honduras Coffee Roasters. They do a fabulous job, but they use Guatemalan beans, while other coffee roasters use different beans, different reasons.
Then, we stumbled on this gold mine, which is another coffee roaster who roasts consistently at a very good price point, but they also deliver cups and syrups and the other peripherals that we needed, so they were more of a one-stop shop, so we’ve stuck with them and they’ve been good to us.
With the beers, we just ask around. We pull people in and get their opinion. If it’s not heavily raved about, then we just trade it for another one. So the ones we have now are really what the community wants—little bit of what I want, but mostly what everyone else wants. I can’t force my taste palette on everyone.
The menu is relatively new. What kinds of things are on the menu right now?
The menu has artisan sandwiches. Drawing from my experience having managed a Jimmy John’s and the owner’s [mentality] to keep it simple, we designed sandwiches with basic meats rather than trying to do something extravagant, but still putting your own spin on it. Opposed to Jimmy John’s, we do press ours in a Panini press and we can make them cold or hot. We also do salads and soups when it’s cold. Recently, we’ve started making pasta salads for the warmer months.
You guys are also known for having game nights, trivia nights, and highlighting local musicians. What is your background in music and how do you go about choosing local artists to play?
I’ve been playing music since I was ten. I got my first acoustic guitar where I would just strum along and figure stuff out. Growing up here, if you wanted to be a musician, you were very hard-pressed to find a stage or venue. So when we built the place, I was thinking we needed a stage. I knew I had to build a stage. I hadn’t done it before, but I was really excited about it. So I built it and put my instruments up there. We had a full drum set, which we’ve now moved next door on a bigger stage, that’s a little more sturdy.
But if a musician walks through that door, I am able to connect with them. We can discuss music theory or just share songs that we know. There’s really something to be said about music. It really transcends the boundaries as a universal language. It doesn’t matter if you speak the same language, because you can literally talk with your instruments and that’s a beautiful thing.
It has its own way of gathering people together. People just come. I really haven’t even looked for a musician. They almost smell the stage. They come in and ask about it. We just tell them to get up there and have fun.
We do an open mic where we scout for local talent, but it’s almost like we’re setting up a ringer for the musicians. Do the open mic and if you get a good vibe and the audience seems to enjoy it, then we’ll schedule you for Friday or Saturday night. Then, if you can perform as an entertainer, we can put you on next door at the Event Center, where there is a bigger stage and lights, a cover at the door, and we can actually pay the musician to do that.
We want the musician to grow and feel comfortable with their music, because a lot of times, they play original stuff that they’ve written. When somebody comes in here and plays an original song, and then the next day, you’re stuck there humming that tune. That is amazing. You don’t have to be mainstream to write something that will stick in somebody’s head.
A lot of musicians around here have that one song that is very, very good, or maybe several good songs. They have that capable of being played on the radio, but they’re just undiscovered. It’s an exciting kind of thing. You can see the potential.
Can you elaborate on the Event Center?
We saw a big need for the Event Center as people wanted to rent the Coffee House. They wanted us to close down so they could book the space, so we did on a few occasions, but we could see the need, so we created something to feel that need.
We completely remodeled [the neighboring building]. It was an overhaul. We ripped the ceiling down, tore off the stucco to expose the bricks, and then we hand-painted a black and white checkered floor. I rebuilt the entire facade to change the face of the building. Then we built the stage, hung the chandeliers and put eave brackets in the ceiling to really deck out the interior and make it look nice and clean.
The Coffee House is shabby/chic, but the Event Center is a little more chic. It’s available for rent, either by the hour or per day. We offer catering, tables and chairs, the whole set-up, and we’ve even put the word out that we will offer valet parking if your event is suit and tie. Plus, we know plenty of musicians if someone needs anything from a violinist to a bluegrass band.
It’s still a relatively new idea for us, so I’m trying to balance the workload between the Coffee House and Event Center, but we’re taking it in strides. So far, we’ve had some political candidates do their meet-and-greets there, we’ve done financial seminars, baby showers, wedding showers, and recently we’ve scheduled a wedding reception, where we’ve catered a few of the events.
We don’t try to put it in a box, so we leave it open-ended to see what happens and take it as it comes.
The Mad Bean has also started a loyal program as well, correct?
Yes. We started with the actual, tangible punch cards. With every coffee, you would get a punch and then eventually get a free coffee. The only thing it’s limited to would be alcoholic drinks. While we encourage it, we don’t reward it, but if you buy a coffee, smoothie, or tea, you get a punch and then after ten punches, you get a free drink.
Recently, we’ve digitalized everything so after the transaction, you can send that receipt to your phone or email to create an account. That information stays at the store, so you won’t ever lose your card or miss your points. After ten stars, you’ll actually get five dollars off and that’s good towards anything, so it really rewards the full spectrum for those patrons who are loyal, based on their visits.