Students from a nearby university sip from mugs and work on laptops in a central Ohio coffee shop owned by an Air Force Reserve officer and his son. Portraits of 19th-century presidents and U.S. flags from the era contribute to an atmosphere that Maj. Craig Minor describes as an 1800s coffee bar. As the students work inside, other customers have conversations outside on a deck that overlooks the headwaters of Massie Creek and the stone walls that inspired Stoney Creek Roasters’ name.
The shop Minor and his son, Taylor, own in downtown Cedarville, about 15 miles from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is the definition of a family business. Minor’s wife, Carrie, roasts the shop’s coffee. Her mother and father, a retired chief master sergeant, work in the shop, along with Taylor’s wife, Amanda, and his youngest brother, Levi, when he comes home from college. Even Minor’s daughter, Grace, contributes to the shop’s wholesale business from the home in Georgia that she shares with her husband.
Later in the day, Minor walks to his house a block away and says hello to his 22-year-old son, Mitchell. Because Mitchell was infected with cytomegalovirus, a virus that causes enlargement of epithelial cells that results in serious disorders in newborns, he has the development of a 1-year-old. He can’t talk, walk, or move on his own, but he communicates his pleasure at seeing his father with his eyes and smile.
The family’s values mirror the Air Force’s core values, which Minor says have served him well, not just in his military career, but also in his business and home life.AIR FORCE CORE VALUES
– INTEGRITY FIRST
– SERVICE BEFORE SELF
– EXCELLENCE IN ALL WE DO
“For any Airman, people always know when you have core values and when you don’t,” said Minor, who is an individual mobilization augmentee in the human systems division at Wright-Patterson AFB.
The foundation is integrity, which Taylor saw when he worked in the family’s first coffee shop as a teenager. Taylor didn’t like working in the shop, but he watched and learned from how his father treated customers and operated the shop.
“What I learned most from my dad growing up was the value of hard work, of finishing what you start, honoring your word, doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, and doing the best job you can,” Taylor said. “When I joined the Marine Corps, I really saw the value of having a good father figure who taught you those basic things. It was something so many other young men didn’t have, so they had to learn those things later in life because they didn’t have anyone to teach them.”
After the Marines, Taylor began to think about coffee again, and when his father returned from a deployment in Iraq in 2007, he asked about opening another shop together. The father and son have only argued twice in their partnership since they opened the current shop in August 2008. Minor says that’s because they each look out for the other’s interests first.
“The best relationships, by far, the ones that last and create value beyond themselves, are the ones where the other partner makes decisions based on what will benefit the other person and not themselves,” Minor said. “I don’t have to worry about protecting myself because my wingman’s got me covered.”
The opportunity to own a business with his son likely wouldn’t have happened if Minor hadn’t made the decision to leave active duty in 1995, after Mitchell’s condition was diagnosed. He returned to the Air Force as a reservist in 2006, after the family’s situation stabilized and they were able to bring nurses into the home to help care for his middle son.
The family always emphasized service, whether through how they treated one another and customers in family businesses, or through their work with Dr. Harry and Echol VanderWal’s Luke Commission, which brings healthcare to rural areas of AIDS-ravaged Swaziland.
“It’s been a true blessing for our family because it’s given us an opportunity to do something more than what we can tangibly see,” Minor said. “We do everything we can stateside to provide the things Dr. VanderWal and his wife need to help them with their missions.”
Mitchell has been at the heart of how the family puts service before self into action. It was Mitchell, then only 3, who helped his father learn the full meaning of selfless service and unconditional love. As he held his son and watched other children play and sing at church, Minor thought to himself Mitchell would never be able to do the things a father wishes for his child.
“But then I looked down at him and thought it didn’t matter because I love him unconditionally,” Minor said. “I suddenly realized that’s how God loves me. He sees me as spiritually handicapped, and I’ll never be able to achieve the things he intended for me. At that point, I truly understood what unconditional love was.”
The emphasis on serving others also influenced the Minors’ focus on fulfilling the third core value by striving for excellence, especially in the coffee shop. After the Minors decided to open the coffee shop, they spent the next six months working on planning. When construction began inside the 12,000-square foot building that had stood in downtown Cedarville for about a century, the father and son did all the carpentry and plumbing work themselves.
The Minors continue to grade themselves on every facet of the business, from sandwich making to coffee and beverages. They give themselves an A-minus for their coffee and drinks, but a B-minus in sandwiches and a C in their bakery center, and constantly look for ways they can improve in each area.
They recently moved closer to Taylor’s original goal of making the business “not just a shop, but a destination,” when construction began on the first phase of a quarter-million dollar upgrade to the building, which will add a wholesale roasting warehouse, banquet hall and law office to the location. Minor will earn his law degree in December and expects to have the firm, which he plans to use to practice aeronautical and acquisitions law, well established by the time his youngest son graduates in about six years. The final phase of the upgrade will add a bed and breakfast upstairs.
“The whole concept, which was my son’s idea, was not to just create a coffee shop, but a destination,” Minor said. “What we tried to do was create a business that creates value for ourselves, but at the same time creates value for our community.
“Big, complex things, whether they are weapons systems or a small-town coffee shop, start with the materials you put in them. If you start building things that aren’t excellent at the foundation, you will have something in the end that isn’t excellent.”
As important as core values are in an Airman’s career, Minor considers them even more crucial in family relationships.
“You can’t be a good Airman and be excellent in what you do in the Air Force if you can’t be excellent in what you do in your home,” he said. “You can’t have integrity in the Air Force if you don’t have integrity in what you do with your family. Before you go out and claim success in the military, claim success in your family.”