As Mercer University begins a new school year, local coffee shop Z Beans Coffee has continued its rapid expansion across state lines. The single-origin, specialty coffee and tea retailer and wholesaler will have ten locations in operation by the end of the year.
Z Beans Coffee imports its product through fair trade practices directly from farmers in Ecuador with a mission of creating sustainable solutions for hardworking farmers in order to enable them to build a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.
Z Beans will be opening three new locations this year: one in Warner Robins across from Robins Air Base, one in Atlanta on Mercer’s Atlanta campus and one in Jacksonville, Florida, inside of Orange Park Hospital.
These new locations will join franchises in six other cities — including Columbus and Hinesville in Georgia, Jacksonville and Dothan in Alabama and Corbin, Kentucky.
Shane Buerster ‘18, the CEO and owner of Z Beans Coffee, started the company after going on a Mercer on Mission trip to Ecuador as a student and has worked with over 15 Ecuadorian farmers.
“Our quest to create sustainable solutions for the hardworking farmers of Ecuador is reliant upon our ability to grow sustainably, domestically,” Buerster said. “We are working hard to develop a franchisable owner-operator model that will allow us to continue growing the Z Beans brand.”
The Z Beans Coffee product has grown significantly since Buerster started the business in his junior year. From the first import of 65 pounds in his junior year of college to the 80,000 pounds the company imported last year, Buerster is thankful for the hard-working individuals that work for the company internationally and domestically.
Chrishawn Chappelle ‘25, a sophomore student at Mercer, started working at Z Beans in Mercer Village this year and has appreciated the experience immensely.
“I like Z Beans because — I know I work here — but I still think the environment is nice and welcoming to all people,” she said. “Z Beans has always been convenient for me as a student, and I’m happy to hear it’s expanding.”
Chapelle said Z Beans is an open environment, and she values that openness at her job. She previously worked at a different coffee shop and found that communication between management and employees is important for her workspace.
Other customers also agree that the Z Beans expansion will be beneficial. Taleen Hanna ‘25, a journalism student, is excited that Z Beans is expanding across state lines.
Hanna said she thinks of Z Beans as a place where she can be very productive because it is the perfect environment to study. Her go-to order is a black iced coffee and a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. She appreciates how consistently Z Beans makes its coffees and prepares its food.
“I think it’s really awesome to see that Z Beans is growing, and I support it fully,” Hanna said.
Buerster and the rest of the Z Beans team are committed to finding like-minded organizations, retailers and restaurants that appreciate specialty coffee and respect their core values.
Z Beans will continue its expansion to other states in the coming years with much support from its first community in Macon.