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Ex-police chief hopes coffee will lure drivers to pull over

October 4, 2013

CUMBERLAND — For those who love coffee, sometimes there just isn’t time to go out to a coffee house for that beloved cup of joe.
Michael Houle and his wife, Linda, have a solution to that quandary with their Coffee Breaks single-serving coffee and accessories store at 2275 Diamond Hill Road, near the Route 295 interchange.

The Houles stock over 200 flavors of one-cup coffee, tea and juice packets for Keurig-style coffee makers, as well as a line of whole bean coffee from the Mills Coffee Roasters Co., on Broad Street in Providence.

Houle, a retired Woonsocket police chief, and his wife came up with the idea for the local store while taking a ride through Massachusetts.

“It was a great concept, and we looked all over Rhode Island and couldn’t find anything like it here,” Houle said.

The couple then started looking for a suitable location, and found it in the plaza where a former Tedeschi Food Shop had been located.
“The location is right near the highway access to 295 and is heavily traveled. Business has been very good,” he added.

The store opened in August after the couple completed renovations in the 1,500-square-foot store space, and Houle said they were pleased with the reception and help they received from Cumberland officials.

“Cumberland likes the idea of new business,” Houle said. “They helped me get my certificates to open on holidays and weekends and did all the necessary inspections.” Houle said he also got welcome visits from the deputy chief of the Fire Department and the local chief of police, John Desmarais.

“It’s a nice town to do business in, it really is,” Houle said.
The store’s sales operation is a simple and direct one. The Houles sell only the packets or one-cup coffee shots that go into to a brewing machine, and not the machines themselves.

That leaves the store’s shelving to boxes and boxes of single-cup coffee blends from a number of popular coffee packaging companies such as Gloria Jean’s, Brooklyn Coffee, Martinson Coffee, and Donut House Coffee.

The store also sells one-cup teas and juices, and Houle said the juices are made in the machines just like coffee and then iced. “It’s phenomenal,” Houle said of the single-serving juice drinks.

The single-serving coffee pods can be purchased 18 or 24 to a box. A 24-count single cup box sells for $12.99, or the customer can mix and match the flavors for $14.99 a box. A single-cup pod can also be purchased singly for 75 cents if the customer wants to try the flavor first, Houle said.

The store also has the whole bean display of Mills Coffee Roasters coffee for those who want a pound of fresh ground coffee, Houle said.
“We support local businesses, and that is a way to keep it local,” he said of the Mills Coffee line.

Houle worked for the Woonsocket Police Department full-time for 28 years, including as chief for three years, before retiring and entering the business world. His first endeavor outside of public safety was the Doghouse Wieners restaurant in Bellingham. He sold that business to another owner before thinking about his new retail operation.

He does miss law enforcement now and again after spending 30 years on duty both part-time and full-time. “You miss your days in uniform, but that was yesterday and this is today,” Houle said.

For more information on Coffee Roasters, call 481-3322.


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