Sixteenth in a series on this year’s 20 Under 40 winners.
WATERLOO — It was a chance encounter that led Andy Fuchtman to the career of his dreams.
Fuchtman was a musician at Orchard Hill Church in Cedar Falls when he first met Brent Dahlstrom. The two became friends, and several years later became co-owners of Sidecar Coffee shops in the Cedar Valley.
“I feel really lucky that Brent called me that day because I’ve found something I really, really love to do,” Fuchtman said.
The two, along with Jed Vander Zanden, who is in charge of roasting the coffee beans, operate three Sidecar Coffee shops in the Cedar Valley.
Fuchtman, originally from Ankeny, moved to Cedar Falls and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with an English degree.
The College Hill Partnership, a nonprofit group that promotes the College Hill area near the UNI campus, conducted a survey in 2012 on what businesses the neighborhood would most like to see. A coffee shop was at the top of the list. In November 2013, Sidecar Coffee was born.
“I had always thought that I was kind of a coffee expert,” he said, noting he was known in several of his workplaces as the most picky about coffee. “I kept finding out more and more that I knew almost nothing about coffee.”
So he poured his time and energy into teaching himself the ins and outs of the coffee business. He visited his friends’ workplaces and offered his barista talents to gain experience and work on recipes.
Sidecar now has three locations — College Hill in Cedar Falls, Ridgeway Avenue in Waterloo and downtown Waterloo — as well as a mobile coffee truck.
“None of this stuff that’s unfolded was part of my plan. It turns out I love it more than anything else that I’ve done,” Fuchtman said.
The coffee business is ever-changing, he said, and staying on top of the latest trends in the larger coffee community is important to Fuchtman.
He is currently working to expand retail sales of coffee, with packaged Sidecar coffee available for purchase in more grocery stores and co-ops across the state.
Part of the Sidecar culture, he said, is teaming together to brainstorm new coffee flavors, with a twist.
The Jessica Rabbit includes cinnamon, carrot juice and turmeric.
“When the seasons change, we try to have at least one of our seasonal lattes be at least slightly culinary,” he said.
Alexander Hottle, a Sidecar employee, said Fuchtman empowers his employees “to be hard-working and strive to continue creating the positive work environment that he has created as well as allowing people to grow in the hospitality industry.”
Hottle nominated Fuchtman for the 20 Under 40 award, where he explained the camaraderie of Sidecar employees and owners. He said Fuchtman always introduces the employees as co-workers.
Fuchtman also is president of the College Hill Partnership, active with the Cedar Valley Boxing Club and a musician with local bands The Diplomats and Sugarfoot.
Fuchtman is married and a father of four children: Emma, 14, Corin, 12, Ian, 10, and Alexander, 8.
His next venture will be helping with the opening of Verve Kombucha, which is set to open in the Public Market building in downtown Waterloo.
“I think it’s going to be a huge win for our project and also that whole downtown plaza area,” he said.
‘None of this stuff that’s unfolded was part of my plan. It turns out I love it more than anything else that I’ve done.’