Interview: The story of Stories Coffee Company

August 07, 2023
Stories Coffee sign

The owners of Stories Coffee Company are experiencing a homecoming of sorts, opening their first Lincoln location in Union Bank Place. We sat down with Stories owner Dan Loutzenhiser (who once worked as a teller for UBT) to learn the backstory of Stories Coffee and the importance of coffee and community working in tandem.

Dan and Brook Loutzenhiser from Stories Coffee


UBT: Tell us the origin of Stories Coffee.

Loutzenhiser: My father and I had been roasting coffee for about 15 years as a hobby. I’m from O’Neill, Nebraska, but it started when I was living in Phoenix at the time. That was our thing. Then in 2015, I was living in Omaha and had some pretty substantial things happen in my life. My wife passed away and it changed the overall trajectory of my life and my perspective on things. I took my passion for coffee and decided I wanted to do something where I was able to give back to the people who helped me when I was a widower with kids. I thought, “What better way than to open up a space for community?” I also wanted to employ underemployed individuals to change the course. I was in the corporate world working in healthcare and naïvely jumped into the restaurant world.

UBT: That’s the best way to do it. Just completely naïve.

Loutzenhiser: Right! Because if you know, then you don’t want to do it. It’s a grind! So, 2015 was when it was placed in my heart. Then in 2017, I met the woman who would become my wife and business partner, Brooke, and she fanned the fire. We bought the name Stories from a coffeehouse that had been in operation for 15 years in Omaha and was closing. We just bought the name and then sat on it for about 2-3 years, completely rebranded everything, operated as a mobile cart, and then waited until a pandemic to open. So, our timing was impeccable. We opened in March 2020.

UBT: Oh no!

Loutzenhiser: Right in the midst of the restrictions and all that. Thank God we had a drive-thru. But that actually, in hindsight, created such an awareness of us. We were right across the street from a national chain coffeehouse, and they didn’t open for about 4-5 months and people were freaking out. People discovered our big, open coffeehouse because of that, and they felt safe coming in and safely existing in that big open space. And then it turned into something like Cheers. It became a place to go to connect. I think COVID, as hard as it was navigating all that, created a resurgence of a need for connection. And that’s what coffee shops are for. That’s where a lot of business goes on, and Bible studies, and other gatherings. It’s very interesting to sit back and watch the dynamics that go on in that building. It’s very gratifying. You know, the sales keep things going, but what fills our bucket is the community that’s developing there. We really were able to cut our teeth in the restaurant world through COVID. Made it out alive and then opened another couple of locations here in the Omaha market.

UBT: How do you feel Stories Coffee and your business philosophy aligns with UBT?

Loutzenhiser: I was a teller at UBT at Van Dorn back in 2005. Knowing what Union Bank is, we feel like our values align. I’ve banked with a lot of different banks, and I can say there’s such sincerity to Union Bank’s sense of caring. Seeing the inner workings of UBT and how good the people are there; it feels like a natural fit for us. There’s something about what UBT stands for that we wanted to attach ourselves to. From a commerce standpoint, Union Bank is such a well-known, established, and respected big, but small, bank. What Union Bank has established is what we want to do with Stories. To create a geographically well-known place that people recognize as doing a great job and making people feel good about what you do. To become big but approachable.

UBT: Love that. Years down the road, you’ll be the Union Bank of coffee. Or… perhaps we’ll be the Stories Coffee of banking.

Loutzenhiser: That’s our goal!

UBT: As you get ready to embark upon setting up shop in Union Bank Place, what are you most excited about?

Loutzenhiser: The relationships we’re building in Union Bank and the Lincoln community are a homecoming for us. My wife, Brooke, is from Firth and Lincoln has been a home for both of us during life’s journey. I think the space being created at Union Bank Place is so necessary to the community. We’re excited about the relationships and the connection to Union Bank. The location is so great too, just right in the middle of everything.

UBT: Your motto is, “People. Love. Coffee.” It’s an entire vibe. Tell us about that.

Loutzenhiser: Obviously, it’s a play on words. People do love coffee. But purposefully, it’s separating them out, because our priority is people first. Love is important because you have to show love. This world is a tough place. And coffee, well we have to call out our product. We went with the tagline because you can have really great cups of coffee, but if people come in and don’t feel welcome, that cup becomes just a transaction. We want people to feel a connection when they’re in our space.

UBT: You’re also very focused on doing good things for the community at large with your business.

Loutzenhiser: Yes, we have a goal to employ more underemployed demographics, but we want to make sure we have the time to commit to training them and giving them their space to learn. Hopefully, as time allows, we’ll be able to build that up and bring in staff, but right now we’re kind of building the plane as it goes down the runway. So, what we’ve been doing instead is giving back a portion of our sales to local nonprofits. We hope that by giving them a little bit of money and some more awareness, it gives them a little bit of boost of energy.

UBT: Let’s go back to you and your dad roasting coffee. How did that come about?

Loutzenhiser: We were doing traditional Folgers and stuff like that and bought a little roaster. Then when I went to Arizona State, I brought back a bigger roaster. He picked up on it right away and loves the complexities of the flavors. There’s so much that goes into those flavor profiles. We didn’t give up on talking about hunting and fishing, but whenever we got together, we’d talk about coffee. Then we started upgrading our roasters, then giving coffee to friends and family. We roast the coffee primarily in my hometown of O’Neill. We have a roaster in Omaha, but most of it is done by my dad there. My dad does the roasting and has a bagging and production crew working with him. He’s a 74-year-old pastor at a small church and does this too. He’s got more energy than I do.

UBT: Let’s talk coffee. Tell us what makes your coffee special.

Loutzenhiser: I think it’s super important for customers to know how important hand-crafted drinks are. Anymore, things are going much more toward automation, and there’s so much that goes into our baristas preparing coffee. They’re really the final touch from the seed to the cup. There are so many hands involved. It’s kind of sad that the last touch in a lot of places is a button. The crema of a coffee latte is our baristas serving their artwork to you.

Our coffee itself is all specialty-grade so it’s higher rated than what you can get off the shelf. We want to create a better cup, with profiles that are much more palatable. We use a Brazilian bean which is more chocolate-forward, it’s smoother and stands up really well with all the different milks available. Our espresso-based drinks are awesome, our chai is made in-house, and our seasonal drinks are creative — but not too creative that people would be turned off because it’s too different. Our drip coffee is of Costa Rican single origin, and I think people will find it strong but smooth. And you get to speak to a human when you order it too.

UBT: It’s not just coffee at Stories though. Tell us more about your other products.

Loutzenhiser: Breakfast food is a big deal for us. We cook it on site and it’s a heartier type of food. That’s a big chunk of our business. We have charcuterie boards and appetizers at our other locations. I think at Union Bank Place, it’s going to be more of a breakfast grab-and-go situation. We’ll have to see what the demand is in that space.

UBT: What else do we need to know?

Loutzenhiser: We’re exploring more partnerships, canned cold brew, doing some more retail, and things like that. There are so many options with coffee, so we’re looking into ways we can do more of those. And we’re always looking for new and unique ways to help the local community. We love to make a positive impact.


You can find Stories Coffee at Union Bank Place in Lincoln; 144th & Davenport, 32nd and Farnam, and inside Lifegate Church at 155th and West Dodge in Omaha; and on south 204th Street in Gretna.

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