Fresh Roasted Coffee is a Tradition in La Crosse

Robert Mullen

Catalog Number: 1982.115.02

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

One wonders what plans Nordahl Nustad had made for his future when he moved to La Crosse in 1895. Fresh from the Vernon County farm where he grew up, the twenty-year-old Nustad found a job at the grocery store of John Bergoust in downtown La Crosse.

Four years later, Nustad and Ludwig Halmrast became partners in the retail grocery business, selling “choice staple and fancy groceries, flour, provisions, canned and bottled goods, fine teas, coffees and spices” at their store located at 310 Pearl Street. A year and a half later, Nustad found himself the sole proprietor of the business.

As a sideline, he began roasting the coffee beans that he sold in his store, selling both the fresh roasted coffee beans and ground coffee. Over time, Nustad’s coffee business became quite successful, and he focused almost entirely on that product. He started his own brand in the 1920s after moving his business to 124 South Front Street. This brand, Pointer Coffee, was packaged in vacuumed packed cans or in boxes like the one shown here from the collection of the La Crosse County Historical Society. This one pound box dates to about 1930 and probably sold for about twenty-five cents.

Nustad’s Pointer Coffee could be found in area grocery stores until the 1950s. The imported coffee beans continued to be roasted and packaged in town and delivered to area grocery stores. In 1949, fifty years after he first opened the doors of his grocery, Nustad was still running the business with the help of his son Trygve. On this anniversary he was interviewed by the La Crosse Tribune. He told the reporter how the business changed through the years. When he began, most people bought coffee beans in bags to grind at home, but by 1949 they purchased ground coffee for their “drip coffeepots.”

Nustad said the company had long ago replaced his original 25 pound capacity roaster with a 600 pound roaster. He noted that his original roaster was still in use in a different capacity at that time. Older La Crosse residents may recall seeing it roasting peanuts at the old Bodega restaurant in downtown La Crosse.

Nustad was active in the community, serving as president of the Board of Trustees at Lutheran Hospital and as president of the Heileman Brewing Co. He was also the donor of Nustad Field at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, the stadium where their football team played from 1931 to 1966.

Nordahl Nustad passed away in 1954, and his Pointer Coffee continued to be marketed for a few more years. While Nustad’s brand is no longer available, the tradition of selling fresh locally roasted coffee continues in the city at several local coffee shops, following in the footsteps of a farm boy from Vernon County.

An identical coffee box can be seen in the kitchen at Historic Hixon House.

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on July 21, 2018.

This object can be viewed in our online collections database by clicking here.