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Brown Dog Coffee Company: Building Community Around the World

Updated: Jul 11, 2019


Michelle Hilliard, owner of Brown Dog Coffee Company

From Tanzania to Burgaw, North Carolina, Michelle Hilliard brings her dedication to serving both local and global communities to the Brown Dog Coffee Company.  


Born in Penderlea, Michelle grew up in and around Burgaw, and speaks fondly of the quaintness and warmth the community provided her in her formative years.  After high school, she moved to Atlanta for about 15 years where she went to college and into the ministry, eventually traveling the world doing mission work. She has been to Israel, India, and Tanzania, and she helped form a non-profit called the Binti Project (Binti means “daughter” in Swahili), which advocates for women and girls who are victims of the human sex trade in Tanzania.


After over a decade of international mission work, Michelle returned to her roots in Burgaw, drawn by the needs of her family here. She says it was hard to leave her friends and co-workers in Atlanta, but she is still very connected to them and her non-profit roots.  

Art inside the shop; a photo of Mt. Kilimanjaro that Michelle took herself, and a definition of "Gather," hinting at Michelle's goal to let this space be one to gather.

Customers enjoying their coffee and company

Michelle speaks of her journey to running Brown Dog Coffee as a blessing, and it all started with her winning a free year of coffee. Shortly after moving back to the area in 2015, Michelle lucked out in a contest and got to know the former owners of Brown Dog during her almost daily visits. The more time she spent there, the more she felt a connection. By 2017, she was helping out the at the coffee shop regularly, due to a shortage of employees. Within a few months the business went up for sale, and Michelle realized it was a part of her calling and she took it over. In the months following, she has hosted locals through the brutal aftermath of Hurricane Florence, and emerged with an updated vision for the coffee shop.  


From a place to “Drink coffee, walk your dog, and enjoy life,” (the former business theme), Michelle expanded to focus on outreach to those in need, all while bringing community together. Brown dog has a wide range of retail items for sale; all sourced locally or from international non-profits, and part of Michelle's vision is to "put the needs of non-profits in people’s minds.”   

Inside the coffee shop, a welcoming place to order your coffee

Quality coffee remains at the forefront of Michelle's business, however, and Brown Dog is proud to offer its own micro-roast.  Roasted daily in small batches in-house, it is designed to be consistently great tasting coffee. All of the coffee is sourced from fair trade countries like Honduras, Guatemala and Ethiopia, and the premium roast is so good they have a following of subscriptions. So, if you can’t make it out to Burgaw, you can always order Brown Dog’s coffee. With country-wide shipping this delicious roast is never far away.


But there's nothing quite like the in-person charm of Brown Dog Coffee Co., so stop in to see Michelle and the whole crew today!  And make sure to follow them on Instagram @browndogcoffeeco and Facebook @browndogcoffeecompany for exciting coffee updates.



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