Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cooperation & Coffee

My friend Craig likes to make up his own rules. He started a self-sustaining non profit, Richmond Cycling Corps., that offers kids from rough neighborhoods a chance to experience the joys of cycling. Real cycling. This program is funded directly by and operated out of Richmond Bicycle Studio . RBS is basically a high-end custom fit bike shop complete with its own life style brand (Phaup St. Journal) and indoor training facility. The idea is the people who can afford high-end bicycles can get the best bicycle on the market with all proceeds going to the RCC. The shop is beautiful, repurposed 100 year old barn beams, salvaged iconic neighborhood signs , all hand worked. A few years ago he wanted to bring more people into the shop. He asked if we would be interested in subletting the back of the shop to operate a kiosk. For us, it represented an opportunity to try out a different version of our experience. We ended up with a pour-over bar, a skylight, a record player, and 2 leather couches, the Kickstand. In exchange for nominal rent we were able to provide a second option for our community connection . While I initially thought of the kickstand as our tasting room/ think tank, I soon realized what we actually had was the “model home “ for scott’s addition. All day you would see building owners meeting with people who had ideas . Ideas about brewing beer. Ideas about flipping over giant tires. Ideas about Massive event spaces/catering facilities . Actually, several different people had ideas about brewing beer. They all liked to talk about what these old spaces could be. Here they could look through our door and see a second modern business in action with RBS. The Kickstand was better than a traditional model home because here is an actual business , 2 in fact, that seem to be making a go of it.

Never mind the fact that making money was not part of our plan for the Kickstand. Our business then featured an over crowded café and a back alley anonymous roasting operation. We were making great coffee, winning accolades , and learning vast amounts of information about our craft. We wanted a place to slow down and connect with the people who were interested in our coffee.. We were meeting other small batch roasters around the country and world and finding our product to be on the level and we wanted the make our cupping’s accessible to the public . Adding to the hustle and bustle of Addison st. didn’t make sense. At our Addison St. café, the barista rarely have the chance to interact with guests in more than a passing manner due to the volume of and diversity of offerings, but at the Kickstand we could talk to you about the coffee we were preparing for you. We could try new brew methods and share a chemex with guests. We never advertise, so basically as long as it wasn’t a money pit we would come out ahead. If you were to ask me if the neighborhood could support a coffee shop then I would say no, but for us it was perfect.

During one of those idea sessions our benevolent landlord, Scott Coleman, made it known that if we were interested in the space next door, it was ours. It was a no brainer, of course we wanted a place where we could invite the public to be a part of our process start to finish , where they can witness the workings of a modern coffee laboratory. We had organically grown from roasting on site to paying rent on a warehouse and rent on a tasting room so when the time came tocombine the two the end cost was not a great leap for us. Now we are able to generate revenue and build customer knowledge of our product in addition to roasting a larger amount of coffee beans. Recently the Scott Coleman presented us with the opportunity to run a café at 26 Morris St. effectively doing for our food operations what Summit Ave. did for our coffee. Since we are already leasing a commercial kitchen, we are able to offset the rent increase by consolidation. Sustainable organic growth has been made possible by building relationships that are mutually beneficial. And that is the point of cooperation. 

-Zach Crinklbine, Lamplighter Roasting Co.

Join us this Saturday, Jan 18th 3-5pm at Lamplighter's Summit Ave Roastery for Coffee Cupping & Cooperation!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Member/Owner Hosted Parties: Let's Grow OUR Co-op!

Dear Fellow Co-op Member/Owners,

I wanted to share with you about a party that I recently hosted - it was very easy, a great success, and something you can do too to help the Co-op grow. I invited friends to drinks and appetizers on a Sunday afternoon and had a board member talk about the Co-op and the importance for our community. It was also an opportunity to answer any questions my friends had about the logistics of this start up.

I am sure we all have friends that want to join, but don’t realize they need to join now, not once the Co-op opens. Also, friends who may have doubts or questions need a comfortable setting to discuss and get a clearer understanding of what this is all about. Hosting my friends, letting them know why I care about this venture, and inviting them to join us in making it happen was truly easy and fun!

Many friends joined both that night and in the weeks that followed, and I am proud to have done my part to bring us closer to opening our doors. Did you know that if every existing member/owner got just 2 people to join we would be at our goal of 1000? Because of this party I am proud to welcome 8 of my dear friends into our cooperative community.

We need to get more active, proactive, and make our Co-op a living reality. I hope you join me and host a party of your own!

For info on throwing a party check out this handy guide, and email to set yours up today!

-Patricia Michelsen King, Co-op Member/Owner