Posted Thu Aug 4, 2005, 11:26am Subject: A lot of questions from someone opening a coffeehouse in Charleston, SC
My wife and I are opening a coffeehouse/wine bar in the Charleston, SC area.. We have a location and are in the process of signing the lease.
With this initial step (and a long drawn out one it was) just about out of the way we now have a timeline to work with. The building will be ready for occupency in less than 90 days, from that point we have 45 days to build out. In the mean time we have a great deal of work to accomplish!
2) Are there any skilled CoffeeGeek barristas in the general region (GA, SC, NC)who would be interested in training us (either at your site or ours)? We'd certainly work out some form of reasonable compensation.
3) We have a local roaster in Charleston, "Coffee Roasters of Charleston, Ltd." I've tried their beans a couple times and wasn't overly thrilled with them, but I honestly am not an expert (yet) so not sure if I trust my own opinion. Has anyone else had any experience with them?
4) Several people have recommended CounterCulture(out of NC) as a good roaster in the regaion. I haven't contacted them yet, but thier retail prices look a bit high. While I really like the eco-friendly shade growng method of agricuture they promote, I'm also trying to keep costs down to an acceptable level. Does anyone know if they offer decent discounts for commercial customers?
5) Are there any other suggestions people have for regional coffee roasters?
6) I'm also interested in finding a decent equipment/inventory supplier, preferably someplace where I can get most of my inventory (syrups, teas, paper cups, etc.) from in one spot. Does anyone have any recommendations?
7) Also looking for recommendations on espresso machines - While I'd love to get a $10,000 + machine, I think our budget of 50k for build out is going to be pretty tight. Can anyone suggest a good, relatively high capacity machine for closer to 5k?
8) What about grinders, etc?
9) What about a source for decent rates and casulty/accident insurance?
10) Can anyone give me a general idea of how much electricty they use at their cafe in a month ($ figure).
Posted Thu Aug 4, 2005, 5:41pm Subject: Re: A lot of questions from someone opening a coffeehouse in Charleston, SC
I was on a camping trip a few years ago, and resigned myself to bad coffee. We stopped off at a local grocery somewhere in North Carolina to pick up a cup of joe. I was so incredibly pleased, that I marched my to-go cup back in and asked them where they got their beans.
It was easily in the top four cups of coffee Iíve had in my life (except for home roasts, of course.)
I stored the name of that roaster away, and it wasnít until recent years that Iíve heard Counter Cultureís name buzzing about.
The larger coffee roasters usually: A) Offer discounted equipment. B) Train their wholesale accounts (sometimes free) C) Offer sound start-up advice
Give counter culture a call. When you look at the per-cup cost of a coffee thatís a bit more expensive, itís really negligible. Your coffee is the LAST thing you want to cut corners on.
PS: Iím traveling to Charleston tomorrowÖ too bad your doors arenít open yet.
You seem happy with the idea of dealing with Counter Culture - so talk to them.
If they can offer you what you want, they should be able to talk you through, or point you in the right direction on all the other stuff.
The price of the coffee is almost irrelevant, and incredibly important at the same time.
Don't fall into the price selection trap - find a coffee you like, where you are comfortable with the roaster, and feel comfortable dealing with the roaster.
A $ a pound / kg / whatever doesn't make a big difference to your bottom line, serving swill and scaring customers away does.
As for things like electricity - I tried to work out the units I was using, but everything is variable - I have about (when they are working) 3 Kw of lighting, the coffee machine a few fridges etc. My power consumption was all over the place - on one occaision the consumption overnight was greater than the consumption during the day (and it was a busy day) in the end I gave up...
Grinders - I like mazzers, but work with your roaster.. same with equipment.
I guess that reiterates my point - find the roaster you like, work from there.
Casualty insurance - don't have accidents,then you won't need it :)
counting Senior Member Joined: 8 May 2005 Posts: 823 Location: Baltimore, MD
Posted Thu Aug 4, 2005, 6:54pm Subject: Re: A lot of questions from someone opening a coffeehouse in Charleston, SC
You've been reading these boards long enough to know that there is a lot of discontent here about so-called coffee houses that serve bad coffee, especially bad espresso. If you can find better coffee than Counter Culture at a better price, go for it by all means. But your second goal needs to be to become known as a place to go for excellent coffee/espresso. Buying inferior coffee because it is cheaper is false economy.
Your first goal needs to be to learn what blow-your-mind excellent coffee tastes like. Kinda late on the timeline to be finding that out, I know, but...
Take a road trip. Visit places known for the quality of their coffee. (I hope you like coffee!)
Regarding the machine: poor practice can make bad espresso come out of the best hardware in the world. That said, I recently saw two top-notch baristi at Murkey Coffee pull about 150 (I'm guessing a little bit, someone else who was there might have a more accurate number) on-the-money single and double shots in less than two hours, adjusting their rig for 6 different coffees in the process. Granted, they weren't doing milk drinks. Still, I was very impressed, and I think their 3-group Synesso probably helped them. If your espresso machine helps you gain the desired reputation for quality coffee, the return on investment should be pretty good.
Posted Fri Aug 5, 2005, 7:06am Subject: Re: A lot of questions from someone opening a coffeehouse in Charleston, SC
Jim - thanks for the advice, I wish we were open for business already. It would be great to have a fellow coffeegeek stop in, if you make it into Charleston occasionally you'll definitely have to stop in for a complimentary beverage! I certainly plan to look into the possibility of using counterculture for our beans, they're an easy drive away for me. Just to clarify we do not want to cut corners on the quality of our beans! We want high quality, I just realize there are a lot of roasters out there and I'm not familiar with most of them. If there were a comparable roaster that offered average beans a 1$ less a pound along with free shipping than that would translate into a sizeable dollar figure per year.
Brent - lol..the whole don't have accidents and you won't need insurance is a bit too daring for me, besides it is a requirement in the lease. Back to your electricity needs - I'm just curious what people pay on average for electricity, just a ball park figure maybe compared to your house electricity bills. I know spaces are different sizes with different equipment and different utility prices. Just wondering if I'm estimating anywhere accurately (I was figuring $250 a month for an 800 sq. space - that is about what I'll pay for my 2600 sq foot house in a month).
Ron - We love coffee, we both became addicts while living in Seattle. There is a real vacume here (in Charleston, SC) for good coffee, hince our desire to get in the business. Of course since delivering great quality from the beginning is our main goal I'm just looking for some confirmation from fellow fantatics about the right source for beans and not just make a decision on our own. Like a lot of other small business owners, we're putting a lot of our financial assets into this venture and really need to maximize our potential to succeed.
You guys are a wealth of information, thanks for the responses. I'll look into the Synesso espresso machine.
Posted Fri Sep 16, 2005, 10:32am Subject: Re: A lot of questions from someone opening a coffeehouse in Charleston, SC
Jim - thanks for the advice, I wish we were open for business already. It would be great to have a fellow coffeegeek stop in, if you make it into Charleston occasionally you'll definitely have to stop in for a complimentary beverage! I certainly plan to look into the possibility of using counterculture for our beans, they're an easy drive away for me.
George, I was in Charleston in August - on the beach and off the internet. I would have loved to find a great coffee shop during my stay. As to coffee beans and training, I think that Counter Culture is a great choice. I had the privilege of attending espressofest 2004 at their plant and had a wonderful coffeegeeky time. If there is an espressofest 2005, be sure to attend.
The next time I get to Charleston I'll be sure to look you up. Just let us know the name and address of your coffee shop.
EditorBob Senior Member Joined: 23 Nov 2004 Posts: 6 Location: Charlotte, NC Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Sat Sep 17, 2005, 6:16am Subject: Re: A lot of questions from someone opening a coffeehouse in Charleston, SC
First, Congratulations! I look forward to seeing your shop on our next visit to Charleston.
Another vote for Counter Culture here. We openend up last October and they have been a great help to us. Their coffee is consistently excellent, and they have provided us with great service on equipment.
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