Will The Roasters Survive In The Rural of CA?

Even though this appeared to be the first #COFFEETOUR stop in 2018, but actually not. Just that I chose to blog and share this amazing trip before any other roasters visit I did, such as the Contra Coffee in Orange and Lavender & Honey in Pasadena. Alrighty, let's get the ball rolling!

The city of Riverside, 55 miles away from the Downtown Los Angeles, costs about $4 - $8 gas to drive in one way. A place I tended to visit at least once a month in the late 90s when still attending the college. At my college part-time job, two of my best co-worker buddies once went to the University of California, Riverside. Even in a bit later term, the second younger brother of one of my best pals also studied the same school as well. So, I was naturally the carpool buddy to hub on and party over. Hitherto, there wasn't much existed but just a farmland and a piece of rocky dessert to me. I couldn't even remember if any Starbucks was already set there, and don't need to mention any quality roasters. And it's been almost two decades now since my last visit. So, today I chose to revisit the city, and try puzzling out how well the city is now being developed, and too how the Yelp's highly rated roasters can survive over in a city just with a population of 303,871.

LIFT Coffee Roasters | Riverside, CA

Products Score: 80 Service Score: 75 Store Score: 75

Final {verdict}: ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌟 3.5/5

First stop, it's the Lift Coffee Roasters, literally located next to the building of the University of Redland. About that college, being honest, I never heard of the name and their academic accomplishment, nor being familiar with the ecology of the coffee roasters in the city. This roasters was discovered from a bunch in Yelp, which rated with a Four Stars and 420 Reviews. That kind of achievement wasn't easy; therefore, tingled my curiosity to drive over and peek around. Since it's a random check-in, I didn't prior study their background history. My first assumption was they couldn't be too long in business, but I'm kind of wrong after googled their references in a minute ago. Indeed, with a notable 2+ years of retail history, they already established four different locations, majority of stores in Riverside and the third one in Whittier, about an hour drive to the west from where their headquartered base is. As their name says, it's a roasters and the Lift wouldn't easily claim its legitimacy without some factual supports. Per their web site, there were two founders with a full team of supportive staffs, from Head Roaster to Cafe Managers, built up the scale of today's business. Besides their retail presence, roasted beans wholesaling is a key business being proactively developed. Currently, listed six active customers using their products, from cafes to taco shop, to upscale pub. Quite a dynamic customers portfolio.

Back to their retail side, the store is very spacey with a conventional interior design of the roasters, similar to the Dripp Coffee Bar: A brick wall, a reclaimed wood wall mural, the white tiles wall behind the bar, a glass case for pastries, a shiny expresso machine and the wood board menu. On a quiet Sunday, in a small population city, it considered to have a good volume of audiences enjoying their day and working on whatever that's meaningful and productive to them. Other than the usual decoration by a typcial roasters or coffee shop, offering expresso and pastries, their own roasted beans, apparels and gear, they do drip their own cold brews in the tap. As well, to stand out from other roasters, the Lift chose to equip with the Victoria Arduino White Eagle T3 as their main engine. Seems to me, they're very efficiently managed and systemized in many ways, and may even be profitable after being only a few years in business to allow them expanded to a total of four separate locations. Guess that's answered half of the question if a roasters is able to survive in rural area.

A lemon pound cake and a Cafe Latte were what I ordered for trial to test out their quality. To my own standard, their espresso was frothy and rich of aroma flavor filled in the air whilst presenting at the bar. The bean was catered to be a dark roast best suitable for espresso. I wasn't certain about the origin they brewed; however, it's satisfied. The cake was too fluffy and tasty, which I adored much.

And I've no regret of driving an extra miles to explore them.


Augie's Coffee Roasters | Riverside, CA

Products Score: 80 Service Score: 75 Store Score: 80

Final {verdict}: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5

Their appearance to me was a complete surprise. I was doing my late lunch next door at The Salted Pig (By the way, their Braised Pork Belly was really good.), and didn't take noticed the existence of this roasters until I walked outside the restaurant with a full tummy. Whilst I was going to get back to my vehicle, took a last look beforehand, and saw the small print of "Coffee Roasters" on their wood signage, then reaffirmed their roasters identity from the glass window label, a "WOW" popped in mind, and immediately decided to step inside for a peek.

Right out, acknowledged the store's interior design was carefully crafted.

First thing struck me was the black and white floor tiles, gave me a feeling of walked into a 50s "old-school" diner. Their table benches, coffee bar top and wall paneling were all made in dark hardwood; furthermore, matched with a few pieces of tree-core made artcrafts on the main wall. Coupling with the black canteen chairs, I also felt like dining in a school cafeteria. The store design language appeared more visual with the metal touch of the 3-doors Beverage Air specialty freezer marked with their menu on and other brewing equipments. The red neon sign of three stacked "COFFEE" words shedded a reflection of red-light on the ceiling of the back corner, the red lounge chairs by the bar, and the red Mavam Expresso machine standing on the top of coffee bar altogether created a strong contrast to its background. Nevertheless, at the back wall, the cartoon bulldog with some puffy eyes stressfully holding a cup of coffee with smoke rolling out a heart shape and a bag of Augies coffee beans, it tries to mindfully promoting the customers a voucher to order more coffee. A dozen more hidden touches of red-colored dot here and there in the full scenery contrived its brand identity - the very first location, a two-floor, red-brickwall building in Redlands.

Thru the 8+ years period, they evolved from the old Augie's to the new AUGIES. From the past interviews, look like their brand identity has a makeover in the last year or two, from the store decoration to the espresso machine upgrade, to coffee bean packaging, for aligning with its iconic red-building logo, instead of the old black color theming.

I ordered a cup of latte togo for accommodating me to drive back to the civilization. That latte was really frothy with strong earthy flavor. The blend seems to be on the light side. The temperature came out just right to warm my chilling day in the dessert side. Do have to mention is their paper cup design. The brand messaging of "Est. 2009" does intercept customers a confidence mind that their coffee is in the best quality to survive for these many years.

After navigated their web site inside out at home, I realized that I visited their Claremont location in early 2015. But, the impression wasn't strong.

Their ecommerce site is very informative, educational and well constructed, especially they're the very few whom has a "Subscriptions" model to retain existing consumers for the coffee bean orders. Not only their web site is used as today's digital storefront to solicit more business, but too functioning as a media to acquire new customers thru the "Learn" materials. Moreover, all their works point out they really deliver their commitment in building a "Community" when that statement is put up on their site.

Brilliant work!

If chance, I would like to visit their very first location in Redlands for a cup of espresso, and possibly meeting their father and son founders to listen to their entrepreneurial story in person.


In this chapter, I concluded that lesser competition in rural does give more privilege to the survival of coffee roasters, also providing a golden opportunity to them being more profitable, and growing stronger brand equity and experience before picked out their fights from rural to the big cities.


Update 07.11.2020:

Sadly, unfortunate that Augie's Coffee couldn't defeat the raid of COVID-19 to their business, and decided to close down their retail operation entirely. Full Detail enclosed as follow: https://augies.coffee/blogs/news/covid-closure



Ref.

1. Lift Coffee Roasters on the Rise with Two New Southern California Cafes

2. The Odyssey of Augie’s Coffee

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