Lariat Coffee’s owners happily pour all their energy into decade-old roasting company
By Don Nelson
It’s a good thing Lori Loomis and Bob Gamblin don’t have to go far for a coffee break. Otherwise, they’d hardly get any time off at all.
Loomis and Gamblin, co-owners of Lariat Coffee Roasters in Winthrop, haven’t taken a real vacation since they started selling their locally roasted coffee a little over 10 years ago.
It’s been a productive decade. Lariat started out as Backcountry Coffee Roasters back in 2007, when the company was launched in a tiny garage in Twisp. In 2010, Loomis and Gamblin moved to a much larger roasting facility and retail outlet on Horizon Flats in Winthrop, where they are at capacity.
In 2013, they re-branded the company as Lariat Coffee Roasters to avoid potential trademark conflicts and give their products a stronger marketing advantage. “We got baptized in the trademark process,” Loomis said. Other roasters were using the term “back country” and “we would have had to continually protect it,” she said.
Along with the change came new packaging, designed by Earth & Sky Studios in Twisp with original artwork by Mary Sharman.
In recent years, Lariat has won awards in coffee competition, and introduced a popular cold brew coffee concentrate, Black Colt, in 2015.
Loomis and Gamblin have also built a powerful platform for online sales. A U.S. map at their Horizon Flats headquarters is crowded with push-pins indicating places around the country where Lariat coffee has been delivered.
Lariat coffee is sold at local retail outlets and around the Pacific Northwest, and is the featured brew in some Methow Valley cafes and bakeries.
Coffee was it
Loomis and Gamblin first visited the Methow Valley on a backpacking trip in 2001. “We fell in love with the valley and started looking for property,” Loomis said. He worked at Boeing in sales; she had a career in physical therapy. By 2003 they had purchased property on Stud Horse Mountain and started looking for local business opportunities.
Someone gave Loomis a DVD about the coffee business, and “that was it,” she said. Gamblin and Loomis took courses, did lots of research, cashed in their 401k savings and took the big leap. “We had a strong desire to live and work in the valley,” Loomis said. They were also looking for a business that could provide a year-round income, not just seasonal sales.
“It was in our plans all along to sell inside [the valley], outside and online,” Loomis said.
Lariat is one of two major coffee roasters left in the valley. The other is Blue Star Coffee Roasters in Twisp, which is also celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Another company, Dave Tate’s Methow Roasters in Carlton, went out of business several years ago.
Blue Star and Lariat each have strong local followings, but Loomis said that “we’ve always considered our biggest competition to be outside the valley” — in other words, Starbucks and dozens of other independent roasters around the country that have an aggressive online presence.
Lariat also sells quite a bit of coffee — and branded gift items such as coffee cups and clothing — at its Horizon Flats headquarters.
Although growth is an expectation, Loomis said that “our main goal is customer satisfaction.”
Despite the constant hard work that goes into growing a company in an intensely competitive product arena, Loomis said she and Gamblin have no regrets.
“We’re living the dream,” she said. “We gave up everything and gave it a shot. And we like how things have gone.”