Move part of coffee company’s growth plans
Blue Star Coffee Roasters has found a new home — just down the street from where the coffee wholesaler and retailer started operations a dozen years ago.
Co-owners Meg and Dan Donohue announced this week that Blue Star has purchased the Coyote Ridge building at 1240 East Methow Valley Highway, almost within sight of the existing roasting facility and coffee shop just off Highway 20 on Twisp Airport Road.
The Donohues said plans for the new site include increased roasting capacity, more storage room for green coffee beans, expanded material handling space, and a larger coffee bar and retail shop with additional outdoor seating.
Their hope is to have the new facility up and running by spring of 2020. The design/build team includes Molly and Jeff Patterson of The Patterson Company and Darold Brandenburg of Brandenburg Construction.
The spacious Coyote Ridge building has been empty and on the market for about three years, since Gary and Anna Clark retired after more than 30 years of operating Coyote Ridge Automotive Repairs.
Blue Star’s current roasting equipment, coffee bar, storage areas and office are now squeezed into a 1,700-square-foot building. The coffee bar is popular with tourists and locals alike, but with only a few high-top tables it can’t accommodate very many leisurely coffee drinkers. In good weather — or even in less-good weather — coffee fans spill out onto the patio seating in front of the building.
Lots of room
The Coyote Ridge building, about a quarter-mile from Blue Star’s current leased location, sits on about 3 acres and has about 3,000 square feet of available enclosed space. Meg Donohue said in an interview this week that the plan is to enclose more of the outdoor area for a total of about 6,000 square feet of usable space.
The building, constructed in the 1980s, will be essentially gutted and renovated, she said. A mezzanine level will be reduced in size to create more open space in the front of the building, where the retail operations will be. Blue Star will purchase a new roaster with twice the capacity of its current equipment, she said. All the building’s mechanical systems will be updated.
“We can do a lot with it,” Meg Donohue said of the Coyote Ridge building. “We can see it … there is a ton of potential. We want to make it a gateway business for Twisp. It will have great access, and lots of parking.”
Visitors will still be able to watch the roasting process, as they can now, Donohue said. “It will have a similar look and feel,” she said. “It will be warm, welcoming and accessible. It will feel like Blue Star.”
The shop will remain “coffee-focused,” Donohue noted. “We’re not going to become a café. This is where we experience our relationship with the community.”
Blue Star’s existing site is just outside the town limits, while the new property will be within Twisp proper. Donohue praised town officials for being responsive, helpful and supportive. “They have been great,” she said.
The Donohues have been looking for an appropriate property for three years, Meg said, including the one they eventually purchased. “We persisted,” she said. “I’m glad we didn’t start any later.”
Buying the property is a major step for the company. Donohue said Blue Star arranged for a conventional commercial loan for the purchase, and is working on a loan from the Methow Valley Investment Network to support renovations.
“We’re thrilled with the opportunities for our company that moving to a bigger space will provide,” the Donohues said in a press release. “We’ll be able to triple the production capacity for our wholesale business, create better workflow and material handling systems, and design a new coffee bar for all of the coffee lovers in our community. Our new building has so much potential; we hope that with a full renovation of the building and the site, we can create a gateway business for the Methow that our entire community will be proud of.”
The Donohues cited community support for their business and expansion goals: “A great big thank you to everyone who has helped us make this possible — we couldn’t do it without the support of our staff, our customers, the Town of Twisp, TwispWorks and the Methow Valley Investment Network, to name just a few,” they said in the press release.
Expansion part of the plan
In a 2017 interview, the Donohues talked about their first 10 years in business. They owned property in the valley for several years before they choose the Methow Valley as their business location. Before purchasing their Texas Creek site, they had been frequent visitors from their home in Seattle — where Dan was head of coffee operations at a big roasting company.
It was important from the start to have an “exportable product,” Meg said of Blue Star’s small-batch, painstakingly sourced artisan coffee blends in the 2017 interview. Online sales — in the United States and beyond — are a big part of the business. Blue Star also is available at cafes, coffee shops and retail outlets around the region.
“Being on Highway 20 has been a great thing … it’s now a gathering spot,” Meg said in the 2017 interview. “We love being a local hangout … that was our dream.”
The Donohues anticipated expansion from the beginning, Meg said this week. “Our strategy has always been to build for success,” she said.
Blue Star also recently launched a new website with additional features, Meg said. “Our goal was to make it your virtual coffee home,” she said, describing the site as “feature-rich” including a blog and subscription program. The site also has a locator feature that allows visitors to pinpoint where Blue Star coffee is available, by the bag or by the cup. To visit the site, go to bluestarcoffeeroasters.com.