After almost 15 years at its cozy location on Twisp Airport Road, Blue Star Coffee Roasters has begun pulling shots at its new roastery and coffee bar just west of its former shop, at 1240 State Route 20 on the site of the old Coyote Ridge Automotive Repair & Sales building.
The expansion has always been part of the long-term vision, said co-owners Meg and Dan Donohue, but locating a suitable commercial space took years, and the global pandemic slowed things down. Working with architect Sergio Chin-Ley and contractor Darold Brandenburg, the Donohues began work on the new facility in late 2019 and poured 470 yards of concrete for the footprint in January 2020 before COVID-19 forced them to pause and reconsider their design.
“The new layout is designed with COVID considerations at the forefront,” Meg said. “We took full advantage of the time to create a space that is COVID-safe in both form and function.”
The Donohues collaborated with Brandenburg and Chin-Ley to add more room, bumping out the front door area to a wide-open spacious entrance with good visibility, incorporating extra outdoor seating, providing a generous area to accommodate foot traffic patterns within the coffee bar, and investing in high quality air filtration systems that protect against viruses, smoke, and other pollutants.
This same attentiveness to COVID protocol will influence Blue Star’s eventual opening of the indoor space; for now, only the take-out windows are open to the public, on Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
“We love our community and want everyone to be safe,” Meg said. “We’re attentive to science. All of our staff is vaccinated and we work masked up. We’re going to focus on outdoor ordering and service until we feel like the COVID risks are mitigated by fewer positive cases in the area, younger children being able to receive vaccinations, and booster shots becoming widely available to those who are eligible for them.”
Indoors, a bright, airy public space wraps around two work stations where customers will order Blue Star’s signature coffee drinks, hand-roasted bagged coffee, locally sourced pastries, apparel, and coffee brewing equipment. “We’re one-stop shopping for coffee lovers,” Meg said. And Blue Star’s new Toast app (https://toasttakeout.com/) makes ordering convenient.
Tucked behind the service area is a cupping room, which resembles a laboratory, but one that smells scrumptious. Here Dan conducts technical tastings, with sample roasts for comparing and contrasting. There’s also a training station for Blue Star baristas as well as employees of Blue Star’s wholesale customers. The Donohues, who have been conducting cuppings at home for more than a decade, seem as excited about the dedicated cupping room as they do about the front of the house and, the pièce de resistance, the roastery.
Stretching the full width of the building, the roastery may be located in the back, but it’s the room that puts Blue Star coffee at the forefront. Dan ordered and assembled a German roaster twice the size of the one in the old Blue Star roastery. It’s a bit of a mechanical marvel, as well as a downright efficient machine that will enable Dan and the roasting crew to scale back daily roasting hours. With the old machine they have been roasting 10 hours a day to meet demand for wholesale and retail customers.
Storage for green coffee beans, a weighing and packaging counter, and a shipping station flank the large roasting zone, which is visible through large windows in the public seating area, allowing customers to watch the art of coffee roasting in action.
“It has been fun to repurpose this old building. It has a brand-new life now. We were even able to reuse a lot of the same equipment and materials from the old place,” the Donohues said. “Everything just keeps getting better. We couldn’t be happier with our experience working with Darold and Sergio. And it has been so wonderful to be so supported by this community. We are grateful.”