What to do when your coffee shop is forced to close? Start up a coffee subscription service, of course. That's what Blue House Coffee decided to do, at least.
Founders Sam Beger and Nick DiPastena are used to the idea of reinvention. They opened their business in 2012 out of a, yes, blue house in Flagstaff before moving to Phoenix a few years later. The two quickly gained a following at Valley farmers markets with their mobile bicycle-cart coffee dispenser.
In 2018, they opened a brick-and-mortar location at Northern Arizona University's Phoenix Biomedical Campus downtown. Along with coffee, they offered breakfast and lunch items plus catering services.
All had been going well until COVID-19 hit.
"With the campus going almost fully online for the remainder of the semester, and pretty much closing down during the summer, we really had to start to pivot," says Brad Lolling, with the Blue House Coffee management team. "[We asked ourselves]: Can we continue to get our coffee out there and just sustain our business through this really tough time?"
They realized there wasn't a subscription service for coffee in the Valley, so they launched one.
Subscribers opt for two or four bags of coffee to be delivered each month. If customers are unsure of what to order, they can create a tasting profile on the website, and the head roaster will select the appropriate beans. There's also weekly and bi-weekly cold brew delivery, which Lolling compares to a milkman-style service.
"It's a cool concept," Lolling says, especially for a younger generation that might not be aware of the old milk delivery days of yore. "It's just something fun to bring back, especially if people are wanting to stay safe and wanting to stay home."
Delivery drivers wear gloves, and all bottles are sanitized after use. Contactless delivery is offered, where drivers send a text before making a drop to maintain social distancing. Cold brew is available for delivery only in the Phoenix area, but bags of coffee beans can be shipped anywhere.
When the café does open again, there will be a few changes. The crew is currently making the line one-way-only and putting up plexiglass barriers. There'll be less employees behind the counter and masks required for customers.
In addition, Blue House Coffee donates a portion of its profits to Dame Luz, an organization partially founded by Beger and DiPastena. It supports the livelihood of coffee farmers in the Dominican Republic and raises money for eye care. When a bag of Blue House Coffee's Dame Luz Dominican Single Origin is purchased, 12 pairs of eyeglasses are donated to those in need in the Dominican Republic. The same goes for purchases of the Lil Hog Blend, with proceeds going to Better Piggies Rescue, a potbelly pig sanctuary in Cave Creek.
And there are no plans to end the subscription service once normal operations begin at the café.
"I'm also a delivery driver on the weekends, and I love doing that. Hopefully it makes people's weeks a little bit better," says Lolling. "I know it gets me through the week."
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