this week, for the small business series, let’s have a chat with koan of huckleberry roasters, a denver coffee roaster. i love coffee. i love denver. and huckleberry is doing it just right. they had me at one shot of their blue orchid, an exquisite espresso i first tasted two years ago. it remains my favorite espresso to date.
1. what is huckleberry roasters?
Huckleberry Roasters is a two year old coffee roasting company from Denver, owned and operated by Koan Goedman and Mark Mann. We use our well-sourced, carefully roasted coffee as a vessel to encourage people to enjoy slowly (rather than hurry up) and to create community through discussion and interaction. We think sharing a cup of coffee can lead to meaningful shared experiences and want to offer that to as many people as possible.
2. how did you get into this? what was your inspiration?
Huckleberry’s formation is rooted in coffee. We worked at shops together, became close friends, and decided that starting Huckleberry Roasters was a great way to bridge the gap between our own entrepreneurial spirits, our love of coffee, and our desire to create community. Although Denver is still trying to figure itself out in a lot of ways, it’s filled with such immense talent! We’re surrounded by people seeking perfection in their fields (food, bicycles, beer, art, photography, etc.) that it’s not hard for us to seek perfection in our own.
3. what had the process been from conception to execution?
To borrow a phrase from a friend, “It’s a slow burn.” To be totally honest, getting our own brick and mortar location has taken a lot longer than we anticipated. The longer wait had its benefits too. It has allowed us to build strong wholesale relationships and we’ve had more time to improve our roasting. About seven months ago we found a space for our flagship location; a long-term home for both our roasting operations and a cafe. To our surprise, we were also offered a small cafe space within an innovative new development that was too good to pass up. It took a little longer than we would have liked, but it’s getting really exciting now!
4. has creating/developing/launching/sustaining this been what you expected? easier or harder? what have the challenges been?
It’s a slow burn. Ha ha…it’s a versatile phrase, right? In terms of building and growing this business into something successful, maybe we were a little naive in the beginning. We’ve had our share of heavy and humbling moments, but we’re proud of what we’ve created and look forward to what’s to come. For me (Koan) it’s been a fascinating journey of managing expectations, building some self confidence, and finding the balance of when to sit back patiently and when to push beyond a comfort zone.
5. are you doing this solo or you have other partners/collaborators/helpers in the brand?
While the day-to-day operations of Huckleberry are handled by Mark and Koan, much of our growth has come from the support, constant encouragement ,and constructive criticism of the Denver coffee scene. For example, Crema Coffee House took a bit of a gamble by featuring us prominently while we were still trying to dial in our own product, but I’d like to think we’ve both benefited from the relationship.
6. who, if anyone, has helped w branding/website development/maintenance?
So far we’ve done branding, designing, and packaging ourselves. Mark has a background in design, so he took the lead and developed a brand that’s resonated really well with Denver. Now that our business is growing up, we’ve turned to one of the best designers in the business, Mackey Saturday, to help us through a rebrand and take us to another level; one that will hopefully play well on a national level…someday. We’ve just started the process, but the initial concepts Mackey has presented to us have been exhilarating and inspiring. We can’t wait to share them!
7. what is launch date for your two new shops?
Since we’re still early in the process, the launch dates for the two shops are still a little hard to pin down. The flagship location on 4301 Pecos Street, where we will house our new 15k Giesen Coffee Roaster and have a cafe, is tentatively scheduled for early Fall. The 2500 Larimer Street location, which we’re excitedly sharing with some incredible neighbors including Topo Designs, Work & Class Pizzeria Basta, Cirro and more, will open later in the Fall. Until then, people can consistently find Huckleberry Roasters at these wonderful cafes: Crema Coffee House, Denver Bicycle Cafe and Two Rivers. Check our Facebook for other places.
8. where can you be found, IRL and interwebs?
9. what new/other businesses are you excited about in denver? or would you like to see in denver?
Seems like 2013 has been and will continue to be a defining year for Denver. So many cool spots opening and so many great people doing great things. We are having lots of quick breakfasts at Crema Coffee House (pastry program keeps improving and now all bread made in house!). We’re eating lots of lunches at Curtis Park Delicatessen and Masterpiece Delicatessen. To close out the day, I would say that we’re at TRVE Brewing more often than we’d like to admit. All of those places provide constant inspiration.
10. what’s your favorite shop in denver? favorite place for food? neighborhood?
My favorite shop in Denver, at the moment, is Steadbrook. It’s seems to be the perfect example of the direction that Denver is headed. A place that would be at home in San Francisco or New York, but still fits perfectly in Denver. A place that blends beautifully curated, responsibly made goods and excellent coffee service with creative, thoughtful design….all with the intention of giving the people of Denver a special experience.