Words on why a cafe now.
Alright, alright, alright. You may know of us so some of this may be extra but there's a portion of you that won't and to that I say welcome. I'm hopeful you read all of this, I doubt 50% will, but by reading this you learn something new and have a greater appreciation of what this cafe means for us and also our staff and myself.
In 2013 I started Royal Mile in my backyard shed in Collingswood as an offshoot project from my digital marketing skillset I had been involved with for over a decade prior. It wasn't intended to take over my life like it has but it did. Looking back it didn't seem like a lot nor was it some magical career transition into my 2nd career one imagines happens but considering what I was doing at the time and knowing volumes of cafe's and other roasters cafe's to say I was roasting on average 100 pounds a week without a cafe is something unheard of. It kind of was happening without me even realizing it. It's a number any cafe would be happy with - including mine!
It was a fun well paying adventure and proof of concept I could also do another thing in Digital however it all really changed when I met Steve Mierisch from Fincas Mierisch in early 2014. Steve who lives in America is a son in a family that owns 11 farms in Nicaragua. He brings in his families coffee as an additional offering for his roasting incubator in Brooklyn. When I met steve we hit it off and it was one of those lightbulb moments. The chance to build a biggish business around this relationship and have access to incredible coffee's isn't something that happens. While many think the benefit is supporting some rural family and rising them out of a perceived notion of poverty somewhere it's not. We're not cutting out some middle man and saving them money. Importers have a vital role they fill. The M's have 500 employees and are a known family in the specality coffee world. What we get is of course their wild microlots and quality of coffees like Placeres we throw into everything but also the ability to help them diversify their business - they sell a lot to Asia and Europe. And of course also a component of the families business in Brooklyn via Steve's business at Pulley Collective along with the numerous roasters who roast on his machines. I'm blessed to work with them and for them to care about me as much as they have humbles me. People sometimes look to me as the expert and for the area I realize at this point I am but standing next to them I realize how little I know too. In many ways they are one of those families you wish you had types - if you ever came from a broken home. Maybe one day I'll get an honorary adoption and they'll allow me to be Jamie Mierisch Blanchard. I kid. Kind of.
So here I am. We're established. Why a cafe 8 years later? Well I have to still go back a little bit but we're nearing the real "why's". The Whole Foods thing happening is that it allowed me to build a business on 2 pillars which means I had a diversification of business from day one. It was the business in front of me I had to activate to get to here however. Growing wholesale was my path. The trick is wholesale is a numbers game and takes a long time. Consistent week in and week out of effort along with refining and improving your product. Not everyone does. It's shocking how few do. Thing is once you're set, you're in almost rarefied air. At the end of every year since 2015 I've said there's no way we can grow more. Surely we've reached the limit. But here I am in 2022 looking back on 21' and we've grown to more stores with a bigger volume than 20'. If what I think is going to happen happens than 22 will be the same. The same applies to online which is seemingly endless growth. I'm at the point where if just online and walk up was all that was left I could still cover my debt's, rent and keep my personal income the same.It's a good place. Which brings up a huge thing.
Walk up retail at the Warehouse.
Not only could I roast far more on a bigger roaster in the new space in Cherry Hill but because of Covid people changed their purchasing habits. Many more people bought bags in stores, many more brewed at home, and quite a few wanted to come to us directly. All of those things which fall under increased visibility benefitted me. The warehouse as many have seen isn't exactly setup for a coffee l nor did I even think it would be when I moved in in 2019. It's a limited retail permit as it stands so we just sell bags and the cans of cold brew. But people come in surprising numbers. As a standalone the Roasterie has become the 2nd largest location when talking sales. It's a really meaningful % increase in business that was totally unexpected and a pure addition. And since the Cold Brew Can's come up it's very much a large component of why.
Now not only do we have online and wholesale, but there's also retail on not one but 2 product categories. The can's are another of many projects I've had that I think will develop the furthest of all. Only the major vendors I'm talking vendors with massive capital have 4 sku's of cold brew. We have 5. The cool thing ours sell well and whole foods Philly is picking them up. The hope is DC and NY do next. We'll see in the future but less on that for now because this is long as it is. What this means is that I got to the point I needed to get to. It just took 8 years.
Thing is many asked over the years why not a cafe from the start? Well cafe's are incredible amounts of money to fit out. As I mentioned this was started in the ashes of my marriage. I didn't and don't have partners. I don't have someone just buying roasters for me. It was all on my credit cards. The road to survival was a long grim one. Granted now I stand here and have access to years of doing this and amassing stuff on the cheap and the benefit of being a roaster already but cost of entry at minimum is 75k to do it well. Some might be able to squeeze by on 50 but more likely it's 100k than the 75 I just said. I didn't have it then and I wasn't exactly in the position as old landlord said happened to him is "snap my fingers and they loan me money". That same landlord incidentally said we could never open a cafe at this location because of the people in the area. Take that as you will too. Many people believe terrible things. So I needed to grow to make this work but also grow past what I needed to get to the cafe part all the while build myself, a new identity and my financial position up. I won't belabor those point more than I have instead focus on the positives. To me it's not "cafe" it's cafes in the plural sense. My operation has been setup from day one to scale up so that the work up front was insane but the payoff is 15 years from 2015 when we're on cafe 10 and y'all fondly remember when I was demoing at the tables in stores making silly faces.
So are we building a second already? Well no but yes. I have the equipment already so it's just when the right spaces open up and where I want them to be. So what does all or any of this mean? Why the cafe now? Why should you care? When Josue of Dulce in Collingswood showed me the space in a building they (Josue and his husband Scott) bought I fell in love. The space looked great. Very little needed to be done. On top of that it was going to benefit an account of ours and longtime supporter both in renting from them but also selling their product while also making us stronger. His kitchen is also, similar to Steve's, a shared kitchen of sorts for other places to use as well as grow his current business and offering. It was a block from the old spot on a side of town long neglected for coffee as I had seen for the previous 6 years. It was a win win win win win everywhere.
The last cool thing is the impact Royal Mile has on the local economy with ability to grow as far as we can and have a meaningful mission with an ecosystem behind and around it is rare. Every purchase makes it that much more and for you to spend with your dollars even once and have it mean something is as I said, rare.
I've been blessed with the incredible opportunity to build a solid company that allows for my friends, employees, and family to all succeed and benefit more and more as this thing grows. Where I stand today with the cafe open and week one in the books is a great spot. We did well from the get. The next 10 years look overall really good. I'm lucky each day past yesterday because In some ways I shouldn't exist. I defied the odd's. Now I do know that life will surely throw problems our way and tomorrow is not assured but with the customer base we have being awesome, the wholesale accounts we do have are rad and I love working with them along with the importers we work with every new person that comes through is a chance to make it that much better for all of us.
I'm here for the ride and god willing it will be a long one so if you don't like us now check us out in five years. Royal Mile looks barely anything like it did even just 3 years ago. We might be your speed at that time and if so lets make it something better. We'd love to have you be part of this however it's cool if you don't, but it'd be a lot cooler if you did.