Sludge: The Unfiltered Coffeebar Journey

Five years ago this week I was getting ready to sign a lease for what would become my first Coffeebar location in Truckee.  I had experienced this moment many times before, 15 times to be exact, but this time was a bit different.  It was just I, no partners, and no investors as of yet and I was looking at a space that had been vacant for over a year and had only previously been occupied by two failed coffee shops. To boot, I only had $100 left in my bank account.

I grew up in Colorado and had spent all of my 35 years in Winter Park, Steamboat & Boulder, but in 2009 I decided it was time to go.  A crazy trip to India gave me the clarity that I needed to leave and once I returned to the states, it took about two months to pack, replace myself at work and head west with a lightly padded savings account and dreams of a California Coffeebar. 

Fast-forward eight months… I was couch surfing with my friend and doing the master cleanse to save money! I have taken many risks in my career as an entrepreneur, but those risks have always been supported by a safety net.  This time I did not… it was I, my $100, my pen and the finer details of this five-year commitment.

I took a deep breath, signed the lease and simultaneously made my first investor call. Raising capital is hard… of all the investors that said they would give me money; only two (out of twenty) actually came through.  I beat the street for more friends, family and acquaintances.  In 60 days I raised $100,000 and put $40,000 on my only credit card.  We opened Coffeebar Truckee on October 11, 2010.  In two months we were doing enough daily business that we were cash flow positive, but just barely.  That first year I worked 360 out of 365 days.  I had a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude and survived on espresso and nutella croissants.  Luckily, Truckee was thirsty for a community hub serving up the Italian lifestyle and good cup of coffee.  We were fortunate enough to survive the first year with a cushion in our savings account and the rest is history.

We opened Coffeebar Reno in January of 2014 to a neighborhood of resentment and skepticism. The adversity motivated us even more to prove to Reno that we were a company of high values, high quality coffee and excellent customer service.  We remained humble and appreciative of the opportunity to serve our community the best we could.  Again, we were well received and were extremely grateful to our neighborhood for loving us as much as we now love them. 

The success of the Reno location has given us the opportunity to expand yet again.  We opened up the Coffeebar Bakery in Truckee in April and we are about to sign a lease for a new concept in the Bay area.  This column in the RTT will be your own personal Coffeebar Reality show.  Every month you will get the raw, unfiltered updates on our trials and tribulations as we try to bring our Reno/Tahoe concept to a bigger market and show the city that we mean business.

~greg b, owner, coffeebar

Read the article here in September’s edition of Reno Tahoe Tonight