#NationalCoffeeDay: How One Company Creates Caffeine, Community and Competition
Hot or iced? Half & half or almond milk? Double shot or decaf? No matter how you take it, coffee is one beverage of which most of us can’t get enough. Sixty-three percent of U.S. adults drink coffee daily, according to recent data from the National Coffee Association, and gourmet coffee consumption is at an all-time high.
National Coffee Day is September 29, and we thought what better way to celebrate the not-so-humble cup o’ joe and the innovators it fuels than to talk with Dean Masch, VP of Sales, Wholesale, at independently owned Sightglass Coffee.* Sightglass roasts and serves single-origin coffee produced by small farms located around the world.
Two brothers started Sightglass 10 years ago out of a small warehouse in San Francisco. The company has since taken off, with five locations plus a new one opening soon in Los Angeles and distribution in Whole Foods stores.
Dean shared with us his favorite coffee facts, tips for small business growth and why there’s actually a reason to be thankful for Starbucks.
Michelle Fitzsimmons: Why do consumers value locally-owned coffee shops?
Dean Masch: The big movement we have seen in restaurants is farm-to-fork. There is a desire to support independent, small businesses and artisan brands. Our coffee is an artisan brand. It’s specialty roasts similar to a fine wine or specialty Scotch.
We are also very much a part of the neighborhood. Sightglass is unique in that it has a following. In our cafe on 7th Street [in San Francisco], people are working away on their laptops and enjoying our coffee. It’s not a fancy place—we are a coffee shop that makes premium coffee, and people come here for that experience.
Finally, it’s taste. [Sightglass Founders Jerad and Justin Morrison] are artists in their own way. They produce the best premium cup of coffee and do it in a socially responsible way, and are proud to do so.
Michelle: Coffeehouse chains aren’t going away anytime soon. What’s the future of independent coffee companies?
Dean: I see them continuing to expand. Thank you to Starbucks for putting premium coffee on pretty much every corner. But people are veering away from that and are going to their local coffee shop. People are interested in the character of the coffee. Espresso drinks are really growing. There is more attention and more respect paid to the style of coffee.
Michelle: You mentioned being part of the neighborhood—word of mouth seems to have been critical for Sightglass’ growth.
Dean: That’s what this company is all about. It is not about spending a lot on media, billboards and ads. We have been expanding thanks to word of mouth.
Michelle: Any advice for small businesses trying to grow in the same way?
Dean: Be savvy with social media. That is actually an area we could use some help in—we could have a stronger Facebook presence. The younger demographic is on Facebook and Instagram. The great thing about those services is that you can tailor the experience to your client base.
Michelle: What’s your favorite thing about working in the coffee business?
Dean: Relationships. You meet a lot of good people.
Michelle: It seems as though Sightglass really values its relationships with small farms.
Dean: We are proud of our relationships. We are a little guy. Do the owners want to grow the business? Sure, but they are not going to sell out. They are going to grow the right way. They are staying true to what the company is founded on.
Michelle: What’s your favorite coffee fact?
Dean: One interesting fact is that coffee is the second-largest commodity traded in the world. The first is crude oil.
Michelle: How do you take your coffee?
Dean: I like regular, medium to dark roast coffee. I drink it black. I don’t have a preference of one blend over another. I like a nice, robust but not bitter cup of coffee.
Michelle: What drink do you recommend to non-coffee drinkers who come in?
Dean: We don’t have flavored teas and specialty fruit drinks. We are limited even with the coffee drinks we have. But this way we keep the focus on the coffee. People come here for that.
Michelle: Does Sightglass have a “secret menu” with drinks customers won’t find on the regular menu?
Dean: We don’t have a special menu, but we do have products that come and go. We might have a special coffee one day, then you come in the next day and it won’t be there. We will deal with a farmer and buy an entire batch, usually a very limited quantity. We buy the best quality coffee beans the producer has. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
Michelle: Last but not least, how is Sightglass celebrating National Coffee Day?
Dean: We have a new blend coming out—Edition No. 7 from Kenya, available for pre-order now.
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*Sightglass Coffee is not an 8x8 customer.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.