Monday, June 18, 2018
Business

Kahwa and Buddy Brew lead the charge of Tampa Bay's coffee revolution

A good cup of joe wasn't always easy to find in the Tampa Bay area.

Take it from Billy Hutchings, a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur. He has traveled all over the country for work and always stops to sample the local espresso.

"If you see a roaster in-house, that's a telltale sign the coffee is going to be better than Starbucks," Hutchings said Thursday from a couch inside Buddy Brew Coffee on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa. "It's all about the appreciation of the craft. The people here are taking the time to make this special cup for us."

Similar to the craft beer movement that has exploded in Tampa Bay, locally roasted coffee is on the up-and-up. The people here demand a better cup of coffee, and they're willing to go out of their way to find it.

"Coffee has its own culture now. Starbucks was so 2005. This next generation — the millennials — want their own identity when it comes to coffee," said Brian Connors of Connors Davis Hospitality, a global food and beverage consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale. "Similar to wine, coffee nerds appreciate the taste. And they want their money to go back into a community they feel a part of."

It's part of an antichain movement that rose from the ashes of the Great Recession in Tampa Bay, which has since inspired a vibrant and bustling food and culture scene. Hyde Park, Seminole Heights and downtown St. Petersburg have benefited from chef-inspired restaurants, local breweries and new bars known for their complicated but intricate craft cocktails. Local coffee shops and roasteries are moving into those neighborhoods, too.

"The recession was the best thing that happened to Tampa Bay," said Dave Ward, co-owner and co-founder of Buddy Brew Coffee. "The recession changed how people spend their money. They want to spend where it will support their community. They know the big boys don't care about them."

Ward quit his job in real estate in 2007 to pursue the coffee business full time. His wife, Susan Ward, left her job in pharmaceutical sales in 2010 to join him. They began by roasting coffee in their Hyde Park home, but the business has since grown into a Tampa coffee shop and roastery, a mobile coffee truck, a coffee bar inside the hip Oxford Exchange and a partnership with a restaurant in downtown Sarasota. The Wards plan to open a new store in Hyde Park Village and Tampa's Kuhn Honda dealership this year.

In addition to Buddy Brew, the other coffee business gaining momentum in Tampa Bay is Kahwa Coffee, which Raphael Perrier opened in 2006. Perrier said he saw a wide-open market in St. Petersburg. He started in an office with a roaster, selling to restaurants and wholesalers.

"The coffee scene was nonexistent then," Perrier said. "We'd brew our own in the office during the week, but there was no place to go on the weekends just to enjoy coffee."

He opened his first cafe in St. Petersburg in 2008. Perrier now operates seven coffee shops around Tampa Bay and has three new ones in the works, including one with a drive-through on 38th Avenue N in St. Petersburg. You can buy his coffee in K-cup form just like the big chains. He has an 8,000-square-foot office where he roasts coffee and specializes in creating new blends from beans sourced all over the world.

"I think we brought something to the area that just wasn't happening here yet," Perrier said. "There used to be only chains in Tampa everywhere you looked, but it's not like that anymore. The people were looking for local coffee shops."

Both homegrown brands, Buddy Brew and Kahwa, have big plans that will take them beyond Tampa Bay. Perrier has his eyes set on Jacksonville and Miami next.

"We're trying to go after Starbucks," Perrier said.

Buddy Brew, too, sees an opportunity to grow its retail, wholesale and e-commerce business.

"We didn't start this business with the intention to be a mom-and-pop shop," Ward said.

The competitive edge has fueled some rivalry between the brands, as Kahwa has three Tampa area stores but Buddy Brew has yet to move into St. Petersburg. Both names will have a presence in downtown Sarasota soon.

But how big is too big? Especially when the "cool factor" that has helped bolster their success is based on the idea of buying from a local company?

"It's a tough game. Everyone is trying to ease out the market share that they can," said Mary Chapman, senior director of product innovation for Technomic, a food research firm in Chicago. "There's a growing number of consumers that want to support the small business over the corporate chain, but Starbucks doesn't catch a lot of that. They're good to their people and try to source fair trade products."

Tom Enright stumbled upon Buddy Brew Coffee while visiting from Atlanta. He wasn't interested in taking a trip to Florida and visiting a chain retailer. He said he likes Buddy Brew's atmosphere.

"Spending your money in local places makes you feel like you're a part of something bigger," he said.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] Follow @SunBizGriffin.

     
     
Comments
St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

ST. PETERSBURG — Residents can expect their water and sanitation bills to increase between $7 and $11 starting in October.That represents an average of a 7-percent increase. Customers who use an average of 4,000 gallons a month, including reclaimed w...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

An Orlando private equity firm has purchased lease-to-own business Rent-A-Center in a deal valued at more than $1 billion.Vintage Capital Management put a bid in for the company on Friday: $15 per share, $1 per share above its previous offer. Rent-A-...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

One of Florida’s biggest draws is also one if its biggest liabilities — its coastline. A new report projects that Florida is at the greatest risk of any state for tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels. And Tampa Bay faces some of the greatest ri...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Mazzaro’s gets ready to reopen

Mazzaro’s gets ready to reopen

day after an electrical fire broke out in its dry goods warehouse Friday night.Dominic Horwath, a grocery manager at Mazzaro’s on 22nd Ave. N, said staffers spent Monday and the weekend moving things into other warehouses.The damage from the fire at ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Mazzaro’s market set to reopen Tuesday after blaze damaged one of its warehouses

Mazzaro’s market set to reopen Tuesday after blaze damaged one of its warehouses

ST. PETERSBURG — Mazzaro’s Italian Market is scheduled to reopen Tuesday after an electrical fire broke out its dry goods warehouse Friday night.Dominic Horwath, a grocery manager at Mazzaro’s on 22nd Avenue N said staff spent Monday and the weekend...
Published: 06/18/18
Developer Grady Pridgen buys St. Pete’s shuttered Edward White Hospital

Developer Grady Pridgen buys St. Pete’s shuttered Edward White Hospital

ST. PETERSBURG — Edward White Hospital, closed four years ago because of declining revenues, has been sold to developer Grady Pridgen for $2.7 million.Pridgen could not be reached Monday for comment. City officials said he has submitted plans for rem...
Published: 06/18/18

Hernando Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITAL RECEIVES AWARD: Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill was the recipient of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals that have prevented the occurrence...
Published: 06/18/18
Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITALS RECEIVE AWARD: Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Medical Center of Trinity were recipients of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals t...
Published: 06/18/18
Tampa Bay gas prices keep falling

Tampa Bay gas prices keep falling

The summer reprieve in gas prices is continuing.After flirting near the $3 mark, Tampa Bay gas prices fell another six cents a gallon over the past week to an average of $2.65 for unleaded, a wide gap with the national average of $2.91 a gallon, acco...
Published: 06/18/18
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Published: 06/16/18