Here’s how Dax Johnson, Owner of Capitola Coffee in Portland, OR, launched a wholesale program and became an established Portland brand with a Bellwether Roaster.
Background: Capitola Coffee wanted to become a full-service coffee shop.
When Dax Johnson opened Capitola Coffee in Portland, Oregon—a city with over 2,500 coffee shops—he knew customer expectations were extraordinarily high. To build a sustainable brand long-term, he needed to be uncompromising with exceptional coffee. Dax launched his coffee shop with beans from local roasters he knew could meet a high-bar of quality, but he wanted more. He envisioned a full-service shop that roasted its own beans, but getting there—with all the training, permits, and warehousing—seemed daunting.
“Looking at the business model, I knew roasting was going to be in the plan eventually. But, I was transitioning out of one job and starting the coffee shop. I couldn’t take the time to become a traditional roaster.”
Solution: A commercial roaster that’s user-friendly and quick to learn.
Dax briefly considered renting machine time at a local roasting co-op to help Capitola get started with roasting, but when he discovered the Bellwether Roaster it seemed like the obvious choice for meeting his goals:
- Roasting in-house without a massive learning curve
- Trusting staff members to run the roaster independently
- Building a reputation as a quality-focused roaster in Portland
“I was planning on doing a community co-op roasting in Portland where I could basically just rent time on a roaster. The Bellwether was a much better fit because of the shorter learning curve, the flexibility to roast on the fly, and the ability to train my staff to roast.”
Within just a few weeks of reserving their Bellwether Roaster, Capitola was roasting its own branded coffee beans and serving them to paying customers.
“The initial setup was a nice experience. It was plug-and-play. The Bellwether technician, Keith, was on-hand when the machine arrived, and he helped us get everything going. We were roasting that same afternoon.”
Results: Capitola launched a retail brand and generated brand equity.
Dax and his team initially relied on the built-in roast profiles that came with coffees they purchased from the Bellwether Marketplace. Because of the Bellwether’s user-friendly interface and precise controls, it didn’t take long for Dax to start tailoring the roast profiles to his own tastes.
“The roast profiles included with coffees purchased from Bellwether’s marketplace were great. Now, I start with a Bellwether profile and make small adjustments to it. I can roast the coffee, taste it, and easily adjust what I want for our shop.”
The addition of the Bellwether as a zero-emissions roaster generated excitement among customers who celebrated the launch of Capitola’s own coffee line. It also opened up a variety of new wholesale opportunities.
“We put on our bags: ‘Roasted in Portland, Oregon on a zero-emissions roaster’ and that led to our most profitable partnership with a local food delivery service that’s all about sustainability.
“During COVID-19, this partnership was a lifeline because their business shot up as an online food delivery platform. We went from selling them 30 bags per week to 120 bags per week. I attribute that success to them being attracted to the sustainability model.”
Dax never lowered his quality standards, remaining committed to exceptional coffee that stands out among the wild Portland competition. To achieve those standards, he sourced his coffee via the Bellwether Marketplace.
“The green coffee marketplace is one of the things I like most about Bellwether. It really is high-quality coffee! They also seem to hook up with quality producers. There’s always an interesting and important farm story that goes along with the coffee.”
For Dax, the greatest transformation has been to Capitola’s brand equity. The launch of their own roasted coffee brand accelerated name recognition and local prestige, giving Capitola Coffee a meaningful way to distinguish themselves from the competition.
“Now we’re known as a legitimate roaster, which adds a lot to our brand. It put us on the map in Portland.”