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Roasterie marks 20 years, branches out to grow and help other entrepreneurs

Updated: 2013-11-19T16:50:30Z

By JOYCE SMITH

The Kansas City Star

Twenty years after its founding, the Roasterie is not just about its air-roasted coffee beans anymore.

From brick-and-mortar cafes to a variety of coffee-infused products and its own brand of premium tea, the Roasterie has grown far beyond its first facility — the Brookside basement of its founder.

Its headquarters spans five acres on the city’s west side with a real DC-3 “flying” overhead and a 5,000-square-foot “industrial chic” event space that lets folks watch the coffee roasting process on the roasting floor.

Reaching that 20-year anniversary is a milestone for an entrepreneur, especially considering how many startups fails in the first few years from lack of experience and capital, competition, even unexpected growth. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, only about half of all new establishments survive five years or more, and only about one-third survive 10 years or more.

“I had a vision for a roasting company with a glass wall so people could come in and watch. But nothing this big, nothing this put together,” said Danny O’Neill, founder. “Same vision as far as quality and what we want to be known for, way before we got started. But as far as size, my vision was a lot more humble.”

At a special October tasting dinner at the Roasterie’s Bean Hangar event space, its coffees and teas didn’t come on the side, they were among the ingredients.

The caterer, Lon Lane Inspired Occasions, offered such items as espresso and green peppercorn encrusted beef tenderloin and breast of chicken, tea poached salmon, smoked pork tenderloin with Roasterie coffee barbecue sauce, cappuccino punch spiked with Roasterie espresso vodka, espresso brownies, and Roasterie coffee ice cream.

“It just gives me pure joy, pleasure — creating something that hasn’t been done before, like coffee bread, coffee-flavored ketchup, the coffee candy bar we did with Andre’s, crunchy where you can taste the beans,” O’Neill said. “I get a lot of joy out of working with and helping other entrepreneurs.”

O’Neill air-roasted his first batch of Roasterie coffee beans on Sept. 26, 1993, in the basement of his Brookside home. But 20 years later he has many more Roasterie products — including Roasterie branded premium tea sachets — as well as collaborations with other area companies, some limited editions:

•  Espresso-flavored Dizzy Three vodka with Good Spirits Distilling in Olathe.

•  Coffee enhanced balsamic vinegar with the Tasteful Olive in downtown Overland Park.

•  Coffee ale with Boulevard Brewing Co.

•  Coffee barbecue sauce and rub with Original Juan Specialty Foods.

•  Coffee flavored artisanal ketchup with Fine Foods of America Inc. in Leawood.

•  Chocolate bars using Swiss chocolate from Andre’s Confiserie Suisse.

•  Black Russian bread made with brewed Roasterie coffee by Farm to Market Bread Co.

•  BBQ di Pollo e Pineapple pizza using the Roasterie Super Tuscan Coffee Barbeque Sauce and Gates Bar-B-Q Sauce at Spin Neapolitan Pizza restaurants.

•  Chocolate flavored Roasterie coffee blend with Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate.

The collaborations help the companies reach new markets, ones that may not have tried their products before and ones that have shown strong loyalty to high-quality, locally made products.

A few years ago, Farm to Market, which also is celebrating its 20th anniversary, collaborated on a limited edition bread called Boulevard Wheat Beer Bread using unfiltered wheat beer from Boulevard Brewing Co. instead of water. This month it released the limited edition Black Russian bread using Roasterie coffee.

“We have been experimenting with the Roasterie for a few years now on coffee cakes, sweet stuff. But getting them at the right price points the Black Russian made the most sense for both of us,” said John Friend, vice president and son of co-founder Mark Friend. “Since we are local we appreciate all the support Kansas City gives to local companies, and in turn we like to support local companies.”

Roasterie’s Dizzy Three vodka is now sold in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“Roasterie’s customers are so loyal it was immediately a hit,” said Chad Fordham, director of operations for Good Spirits Distilling.

Other restaurants also have held Roasterie collaboration meals. One was a brunch with Farm to Market, held at the Webster House and including espresso-infused tiramisu French toast. Another special brunch held at Story restaurant in Prairie Village paired such dishes as pancakes with maple syrup and Roasterie’s Direct Trade Las Lajas Honey-Processed Costa Rican coffee blend.

As for its coffee business, several airport food establishments now carry the brand, so Kansas Citians can get their fix before take-off.

St. Louis-based coffee distributor Ronnoco Coffee Co. also recently added Roasterie’s blends to its distribution lineup, but only to offices, even as the two companies still compete for restaurant clients.

“We competed against them for 20 years and now we are collaborating. It’s kind of funky, maybe it’s a Midwest thing, but we totally trust them with our clients,” O’Neill said. “They were actually at our 20th anniversary party on Nov. 7. Who would let their competitor join in?”

This month, the coffee company also introduced new K-Cup compatible single serving coffees for home, office or retail use. Several of the company’s top blends — 40 Sardines, Betty’s Recipe Flavored, Breakfast, Classic Cup Cafe, Full Vengeance Dark, and Kansas City — are available for single-serve.

The Roasterie also is expanding with brick-and-mortar venues, opening its first licensed cafe in the newly remodeled Corinth Square Hen House in Prairie Village in August, in conjunction with Kansas City, Kan., based Balls Food Stores, along with a cafe that opened on the Sprint Campus in Leawood earlier this year.

Roasterie also made the cover of a recent issue of Interior Design magazine under “Haute Cuisine. These American and European restaurant designers are flying high.” In “a reference to the ‘air’ in air-roasted coffee, an actual 1940’s Douglas DC-3 takes off from the roof’s ‘runway’ in painted steel,” the magazine noted.

The Roasterie Inc.

Founded: First roast on Sept. 26, 1993, in the basement of Danny O’Neill’s Brookside home. Incorporated on Nov. 4, 1993.

Headquarters: 1204 W. 27th St., just look for the life-size 1943 DC-3 “flying” overhead.

Employees: About 60.

Market: It counts about 700 businesses, coffee shops, grocery stores, restaurants, colleges and universities among its wholesale clients. O’Neill declined to comment on annual sales.

Anniversary specials: Debuted a 20th Anniversary Platinum Edition Blend in April, which it will sell through the holidays. Coffee for 20 cents a cup on National Coffee Day on Sept. 29. Also, a Minnesota couple won a free trip to Costa Rica.

Source: The Roasterie

Quick look at two other companies celebrating big anniversaries this year

Farm to Market Bread Co.

Founded: Sept. 20, 1993.

Headquarters: 18,600-square-foot bakery and offices at 100 E. 20th St.

Employees: 62 employees.

Kansas City’s Farm to Market Bread Co. also has been rolling out some “cult favorites” for its 20th anniversary.

The company’s Sunny Black and Brown bread — named after the bread’s key ingredients of sunflower seeds, black beans and brown rice — in September, then a Chili Cheese Sourdough in October, and in November a Black Russian bread using Roasterie coffee. Later this month, it will release its traditional holiday specials — German stollen and Italian panettone breads.

Farm to Market was founded in the back of the Classic Cup restaurant in Westport. Two years later it opened its own facility in Waldo. In mid-2012, the company moved from its 6,500-square-foot Waldo space to an 18,600-square-foot building in the Crossroads Arts District.

Now it supplies freshly baked bread to 25 grocery stores and more than 100 restaurants, caterers and hotels in the metro, as well as Lawrence and Topeka in Kansas, and a new customer in Lincoln, Neb.

Products include rosemary olive oil bread, Italian, asiago ciabatta, San Francisco sourdough, eight grain, 100 percent whole wheat, rye, challah rolls and buns, and egg buns and rolls.

Source: Farm to Market Bread Co.

Shatto Milk Co.

Founded: June 2003

Headquarters: On the family farm in Osborn, Mo.

Employees: 47

Shatto Milk Co. has been rolling out limited edition flavors for its 10 anniversary this year. The six special flavors and themes — chocolate cherry milk with “Smooch” on the bottle released before Valentine’s Day, mint chocolate milk with the word “Lucky” on the bottle released before St. Patrick’s Day; cookies and cream milk with the word “Thanks” on the bottle released in late May; and apple pie milk with the word “Indie” released before Independence Day; Blueberry Milk with the word “Chillin’” before Labor Day; and then Birthday Cake Milk with the word “Home” on the side of the bottle before its October birthday celebration.

It will select one of the special flavors to put on the permanent line-up.

Source: Shatto Milk Co.

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to jsmith@kcstar.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at JoyceKC.

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