Charlottesville-based coffee brand Grit Coffee has expanded to Richmond’s West End, an area that currently lacks a local coffee presence.
An out-of-town coffee shop hopes to bring some of its grit to the Richmond area. The Charlottesville-based coffee brand Grit Coffee recently opened on Libbie Avenue, and hopes to draw residents in with its coffee and tea drinks, along with pastries from Pearl’s Bake Shoppe as well as ground and whole bean coffee.
The coffee brand launched in 2008 as Para Coffee, and rebranded under its current name in 2014. Since then Grit Coffee has expanded to five locations in the Charlottesville area.
The coffee roaster said it took a lot of “perseverance, passion, and hard work” to grow from its small venture to the expanding company it is now. Grit Coffee wants its space to be the fuel and, well, grit for its local communities.
“Not only does ‘Grit’ embody who we are, but [also] our customers who come into our shops — who, [for] a lot of them, that’s their office,” said Dan FitzHenry, director of operations. “They’re running side hustles or independent businesses. We have graphic designers and influencers and professors and students, and they all have grit too.”
What sets Grit Coffee apart from other coffee brands is their culinary approach to roasting coffee, FitzHenry said.
“We treat coffee as an ingredient, not a commodity,” he said. “Each coffee tells us how it wants to be roasted.”
To best execute such an approach, Grit roast its own coffee. The coffee brand garnered the help of Travis Mason, a former chef and now director of coffee at Grit Coffee. Mason worked for several coffee roasters in Portland, a known spiritual center of the coffee world, before coming to Grit.
With prior experiences in the coffee industry, Mason oversees the coffee production at Grit, and said via email he is not trying to “reinvent the wheel,” but simply to bring out the flavors that already existed in his coffee.
Grit Coffee sources its coffee from farmers and producers all over the world, from Colombia to Brazil, with whom they have established long-term relationships, Mason said. Some new single-origin coffees to look out for include Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and microlot from El Salvador.
“As a roaster, I think about all of the people that touched that coffee before it got to me,” Mason said. “It was picked by hand, and it’s my job to bring out the unique flavors of each coffee.”
Grit Coffee is dedicated to creating a welcoming environment for all customers, FitzHenry said.
The coffee shop wants to be known for being “affordable and approachable.”
“I think often the average person, who might be a casual coffee drinker, can walk into a specialty coffee shop and kind of feel overwhelmed or intimidated, just based on the vibe inside the shop,” he said. “And our goal is never to make a person feel like that.”
This is not the first time Grit Coffee dipped its foot in Richmond. Grit Coffee briefly shared a space with Charlottesville-based Champion Brewing’s now-defunct location on Grace Street until Nov. 2019.
Richmond was the next logical step for Grit Coffee, FitzHenry said. The coffee roaster was drawn to the city’s food and beverage scene. The response has been welcoming, he said, especially from the Three Chopt and Westhampton neighborhoods.
“There’s not a lot of [local, independent coffee brands] in that area,” FitzHenry said. “So we’re excited to be a benefit and addition to the scene.”
Plans to expand to Richmond were in motion before the coronavirus pandemic hit. FitzHenry said construction for the new store was temporarily halted and the brand shifted their focus on online operations. Grit offers subscriptions in which it delivers different coffee blends to customers’ doorsteps every one to four weeks. They are looking to expand their subscription service to Richmond in the near future.
“One silver lining to everything was that we had the chance to focus on e-commerce,” FitzHenry said. “And now that our shops are back up and running, we can still build that business and the brick and mortar cafe business as well.”
For the time being, Grit Coffee only will be open for online order pickup and take out. While allowed to open, FitzHenry said the store decided to bar indoor seating. However, outdoor seats are available for its customers.
Customers and employees are required to wear masks. Plexiglass is set up around the bar, and common surfaces are frequently sanitized throughout the day.
Grit Coffee is located at 409 Libbie Avenue and is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Coffee subscriptions and online ordering is available at its website.
Top Photo via Grit Coffee/Facebook