As I write this I am on The Coho ferry en-route to Washington, an empty 5 ton truck is parked on the vehicle deck, the keys in my pocket. The Green Room - a warehouse full of coffee - is 2.5 hours south of Port Angeles in Auburn. This trip to TGR, my third since summer, is the result of one of the most significant operational changes to The Stick since we opened 07/07/07.
We began roasting a decade ago in January, 2010. Back then we struggled to buy single pallets of coffee a few times a year so a lot has changed for us to be trucking 6 pallets (7000 lbs) to Sooke every couple of months. Back in 2010 we relied on a lot of middle operators, each adding their cost to the price of the coffee we would roast and serve. But despite our constant quest for quality and a general movement in Specialty Coffee towards better trading practices and transparency, The Stick has only increased the price of a bag of beans once in a decade.
If you know me then you know I like finding efficiencies and looking for new solutions. Efficiency is to improve results from the same inputs. It is a philosophy of ‘what else can you get for that same effort?’ Mix those thoughts with upgraded equipment, improved training and enough space to store sacks o' stock and you have a recipe for changing how to do things. In order to keep our retail pricing constant, we began doing the work of customs brokers and truckers, we began buying larger amounts of coffee to secure pricing sweet spots and we began selling green coffee to other roasters on the island. The Status Quo, I say probably too often, is fine for yesterday.
The coffee industry has problems across the supply chain - from seed to cup. The traders on the Commodities Markets have kept the price of coffee artificially low...to the point of not covering the cost of production for farmers in many countries. And while no roaster I know pays as low as C Market prices, those prices do set the base for the predominant model of how coffee trades. At this end of the chain there are long standing difficulties like relative wage stagnation and new problems like housing uncertainty.
Our latest effort to cushion you and me from the outside world looks like a stack of 50 or 60 sacks in the back of a rental truck! Well, to be fair, more than a cushion from the realities of a global market, this is an evolutionary step for The Stick in the Mud that would not be possible without the support of an amazing group of regulars and some damned fine staff. That it preserves our pricing model is a definite bonus.
2019 was an interesting one for SITM. A general mood of change has been in the house. Not sure what is next but an update to the Business Plan is in order...Something to provide clearer vision for 2020 and the rest of the decade.