Rowster pioneers coffee subscription service
A warm cup of coffee between your hands, the smell of roasting coffee beans and the sound of the espresso machine steaming milk form the atmosphere of Rowster New American Coffee, located at 632 Wealthy Street. Rowster is committed to the purity and quality of its coffee as well as producing green, fairly sourced products.
And last month, something new happened at Rowster. Through Kickstarter, an online funding platform, Rowster was able to launch a new idea called Regular Coffee Co. — a separate brand of locally roasted affordable coffee manufactured at Rowster.
Kurt Stauffer, the founder and President of Rowster Coffee, met Stephan Curtis, a coffee enthusiast and now current vice president of Rowster and Regular Coffee. Together, Stauffer and Curtis formed a new collaboration.
“This project has grown out of our love for great coffee (which has been our fuel for Rowster) and our frustration with the inability to easily share it with people around the country,” said Curtis.
“We started questioning why places like Portland and Seattle are alone being considered ‘hubs’ of the specialty coffee industry.” Curtis continued, “If an obscure company in Portland can roast 1 million pounds of coffee per month, then that challenges us to figure out what would stop Grand Rapids from becoming a hub for great coffee here in the Midwest.”
Utilizing the roots of manufacturing in Michigan, Stauffer and Curtis structured their idea around the concepts of simplicity and quality. They desired to create a brand that people would connect with and share.
“We really wanted an interesting package and brand — one that could support the quality inside,” said Curtis. “We wanted people to be proud to share this with their friends. We wanted something worth looking at, but also with the quality to back up the looks.”
Justin Dewaard, a recent addition to the barista team at Rowster, was impressed with the concept of Regular Coffee.
“When they briefed me on what Regular was, I was like, oh, that’s actually genius,” said Dewaard.
“We’ve been getting the name Regular Coffee out there and having people sign up for more information via email,” continued Dewaard. “It’s like a magazine subscription but coffee.”
A major dilemma for local roasters like Regular Coffee is the struggle of presence amid larger industrialized coffee shops such as Starbucks Coffee or Biggby Coffee. Regular Coffee distinguishes itself both locally in Grand Rapids as well as nationally as a new way to do coffee.
As a diversion from the mainstream coffee industry, Regular Coffee partnered with Kickstarter, making it possible to generate an online dialogue for support, awareness and recognition within a competitive market.
“Kickstarter is a way for us to generate some excitement and urgency. It gives us more incentive to talk to people in a given time frame to help us reach our goal,” said Curtis.
Kickstarter is an online funding platform, a tool enabling thousands of people to make their ideas and dreams become reality. It is an element of technology that is transforming support and funding of the arts and innovation within communities.
Kickstarter launched on Aug. 28, 2009. Because of the independent nature of each project, Kickstarter is able to host hundreds of projects and give an online presence to fund new ideas across the nation. Using the website, Kickstarter mandates deadlines for efficient fundraising.
Over the course of three years, Kickstarter has encouraged support of music, food, art, technology, film and publishing across the nation.
At Rowster, the roasting and packaging of Regular Coffee unfolds rhythmically both during and after hours. Presented in a cylindrical tin with simple brown branding, the 1.5 pounds’ worth of beans provides one month’s supply of coffee.
The concept of Regular Coffee’s branding and packaging emerged to emphasize the accessibility of the product.
“Regular Coffee makes what can be a very inaccessible, pretentious thing very accessible,” said Dewaard. “We’re trying to make what could be sometimes a snooty, non-customer friendly product into an easy simple package that’s not frightening.”
For Stauffer, Curtis and the barista staff at Rowster, Regular Coffee exemplifies community, technology, and passionate people merging together to make great things happen.
For more information about Regular Coffee Co, visit www.regularcoffee.com. To start your own Kickstarter project or become educated about projects taking place in your neighborhood, visit www.kickstarter.com.
This article is cross-posted on www.therapidian.org