October 15

Water Avenue Renaissance

Water Avenue 21

At Water Avenue Coffee, local is reflected in everything we do. Our name, “Water Avenue,” is a toast to our location in Portland’s industrial district, an area that has treated us well. We distribute to nearby shops, bars and restaurants, hoping to delight new audiences and stimulate the local economy. Our neon blue COFFEE signs glow all night long, serving as a beacon to travelers on nearby I-5.

Then there are the coffees themselves. We search the global market for the best green coffees available, building direct trade relationships with farmers whenever possible, to help improve our quality from bean to cup. This model allows Water Avenue better access to great coffees in El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil. My personal favorite right now is our El Rosario Centroamericano from El Salvador.

In the last few years, the southeast industrial district has grown rapidly. We’ve welcomed a flurry of new bars and restaurants, startups and web developers, vintage shops and retailers. Just this past summer, we’ve seen our busiest season yet. Increasingly, tourists from different countries and other states are flocking to Portland and as the neighborhood flourishes, more visitors pop in, enabling the city to become a destination for specialty coffee. Throughout town, guests can find a variety of shops to sample from, emphasizing the need for quality products.

We brew local, we know local, and because of the cutting-edge technology we have in the palm of our hands, we are able to scale alongside the city of Portland.

In the midst of this economic boom, we’ve surpassed our initial estimates three times over and moved into a larger facility just after our five-year anniversary. We feel strongly that these improved projections are tied to the expansion and development of Portland. With business blossoming, it’s more important than ever to embrace a robust point-of-sale system to keep tabs on operations. A few years back, we were using an older PC platform that stored all information locally. It worked okay, but wasn’t very versatile; the system was tricky to navigate when making changes or trying to find specific inventory information. After shopping around, we decided to give ShopKeep a trial run. A smooth set-up later, we were hooked.

ShopKeep provides streamlined reporting features that help us understand what’s going on in any given day, across departments. Want to get ahead of the holiday season? With ShopKeep you can quickly pull data from last year, going as granular as each individual transaction. Worried about inventory? ShopKeep keeps you in the loop, letting you know when a product needs to be reordered. ShopKeep’s analytics help keep track of everything from best-selling items to on-the-spot transactions, allowing you to see when the cafe is getting busy. This intel streamlines scheduling, ensuring you staff accordingly for peak times. Usually, we have around five or six employees at the shop, especially in the morning and right after work, our busiest hour; ShopKeep ensures their time at Water Avenue is well-spent.

Running reports on our old system used to be a tedious process, but ShopKeep freed me up to manage backend operations at my leisure. Unlike many other POS systems, ShopKeep is cloud-based and iPad-powered, enabling us to run reports while away from the register. Before installing ShopKeep, backend operations were difficult; we’d have to come in extra early or stay after hours to pull analytics. Now I can access consumer and inventory data when I want, wherever I want, whether from home or away on vacation, using the ShopKeep Pocket app. The ShopKeep Pocket app grants managers access to sales by hour, top-selling items and the number of new customers instantly, on-the-go. The amount of time I save allows me to be out in the cafe with customers, assisting with day-to-day operations and working my schedule around what I need to do, rather than reporting.

Coffee tends to encompass a lot of habit and ritual. We work hard to establish relationships with our customers, both vacationing and returning, and strive to keep them in the loop. Last winter, we took that communication to the next level, establishing a regular newsletter. In each issue, we highlight new coffees introduced to the menu, spotlight local wholesale accounts and share interesting company news. We’ve been building our readership over time, but ShopKeep’s MailChimp integration helped quadruple our subscribers by syncing email addresses from within the system. The integration also allows access to professional-quality templates, along with detailed reporting to track the newsletters’ success, which is perfect for keeping in touch with fellow coffee-lovers, near and far.

Community means a lot to Water Avenue Coffee. We know customers and look forward to seeing their faces once, sometimes even twice, a day. While pouring cups of morning coffee, we hear about what’s going on in their lives and have found they genuinely care about our business. As Portland expands, Water Avenue along with it, these interactions remain at the heart of our business. Water Avenue Coffee began back in 2009 as a small cafe along the Willamette River, fueled by our determination to brew a great cup of coffee. Since then, we’ve watched as the neighborhood has grown around us; we’re more excited than ever to roast our favorite coffees – and with ShopKeep’s help, we can stay two steps ahead.

By Matt Crocker, Retail Manager of Water Avenue Coffee,
wateravenuecoffee.com

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