Once again we are on the hunt to explore one the best coffee shop/roasteries in the country and today vamos a Echo Coffee in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is really hot here in Scottsdale, so I am going to enjoy my iced latte while talking to Echo’s proud and passionate owner Steve Belt.
V. Hi Steve! The weather seems to be brutal to retail businesses here. How are you getting by?
B. Well, we have expected the business to slow down during summer times, so we are experiencing some instability with the customer flow from time to time, but overall we are just fine.
V. I know you have been in coffee business about two years now? Could you tell us how and why you changed your professional direction?
B. The crisis hit, and even though I was one of the country’s top property managers, it became too stressful to work with landlords for obvious reasons. Around that time, I saw someone giving a lecture about coffee at Ignite Phoenix (TED’s conference analogue), and this was when I uncovered my hidden passion for coffee. The opportunity came along to open up my own coffee shop/ roasterie, and I was quick to react. Now I am a very happy business owner.
V. Echo’s slogan reads “Fresh.Local.Organic.” How are you keeping it fresh, local and organic?
B. A couple of things. First of all, as you have already noticed we roast all our coffee in-house, using our 3 kilo Diedrich IR-3 roaster. As far as the choice of coffee, unlike many other coffee shops out there, we never try to save, and so we buy only the best quality beans available from countries like Brazil, Kenya and El Salvador. Also, we only use organic milk, and our customers are really excited about that. By the way, I have found that organic milk isn’t just a healthier choice, but it also produces better microfoam than does non-organic. At lastly, we have set up commercial SpectraPure reverse osmosis water system to provide a great tasting and safe water for all our business needs.
V. The place seems to be bigger than a regular coffee shop, is it one of your business strategies?
B. You know, yes, we have quite a big place – around 1,550 square feet, and this really helps us to accommodate everyone with lots of seating arrangements available, including extra-cushioned couches. In addition, we provide free WI-FI (powered by high speed T3 dedicated internet connection, a rare future for most small coffee businesses, which get by with T1 or DSL), and 10 power out- lets for laptops and cell phones. Some customers spend more than ten hours in a row studying, or reading in our shop, and they are really thankful for our accommodating atmosphere.
V. By the way concerning the orders to go, I have noticed that you are using Planet Plus biodegradable cups for this purpose, how are they working out for you?
B. They have been awesome for us. We have used other so called “Green” paper cups before, but they didn’t really work: I tested them in my own compost for years. However, the Planet Plus are compostable in a land fill. They use a sugar based coating, rather than a waxed based coating to help enable that.
There is one more thing that I wanted to add. I think it is important to give back to the community, so sometimes in the next couple of months we will sell a whole bunch of coffee in support of cancer treatment, and I encourage other coffee shops to do so as well.