There’s a gathering flock of quality-centric coffee operations nesting into Buffalo, N.Y., at the moment.
Public Espresso and Coffee, which served its first drinks at farmers markets about three years ago, now has a lauded brick-and-mortar location inside the Hotel at the Lafayette and is currently constructing a proper roastery café flagship. Industry vet Jesse Crouse opened the high-end multi-roaster Tipico Coffee late last year, with an eye towards a roastery café of his own sometime in 2017.
The only thing missing from the equation has been a more wholesale-focused roaster to supply additional new cafes and help existing shops raise quality as well, without any competing retail ambitions of its own. The just-launched Plume Coffee & Roastery has arrived to answer that demand.
Plume co-founder, serial entrepreneur and New York start-up impresario E. Frits Abell divides his time between New York City and his hometown of Buffalo. While he and his partners in various ventures have enjoyed the recent influx of excellent coffee, they saw room for more. “We were looking at opening up a ‘third wave’ coffee shop, because we felt we needed another one here,” Abell recently told Daily Coffee News. “The deeper we got into researching that model the more we realized that we were not equipped to do it, experientially.”
Abell then serendipitously came into the acquaintance of roaster and fellow native Buffalonian Alan Hayes, a quality-obsessed home-roaster whose passion evolved years ago into the professional sphere with a business called Hayes Home Roast, a subscription-only fresh-roasted coffee service centered on a Diedrich IR3 and greens sourced through Coffee Shrub and eventually InterAmerican.
Hayes had just moved back to Buffalo with his Diedrich and his connections after having lived in western Massachusetts for roughly 25 years, when his brother told him of Abell’s intentions to start a coffee company. Said Hayes, “So I called Frits up, we talked, and there we were.”
Plume was officially founded in September of 2015, and had its first products reach the market in February of this year. The roastery occupies a snug 300-square-foot space on the third floor of a large industrial building on the east side of Buffalo with an architectural salvage business on the ground floor and a freight elevator facilitating production.
The neighborhood is known as the Milk-Bone District for the fact that it’s also home of Nabisco’s Milk-Bone dog biscuit manufacturing bakery. “The East Side of Buffalo is sort of like our Detroit,” said Abell, noting how certain areas of the city have struggled more in the wake of Buffalo’s recent decades of deindustrialization, which have left many buildings out of use, caused demographic shifts along socioeconomic lines and left the neighborhood badly in need of revitalization. “It’s been demolished from an urban fabric standpoint. So it was really important for us to have positioning on the east side, and be part of job and economy creation in that part of the city.”
In its first few months on the market, Plume has found clientele among hotels, restaurants, caterers and more, including one private label relationship with a local tourism site. An online sales and subscription platform is in development, while Abell is also coordinating with Tipico’s Crouse to help organize and supply various coffee pop-ups inside other locations and venues. “He’s doing a bang-up job,” said Abell. “He’s taking it to another level. I would say he’s really curating and designing his menu, he just really knows coffee.”
Going forward, wholesale remains the name of the game for Plume. “We don’t want to be, and we’re not adept to be the retail portion,” said Abell, adding that they’re happy to help Tipico and other companies further their public-facing brands while acting as a partner behind the scenes. “That for us makes a lot of sense. It allows us to stay focused on doing wholesale, further extend our reach in Buffalo, then the region, and then outside of the region.”