The emotional, lifestyle-oriented connection that a well-executed coffee business fosters with its customers is increasingly becoming an essential building block for a variety of combined retail environments — the clothing store coffee shop, the coffee-and-barbering shop, and so on.
And though on a superficial level coffee and personal electronics may not seem to have much directly in common, the fact is many people depend heavily and emotionally on both. Depending on the nature of one’s daily responsibilities, it might be hard to say which crisis is worse: Being stuck without coffee, or a having a smartphone on the fritz.
A new multi-retail store coming this summer to tech-booming, roaster-rich San Diego, Calif., caters to both of these core human necessities. In a former Ballast Point pub space, TechOutfitters will provide a carefully curated multi-roaster program in its café area, coupled to a retail department that specializes in unique and often locally-based tech accessories and gadgets, with a third component of on-site mobile device repair services.
“It’s going to be a place where you’re going to want to start your day,” co-owner Kathleen Walker told Daily Coffee News of the shop, whose coffee service and repair services will both open at 6 a.m. The plan is for the shop to cater both to folks relaxing with a latte and pastry either inside or on patio seating, and to those faster-paced grab-and-go commuters and people in a pinch that need a device repaired or ready for pick-up on their way to work.
Salespeople in the retail electronics area will be as engaged and well-versed about what sets one model apart from another as the baristas will be about what roasters, profiles and single-origins they’ll be serving. The café will offer brewery-inspired coffee tasting flights, which will aim for both deliciousness and educational value, presenting several coffees as distinct from each other as possible, all brewed manually.
Espresso prepared on a three-group La Marzocco GB5 will be roasted by Café Virtuoso, while a rotation of other local roasters will be tapped for an ever-shifting Hario pourover bar.
“San Diego is becoming quite a roasting town,” said Walker, who has been in contact with over a dozen local roasters but hasn’t yet confirmed what the shop’s opening lineup will be. There will also be a Bunn batch dripper for grab-and-go service.
The electronic accessory section will stand out from big-box electronics competitors by virtue of a unique selection of curiosities and startup products, such as app-connected sleep-enhancing “smart ear plugs” that emit soothing sounds for sleep, wake-up sounds for a private alarm, and phone notifications, optionally. This is the debut product of a San Diego-based startup called Hush Technology, whose recent Kickstarter campaign netted almost $600,000, sextupling their goal of $100,000.
Walker, a tech industry lawyer who focuses on trademarks and brand protections in the consumer electronics category, has received a bit of barista training from Café Virtuoso. “I went to barista school for a week, but that hardly makes me competent,” she admitted, adding that the TechOutfitters team will be relying on the expertise of their staff of skilled, experienced baristas and their partner roasters to help maintain the quality of their coffee program.
TechOutfitters has no intention of pursuing roasting. Measured growth for them will come through additional retail locations. Said Walker, “Assuming we are successful off the bat, we’ll be looking for another location in San Diego within 9-12 months of opening.”
The company is considering the North County area of San Diego as one possibility for their next store. The TechOutfitters flagship is projected to open in early or mid July at 1302 Rosecrans St., in the Point Loma seaside neighborhood.
“We don’t see ourselves as strip mall sort of people,” said Walker. “We want to get into lots of nice, unique little places.”