In the California Central Coast City of San Luis Obispo, a new roasting and retail company is upping the bar with brooding black walls and equipment, sleek white marble surfaces and a beverage program that combines house-roasted coffees with its own brand of mixological flair.
WithCo Coffee is the West Coast extension of Nashville-based sister company WithCo Cocktails, which makes and bottles non-alcoholic cocktail mixers with fresh ingredients and without preservatives. The first-time entrepreneurial team is composed of SLO childhood friends Rydian Searles and Walker Sotello, who opened the shop in late January. The idea is to provide another line of products to be enjoyed “with company,” as the name intends to convey.
Searles’s sister and brother-in-law are the founders of WithCo Cocktails. Searles’s cousin, Lauren Searles, puts her seven years’ experience in the coffee industry to work as manager of the new coffee shop. Searles’s brother, Eden Searles, handles packaging, labeling and sourcing for whole beans that roasted in Oakland, California, by good friend Kevin Wilcox on the Loring S15 Falcon roaster owned by RTD cold coffee company Black Medicine, for which Wilcox is also a head roaster.
“It’s pretty much a family-and-friend-run business, and it gets very confusing,” Searles told Daily Coffee News.
A La Marzocco GB5 espresso machine is surrounded by black grinders made by Mahlkonig and Mazzer, opposite the back bar lined with black Stagg pourover kettles and a black Curtis batch brewer behind which light from the white marble bar glints off a black tile backsplash.
“A lot of the cafes here are very bright and airy, a little bit more of that boho style,” said Searles. “We went for a very dark and more masculine feel, complemented by a really nice marble waterfall countertop and some white panels that cover the ceiling, adding a nice modern touch to whole display.”
It all amounts to an atmosphere befitting of drinks such as the Ellis Old Fashioned latte and cappuccino, fruit-forward espresso and brew, and WithCo spritzers made with various cocktail pre-mixes that are also in bottles on shelves for retail purchases.
“We stick to more of what the origins do, and what they represent,” Searles said of the WithCo roasting approach. “We’re definitely more of the lighter, fruity, more citrus-forward notes. The Colombia does have more of a darker, tobacco peatiness to it. We’re still super new, we’re taking feedback still on which coffees people like, but we do have a basis of what we want to be able to have in the cafe and for retail bags, which are coffees that we like and the origins that we enjoy drinking.”
WithCo Cocktail’s bottled mixers are made with ease and accessibility in mind, designed for straightforward equal-parts recipes that anyone can simply pour and stir, with no fancy moves required. WithCo Coffee aims for similar approachability.
“We roast, you drink,” said Searles. “We take away the stresses having to make good quality coffee.”
Searles said the company’s next steps are to build out its website to include an e-commerce store for whole bean offerings. And though the logistics of the relatively long-distance roasting operation are still being ironed out, WithCo also intends to expand into roasting for the wholesale market, as well.
WithCo Coffee is open now at 570 Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo.