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Philadelphia’s Café Don Pedro Seeks to Build Up Small Businesses

Cafe Don Pedro 1

Café Don Pedro Founder Pedro Rodriguez at the coffee company’s grand opening celebration earlier this month. All images courtesy of Café Don Pedro.

A Dominican-owned coffee roasting company called Café Don Pedro recently launched in Philadelphia with ambitions for direct trading and boosting more Latino-owned small businesses throughout its supply and distribution networks.

The new company’s immediate reach has been extended through its ownership team’s connections to Delivery Guys, a local food ordering and delivery platform focused on small businesses.

Creating a More Direct Supply Chain

“I want to inspire younger Latinos to look at this industry, get involved with it, learn, experience it and see the possibilities,” Café Don Pedro Co-Founder and CEO Pedro Rodriguez told Daily Coffee News. “We [Latinos] are on both ends of the coffee industry. We grow it, pick it, wash and dry it, put it in sacks for export — and then those of us who live here, we drink it every day. But we’re not in the middle. We want to change that.”

Cafe Don Pedro Philadelphia

Rodriguez, who grew up in the Dominican Republic and worked for years for the City of Philadelphia in human resources and civil services, aims to expose more people to the industry through partnerships with local job training and economic development nonprofits.

Talks are underway to develop a project enrolling young people into a training program geared towards careers in cafes, roasteries and importing companies.

“For the launch party we had on January 6, we wanted to get a Latino barista to serve the coffee. It took us a week to find one,” said Rodriguez, adding that the barista they hired also happens to have come from a family that grows coffee in Costa Rica. “After the event we started negotiating with her family to try to bring in some Costa Rican coffee, so we are in that process right now.”

Supporting Small-Scale Producers

Personal connections like that are the guiding light of Café Don Pedro’s green coffee sourcing program. James Duran, who is also Dominican, leads sourcing and roast profile development for Café Don Pedro while also serving as the company’s CFO.

Duran, who previously owned a retail coffee roastery called Little Jimmy’s Coffee Roaster in Germantown that closed several years ago, currently roasts in Philadelphia on two Coffee Crafters Artisan fluid-bed roasters with 5- and 9-pound capacities.

Cafe Don Pedro Philly

The first bean to meet Café Don Pedro’s goals for quality, flavor and social and environmental sustainability was a Guatemalan coffee grown under the Manos de Mujer seal through the Axola Cooperative in Huehuetenango. The coffee came through importer Primavera Coffee.

In the meantime, a Philadelphia-based friend with relationships in Colombia put Café Don Pedro into touch with another small group of women producing coffee who are seeking better prices. This Spring, Café Don Pedro will purchase that coop’s entire production, according to the company.

Negotiations are also underway with a third women’s cooperative, from which would come the company’s first Dominican-grown coffees.

“I’m going there personally in February to meet with them and make the final arrangements to bring their coffee here,” said Rodriguez, who also plans to fly one family from every coop they work with to Philadelphia.

Cafe Don Pedro executives

The Café Don Pedro executive team.

Rodriguez said Café Don Pedro will cover all expenses for producers to tour the city and surrounding region and engage with enthusiasts, roasters and importers about their farms and the particular coffees that they’re growing.

“We want to open the market for them, not just us,” said Rodriguez. “Roasters and importers will get to know them, and they’ll have more opportunities.”

On The Rise With Delivery Guys

Roasting for Café Don Pedro currently takes place inside a 7,000-square-foot shared commercial kitchen and production hub in the Brewerytown neighborhood called DG Kitchen Digital Food Hall.

While technically not a cafe, the facility is open to guests for individual pourovers of Café Don Pedro or bags of freshly roasted coffees.

Coffees have also been making their way throughout the city through the Delivery Guys app. Victor Tejada, CEO of Delivery Guys and DG Kitchen parent company DG Brands, is a co-founder of Café Don Pedro.

“DG Brands is a technology company in the food industry,” said Rodriguez, who also serves as a senior advisor to DG Brands. “For any product you have to launch into the market, distribution is the hardest thing. They already have that aspect solved, so we figured it would be a great idea to piggyback and use that business model. It’s like Uber Eats or DoorDash. People who ordered our coffee on a Sunday at nine o’clock in the morning were brewing the coffee by 10:30 a.m.”

As Café Don Pedro continues to ramp up its sales and delivery model in Philadelphia, Rodriguez said the company will be expanding its wholesale roasting business while preparing to launch similar operations in New York City this year.

Café Don Pedro is located at 1521 N. 31st St. in PhiladelphiaTell DCN’s editors about your new coffee shop or roastery here