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In New York, The Roasting Room Plans to Open Doors for Small Businesses

The Roasting Room South Bronx

Sarina Prabasi and Elias Gurmu inside the forthcoming Roasting Room by Buunni production area. All images courtesy of The Roasting Room.

The coffee professionals behind New York City-based brand Buunni Coffee are preparing to open The Roasting Room by Buunni, a multifaceted co-roastery and education hub in the South Bronx. 

Co-Founders Elias Gurmu and Sarina Prabasi said they hope to create a “supportive community environment” for other small- or medium-sized businesses and coffee entrepreneurs while continuing to invest in neighborhoods that have been “traditionally overlooked by specialty coffee.”

“We’re intentionally locating this business in the South Bronx, prioritizing the local community in employment and in training opportunities,” Prabasi recently told Daily Coffee News. “We’re also calling on others in the coffee, food and beverage and hospitality sectors to work with us to support scholarships, apprenticeships and paid internships to create more opportunities in specialty coffee for BIPOC and low-income applicants.”

The Roasting Room by Buunni

Opening this spring in a 5,000-square-foot warehouse space in Hunts Point, The Roasting Room will feature two Loring S35 Kestrel production roasters, a cupping lab, two packing stations, an industrial grinder and storage space for green coffee and packaging supplies. The facility is expected to be able to accommodate organic-certified roasting, while offering a break room and additional meeting rooms for workshops, training and other community purposes. 

Prabasi and Gurmu plan to offer a range of services and membership plans within the facility, while maintaining a focus on education and community engagement.

Plans include: co-roasting, in which clients roast their own coffee for hourly or per-batch access to the machines plus access to the support facilities; toll roasting, in which clients can specify their own coffees and profiles, with production carried out by The Roasting Room; and private label, in which The Roasting Room will source and roast coffees to clients’ desired specifications. 

Gurmu and Prabasi bring significant experience as roasters and small business owners to bear in the new project. Soon after moving to Manhattan from Ethiopia in 2011, the pair launched Ethiopia-focused Buuni Coffee as a single cafe in Washington Heights. The business has since grown to four retail locations, while expanding through e-commerce and wholesale roasting.

Roasting Room by Buunni owners

“We knew from our own experience that roasting equipment is expensive and access to roasting is a limiting factor for many small and medium coffee companies,” Prabasi said. “This is further compounded by specialty coffee roasting being very concentrated in Brooklyn, and little investments in areas closer to us.”  

Prabasi, the author of the 2019 memoir The Coffeehouse Resistancesaid that the search for a suitable location for The Roasting Room was in part driven by a desire to invest in a specific community. Known as the home as one of the largest wholesale food markets in the world, the Hunts Point area “pulses with the lifeblood of New York City’s food distribution,” according to Prabasi. 

“Under its industrial facade, there’s a rich cultural tapestry and resilience,” Prabasi said. “Residents there have long advocated for environmental justice and community revitalization amidst challenging circumstances.”

Gurmu and Prabasi are currently leading private tours of The Roasting Room. An official opening date has not yet been announced. 

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