Sky’s the limit for Glenwood Springs coffee roaster, Bluebird owner
March 13, 2014
Andy Lotsberg isn't out to reinvent something that's been around for at least six centuries, as he looks to market his unique Silver Sky Coffee roasts and blends beyond the Bluebird Cafe in downtown Glenwood Springs.
"Coffee is the most-consumed drink in the world, and a lot of people are doing what I'm doing," Lotsberg said of the popularity of small-batch coffee roasting as a growing cottage industry in the United States.
"I understand that I'm a small player in this game, and we don't want to try to get too big too fast," he said.
At the same time, Lotsberg believes there is an untapped market for his special style of roasts that, until now, have only been available at the Bluebird and to customers who buy the limited supplies of Silver Sky Coffee over the counter or online.
Soon, he will begin offering 12-ounce bags of his roast collection at the counter, rather than the one-pound bags that have been the norm at the Bluebird.
"Each bag will be fresh-roasted, sealed and dated," Lotsberg said.
Beyond that, he also is gearing up to begin wholesaling Silver Sky Coffee throughout Colorado and nationwide to different coffee shops, restaurants and hotels to offer his roasts as their featured coffee.
He will be also be working with distributors to market to specialty shops, convenience stores and any other retail business owners who might want to carry Silver Sky Coffee in their stores.
"It's baby steps at this point," Lotsberg said. "At the same time, it's exciting and we're looking forward to taking that next step in marketing our brand."
ALL in a dream
The "we" in Silver Sky Coffee is Lotsberg, who resides in New Castle, and his old high school and college buddy Kurt Hans of Boulder, who is the silent partner in both Silver Sky and the Bluebird, which are maintained as separate businesses.
Lotsberg began learning how to roast coffee when he landed a job at age 17 in one of the many small, independent coffee houses that began to appear during a sort of coffee renaissance in hip cities around the country in the early 1990s.
Although Seattle usually comes to mind as the unofficial coffee capitol during that era, Minneapolis, where Lotsberg grew up, always had a strong coffee scene as well, he said.
After finishing college and working in the insurance business for a stint, Lotsberg eventually settled in the Glenwood Springs area and wound up buying the former Summit Coffee Shop at the corner of Eighth and Grand from Summit Canyon Mountaineering owner Carl Moak in 2009.
Lotsberg changed the name to the Bluebird, and at first featured coffees from other area independent roasters, including Vail Mountain Roasters and Bongo Billy's out of Buena Vista.
Owning and operating a coffee shop ended up being the perfect training ground for what he ultimately wanted to do, which was roast his own coffee to serve in his own shop — and beyond.
"All of the people I worked with really gave me the confidence that I could do this myself," Lotsberg said. "Coffee has been around for a long time, and I wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel.
"What I want to do is be as good or better than the others, and to focus on customer service and freshness," he said.
The business model he had in mind literally came to him in an early-morning dream, he says.
"Honestly, I woke up one morning and immediately just started writing it all down," Lotsberg said. He soon told Hans, who deals in business mergers and acquisitions, what he was up to and the new business partnership was born.
Lotsberg installed his single Diedrich roaster in 2010, and until now has been roasting just one day a week out of his shop in the Silt Trade Center.
"What we do for the cafe we can take care of in about two hours," Lotsberg said.
He receives his coffee bean shipments on Mondays, roasts and ships all on the same day. Therein lies his commitment to freshness, which he intends to maintain by ordering weekly rather than monthly, he said.
"That way we know it's fresher," said Lotsberg, who trained under some of the most renowned coffee roasters in the country.
Lotsberg also purchases his beans from 100 percent organic, free-trade farmers in the usual growing regions of Central and South America, Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
"It's just nice to be able to facilitate a relationship with those families and communities, and it helps to sustain their livelihoods," he said.
Lotsberg works to develop that same kind of relationship with his customers, both at the Bluebird and now with his wholesale Silver Sky customers.
The Bluebird Cafe is currently trending as the second-most popular coffee shop in Colorado on urbanspoon.com, based on positive customer comments posted to the website.
"I love the interaction of people when it comes to coffee," Lotsberg said. "As a wholesaler, we want Silver Sky to be an extension of the entity where our product is being sold."
And, he said he's not one to tell someone how they should have their coffee. "I just want folks to enjoy it, however it is that they like their coffee," he said. "I have the same mantra with food."
For now, Lotsberg is a one-person operation when it comes to the roasting business. But he hopes that will change as the business grows and he can hire sales representatives around the country and more help at the roasting shop, as demand dictates.
"We want to focus on staying true to who we are," Lotsberg said. "And we want the customer to feel like they're not just a customer."