Iced, blended or hot: new coffeeshops ready to brew Tri-Citians’ favorites

Brianna Cervantes wanted to be a photographer when she was a little kid.

Then at the age of 15, she found coffee, and her life changed.

“I worked at Dutch Brothers for a year and a half,” she said. “I actually wanted to be a franchisee at Dutch Brothers. I tried three times.”

Cervantes, who also worked at the local Roasters Coffee, never got that franchise.

So at the age of 19, she started her own coffee shop, NorthWest Coffee, which opened up in early July at 2465 Stevens Center Place in north Richland amid a complex of office buildings near Mission Support Alliance, Washington River Protections Solutions and Bechtel National.

“I just have always loved coffee,” said Cervantes. “It’s a fun thing. You get to talk to people. I think it’s a way to get to know people. And that’s my goal: to make people connect.”

Tri-Citians love their coffee, judging from the burgeoning growth of the coffeehouse industry, which includes the opening of several more:

  • Dutch Brothers is building two new stores: 3918 West Clearwater Ave. in Kennewick and at 924 George Washington Way in Richland.
  • Wes Heyden is finishing his ninth Roasters Coffee at Clearwater and Highway 395 at 300 N. Ely St. in Kennewick. It celebrated its grand opening with drink specials on July 14. He’s opening his tenth location before the holidays in south Richland near Keene and Kennedy roads.
  • Starbucks recently opened at 2411 W. Court St. in Pasco, making it the 15th Starbucks store in the Tri-Cities and the second one in Pasco.

Barracuda Coffee Company also recently expanded to Kennewick with the opening of its second shop at 320 N. Kellogg St. last fall.

Don’t expect an end to the growth of coffee shops, either.

“For me, the Tri-Cities is growing,” Heyden said. “And as the area keeps growing, there are opportunities to open more stores. I think there is still room for up to 20 Roasters. We haven’t touched Gage, Steptoe, east Pasco, east Kennewick. There is still tons of room. We’re growing at a fast rate.”

Construction begins on his new south Richland shop in August with an opening planned before the holidays, Heyden said.

“Our store in Walla Walla begins a build at the end of September and should open in the spring of next year,” he said.

Heyden said his company will be opening stores in Spokane too.

His confidence in the market is strong.

“Serving is where we found support,” said Heyden, whose first store opened in 2009 during the economic recession. “We give (customers) a high quality product. People desire a good product. And our product is the best.”

His company is also known for its service.

“I still have baristas that started with me eight years ago. All of my people are 31 or younger. I’m 39,” he said.

The growth in his company – a new store about every year – reflects that confidence in the Tri-City market.

“We’re a bit different. We’re fully local,” Heyden said. “We’re not a corporation like Starbucks, and we’re not a franchise operation like Dutch Brothers. It’s a mom-and-pop shop.

“Roasters is between fast food and coffee. Everything is made in house. We’re really health conscious. We’re more a suburban coffee. I see us as a Chipotle or Panera, as in fast casual. I think that’s the way people are moving.”

Heyden also admits that’s why he’d like to sell more health-conscious drinks, but customers still want their coffee and sugary drinks.

“People want what they want,” he said. “For us, it’s people not drinking more coffee. They’re drinking less coffee. It’s more energy drinks, white coffee. We’re more into dairy. We go through more dairy than coffee.”

In summer, he said, they serve more smoothies and flavored Red Bulls.

Jennifer Wheatley, head of public relations at Dutch Brothers, agreed.

“We’ve got more than coffee,” she said. “We also sell teas, chai tea, Italian sodas, seltzers, energy drinks. We have a new product called cold brewed coffee.”

Dutch Brothers began in 1992 in Grants Pass, Oregon, by brothers Dane and Travis Boersma. Today, it’s the country’s largest, privately-held drive-through coffee company.

“We have 290 stores,” said Wheatley, who said the new Clearwater store should be open by the end of the year while the new Richland store will be later.

The future George Washington Way shop is on the same property as the former Red Robin and City Buffet restaurants, but Wheatley said the coffeeshop will only use a portion of the land. The new shop will feature covered outdoor seating.

The company’s 290 shops are in seven states and have more than 5,000 employees.

Franchisees come from within the company.

“Applicants have to have at least three years working in the company, and at least one year in management,” Wheatley said. “Then they go through interviews. It could be tough. There could be as much as 25 rock-star employees trying to get that franchise.”

Dutch Brothers is also known for its outstanding service.

“We’ve seen pretty considerable growth here,” Wheatley said. “It’s interesting. We sell coffee, but as our CEO says, relationships are big. Our job is to love people, and at the end of the day, we want to make their day better. We want you here as a customer. And I think the longer we are in a location, the more people are drawn to us.”

Meanwhile, the new Pasco Starbucks store — inside a former Dairy Queen restaurant — is 2,700 square feet.

“This is our second Starbucks in Pasco, and we are excited to serve customers in a new neighborhood and show them what the Starbucks experience is all about,” said Starbucks regional manager Jason Ostrer.

That Starbucks experience includes a good product and customer service.

Each company’s customer base is varied.

“It’s really a mix,” Wheatley said. “We have a lot of millennial customers and millennial employees, but we run the gamut in ages.”

That’s why the Tri-Cities should expect more coffeehouses to come.

“The Tri-Cities is fantastic. It’s been very good to us,” Heyden said.

Wheatley agreed: “I know that franchisees are very optimistic about the growth in the Tri-Cities.”

And that’s why the teen-aged Cervantes is taking notes.

“The Tri-Cities is still growing,” she said. “It’s become common to go buy a cup of coffee rather than make it at home. People like their customer service and their coffee. And it’s affordable.”

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