Roasters Coffee eyes busy Richland corner

Former Circle K site at Leslie, Gage being cleaned to prep for sale

The owner of Roasters Coffee wants to build a drive-thru coffee stand at the busy corner of Leslie Road and West Gage Boulevard by spring 2020, as part of his long-range goal to open 25 shops by 2023.

Formerly the site of a Circle K gas station and convenience store, the coffee shop would join more than a dozen Roasters in the Tri-Cities since the first opened in Pasco in 2009.

The Richland gas station and mini-mart at 590 W. Gage Blvd. closed this spring, and the gas station pump area has been torn down. Circle K still owns the property and is working to remove underground gasoline tanks to prep the site for sale.

Realtor Lance Bacon of Kiemle Hagood confirmed the property is under contract to an undisclosed LLC. He expected it will be at least three months before the sale goes through since the property must be readied for purchase first.

“They’re not going to buy if it’s contaminated,” Bacon said.

Circle K Stores Inc. has owned the property since buying it from Craig and Marilee Eerkes in 2012.

Roasters owner Wes Heyden said he was approached about developing on the site, explaining “there’s not much you can put on that lot,” and has since signed a letter of intent for a 10-year lease, with a plan to add a coffee stand, including a single-side drive-thru window.

Heyden said he’s working with the city of Richland on access points at the intersection.

Right now, drivers can enter the lot from the southbound lanes of Leslie Road or westbound lanes of Gage.

Heyden said he’d like to restrict access from the current Gage entrance and instead use the driveway just west of the corner lot, where customers turn in to the strip mall that’s home to Papa Murphy’s Take and Bake Pizza and Greek Islands Cuisine.

This proposal would remove the barrier adjacent to the strip mall to allow easier access to and from the proposed coffee shop.

“I’ve always wanted to do something on Leslie and Gage,” said Heyden, who is excited at the prospect of opening a store near an established Starbucks. “I like competing against corporate monsters. It keeps the fire burning.”

The property was marketed to buyers with a daily traffic count of about 20,000 cars.

For commuters concerned about the potential traffic increase a Roasters could bring, Heyden said, “We have refined our systems to push a lot of traffic through quickly.”

Heyden said he’s on track to open the 12th and 13th Roasters later this year, including one at Steptoe Boulevard and Center Parkway in south Richland and one at West 27th Avenue and South Vancouver Street, just east of Canyon Lakes.

The south Richland location will be on an empty lot just north of West Clearwater Avenue that’s owned by Tim Bush. It was once advertised that a new car wash also was on the way for that site, but Bush said that’s no longer the plan.

“It just didn’t make a lot of sense,” Bush said, when there’s one not far away on South Edison Street in Kennewick and a new one is coming to West Richland at Keene and Kennedy roads.

The Roasters at Steptoe and Center Parkway will be on the corner in a freestanding building, with a single-side drive-thru, next to a planned 10,000-square-foot strip mall.

Heyden said both of these future locations fit with his business model to open where there aren’t a lot of current options for consumers.

“If we can get in before the big box chains, it seems to work better,” he said.

Construction is set to begin by July at the Steptoe site and open by the end of the year. The Kennewick coffee stand is in progress and will feature a double-sided drive-thru when finished this fall.

Roasters first opened a decade ago on North 20th Avenue across from Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

“We came at the right time when the Tri-Cities was starting to become its own area,” Heyden said.

Since then, it replaced some Espresso World shops when that business closed, including one of its high-profile locations on George Washington Way in Richland. That spot recently underwent an extensive $300,000 remodel that required a brief closure.

“It was busy, but the place was falling apart,” Heyden said. “It was hard to feel clean when you walked in.”

The Richland shop reopened with Roasters’ new branding, which Heyden describes as “calm colors,” compared to the old red and black, that reflects “the maturity of the business and its structure to help set employees up for future success.”

Future stores will feature the same look. “We wanted to make something beautiful for the entrance to Richland,” he said.

Roasters added its first site outside the Tri-Cities last year when it expanded to Walla Walla, and it is preparing to open a store in Yakima on South 25th Avenue and Nob Hill.

Roasters also is opening two shops in the Spokane area by next year, one in Airway Heights and one on Northwest Boulevard.

“We are moving consciously but moving quickly to take advantage of opportunities as they’re there,” Heyden said. “We want to keep on serving more people.”

It’s a big change from the first five years of operations, when Roasters maintained one store in each of the Tri-Cities.

Heyden said business really jumped with its expansion to Road 68, built in conjunction with a Bush Car Wash and Bruchi’s restaurant.

It takes about three months to build one of the free-standing shops that average about 600 square feet.

Heyden said construction costs have doubled since he first started. It used to cost about $200,000 and now they’re about $500,000, including ground work.

For the shops under construction, Wave Design Group of Kennewick was the architect and O’Brien Construction Co. Inc. of Kennewick is the general contractor.

Each Roasters employs about 10 to 15 workers, and Heyden recognizes that wages from his employees often go back into the community. This has helped fuel his effort to keep his vision local.

“We’re very focused on the local community. The more we’re growing, the more we realize that’s our mission: to give back,” he said.

If the deal goes through for the site at Leslie and Gage, Heyden said he hopes to open there about a year from now.

He expects construction could start in early spring.

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