The owners of Barracuda Coffee Company say their popular Richland shop is more than a place to get a mocha, latte or tea. To them, it’s a place to connect with others and build relationships.
“This has become our ministry and this is how we want to relate to people,” Michelle Shupe said. “We love people and hope people come in to enjoy. We’ll learn their names, their drinks, offer relationships and a little dose of sarcasm.”
It’s been a recipe for success as owners Jake and Michelle Shupe are celebrating the grand opening of their second shop this month at 320 N. Kellogg St. in Kennewick.
In 2009, the couple bought Barracuda Coffee Company on Van Giesen Street in Richland after Jake Shupe attended Bible college and his wife worked a stint in nursing. Both also were involved with youth ministry at a local church.
“We were simply looking to supplement our income,” Jake Shupe said. He’d worked for former owner Bill Pogue for about a year in 2003 and fallen in love with coffee, so the idea appealed to him.
“It was kind of our dream after ministry – coffee while building relationships and working closely with our employees,” Jake Shupe said. “We tell our employees, ‘People first; then great coffee.’”
The original Richland store employs eight full-time employees in addition to the Shupes. The new shop will have six full-time employees, two of whom were promoted from the Richland store.
“We’d talked for years about a partnership with my uncle. He bought the building (on Kellogg), which allows us to do a dine-in. It fits with our model of building relationships,” Jake Shupe said. “You tend to see more places where people can come in and sit down in bigger cities.”
“There’s kind of a ‘fast food’ culture in Tri-Cities of double drive-throughs. We really wanted a place for people to slow down, enjoy one another and coffee,” Jake Shupe said.
The new shop has 30-plus indoor seats that will allow for just that and the drive-through will offer efficiency to those needing it.
The 1,200-square-foot Kennewick building boasts a rustic atmosphere with reclaimed wood, metal and glass to provide a warm meeting spot. Finished concrete floors finish off the décor. A bar seating area affords a unique spot for customers to sit.
“Customers can enjoy coffee ‘pour-over’ style, fresh off the roaster if they so choose,” Jake Shupe said.
Considerations for choosing the second Tri-City site included being near an existing business, having a previously-installed drive-through/window, indoor seating, and most importantly, location, location, location.
“This is a main thoroughfare and the amount of traffic here is more than at the Van Giesen location,” Jake Shupe said. Residents from Panoramic Heights and those heading to surrounding businesses are potential customers, he said.
“We currently capture just under 5 percent of the traffic on Van Giesen. I’d like to capture 3 percent of the traffic here on Kellogg. I think that’d make us extremely successful,” Jake Shupe said. “Within five years, I’d like to be close to the 5 percent capture rate at the new location, which equates to between 15,000 and 17,000 customers per month.”
During their first year in Kennewick, the Shupes said they would like to match the traffic at the Van Giesen store, which it gauges by the number of sales tickets, or about 300 customers per day. The Richland store regularly serves between 9,000 and 10,000 customers per month.
The coffee company has experienced increased profits every year for the past seven years, except in 2014, which Jake Shupe attributes to Hanford’s forced lay-offs and people’s fear and tentativeness to spend disposable income.
“Since opening, we’ve seen growth of 7 to 10 percent every year. It’s been good,” Jake Shupe said. “We’re already on track to meet about 8 percent over last year.”
The entrepreneurial couple would love to expand into west Pasco, but don’t have “any visions of having 10 stores,” said Jake Shupe. “That is, unless those are God’s plans for us.” The Shupes grew up in the Tri-Cities, are raising their children here and plan to keep the business local.
Barracuda offers $1 off drinks priced $3 or more for all students (including Columbia Basin College and Washington State University Tri-Cities) and teachers if school badges are shown.
A second facet of the business is its parent company, Charis (the Greek word for “grace”) Coffee, which the Shupes hope to build upon. The Shupes roast and package beans and deliver to customers.
“Basically, it requires more time for us to go to local coffee shops and offer samples of our beans,” Michelle Shupe said of what would be required to see the growth they desire. Their “roaster” has created an exclusive blend for The Reach museum and can do so for others.
“We’d really like to grow that portion of the business. It’s so sustainable,” she said. Coffee beans are sourced from around the world. The current “menu” includes beans from three African countries, seven Latin American farms and a couple Pacific Rim locations.
“Our farms will change. The crops will finish and we’ll pick up another source,” Michelle Shupe said. Steve Stoneking, former owner of Buzz Joy, is the company’s roaster.
“We’re blessed; he actually feels his calling in life is to roast coffee,” Jake Shupe said. “Because of him, we have the capacity to do custom blends and custom labels for coffee shops, churches and anyone who regularly makes large amounts of coffee.” One of the two roasting machines will be located inside the Kellogg Street store.
The Shupes are very satisfied to have opened Barracuda’s second location in the Tri-Cities.
“We strive to offer a place of sanctuary for people to build relationships with us and each other,” Jake Shupe said. “It’s a nice place to relax. Someone we recently interviewed said, ‘Find people who are gifted with hospitality first,’ and that’s so true. I agree because you can always train people to make coffee. We are people-oriented first.”
The new location is open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit barracudacoffee.com or http://charis.coffee, or call 509-531-2045.
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