Home Back Issues November 2010 Noble Coffee prospers in Ashland

Noble Coffee prospers in Ashland

| Print |  Email
Articles - November 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010

 

1110_Tactics01
PHOTO BY JAMIE LUSCH

Just leaning across the wood-topped stand-up bar to talk to a customer, Jared Rennie is in motion. He’s not distracted. Thirty-four-year-old Rennie is the founder and co-owner of Noble Coffee Roasting, a wholesale and retail organic coffee business with its global headquarters in a 3,000-square-foot airy space in the up-and-coming Railroad District in Ashland. Rennie is focused on the conversation, talking with his hands.

He speaks about coffee the way he uses the shop’s La Marzocco espresso machine, with a restless energy and movements as purposeful and efficient as a tennis player’s.

“There’s been a very strong positive reaction to what we do,” says Rennie, nodding to the queue of customers — both locals and tourists — who await the richly flavored precision-brewed coffee presented with the panache of a gourmet dessert for which Noble is becoming famous. Every varietal of coffee they serve is roasted and prepared to bring out individual characteristics. Whether citrusy and wine-like, or full-bodied and caramely, each batch is different but absolutely delicious.

Noble Coffee Roasting
Founder: Jared Rennie
Founded: 2006
Pounds of coffee roasted per week: up to 1,500
Customers: 500 per day, 62 per hour
Annual gross sales: $1 million
Employees: 17
Price of Probat roasting equipment: $50,000

 

Though critics doubted that Ashland could support another coffee business (with its 20,000-some inhabitants, the city already has two Starbucks and about 10 independent coffee houses), Noble has seen more than triple-digit growth in both the wholesale and the retail business since the café opened in May 2009.

Noble uses only fairly traded and sustainably grown coffee. Drinks range from $2 to $4 for siphon coffee made to order, and are made with only organic coffee and milk, and to standards so demanding that drinks are served just one way, with no personal preferences. The barista will throw away a bad shot rather than serve it.

The main tenets of Rennie’s values-driven business philosophy: uncompromising product and slow growth. Noble has accounts throughout Oregon and California’s Bay Area, and Rennie says there is more demand for his product — and the extensive training given to any business serving Noble coffee — than he can accommodate. Rennie has had calls from Alabama and southeastern Washington. He has been turning down customers.

“We pay a lot of attention to our accounts. We also have a high level of expectation,” Rennie explains. “We’ve pulled our coffee from some accounts because they butcher it. We want Noble Coffee to mean something … Doing great coffee is really hard. It’s really easy to take great coffee and mess it up.”

Rennie is no stranger to doing things the hard way. Growing up working class, he and his family moved often because of his stepfather’s failed business ventures. Rennie remembers how he and his brother would resell golf balls collected at the driving range to give the money to their mom to buy food.

When he was 12 the family settled in Medford. Rennie earned his B.A. at Southern Oregon University in 1999 with a double major in Spanish and International Studies. Working his way through college, he learned the coffee roasting business at a roastery in Jacksonville. Though he was passionate about coffee (he convinced his wife, Carolyn, that they should buy a home espresso machine for $1,000), he earned a Master’s in teaching and taught high school Spanish for eight years.

But Rennie missed coffee. He had been telling his students (two of whom now work for Noble) to follow their dreams. “After years trying to convince myself not to do it, I finally said to my wife, let’s give it a go,” he says. “I told her we might fail. We might go bankrupt and lose our house. But we decided to do it anyway. On big decisions you have to follow your heart.”

Though that sounds woo-woo, Rennie didn’t just open the doors and hope people would come buy a luxury product in the middle of a recession. He and his partners began by roasting in Rennie’s garage and selling beans and service locally for two years, making a name for the brand. While preparing the retail space, they opened the back door in the alley three mornings a week and gave away espresso drinks, generating buzz while honing technique with the new machine. By the time Noble opened for business, people were lining up to get in.

“It’s the responsibility of business owners to improve the world in some way,” says Rennie. He knows many of the coffee growers personally and gladly pays higher prices for quality product. “Even in a small way. Even if it’s just with a cup of coffee.”

JENNIFER MARGULIS
 

Comments   

 
Roxanne
0 #1 Roxanne 2010-10-28 16:03:32
Congratulations to Rennie and his team. This sounds like a great venture. I'm mostly a coffee-at-home girl (if at all), but when I do grab a cup when I'm out ... I really do try to frequent independent shops.
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Alexandra
0 #2 Alexandra 2010-10-28 16:06:10
“It’s the responsibility of business owners to improve the world in some way." . I love this approach. Congratulations to Jared Rennie on his success.
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Casey@Good. Food. Stories.
0 #3 Casey@Good. Food. Stories. 2010-10-28 16:29:13
Good to see a successful small business with lots of heart behind it supported by the community - smart guy, building a following the way he did!
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Melanie @Frugal Kiwi
0 #4 Melanie @Frugal Kiwi 2010-10-29 11:17:02
He followed the dream and it looks like it is paying off. I live in a rural village with NO coffee shops, so I'm jealous of any place that has better coffee options than the vile stuff at the McDonald's.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Q & A with Chuck Eggert

News
Thursday, March 06, 2014
03.06.14 thumb pacfoodsBY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER

The founder of Pacific Foods talks about why his company has flown under the radar in Oregon, how saving a family-run chicken hatchery has helped his bottom line and why he thinks organic food is anything but elitist.


Read more...

Wheel man

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Les Schwab has put a premium on customer service since 1952, when legendary namesake Les Schwab founded the company with one store in Prineville. (Schwab died in 2007.) But if the corporate principles remain essentially the same, the world around this iconic Oregon business has changed dramatically.


Read more...

Powerlist: Meeting perspectives

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BY BRANDON SAWYER

A conversation about the event-planning industry with sales directors from McMenamins and the Portland Art Museum. 


Read more...

Speeding up science

News
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
02.25.14 Thumbnail MedwasteBY JOE ROJAS-BURKE | OB BLOGGER

The medical research enterprise wastes tens of billions of dollars a year on irrelevant studies. It’s time to fix it.


Read more...

The 2014 List: The Top 34 Medium Companies to Work, For in Oregon

March 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014

100best14logoWebOur 100 Best Companies project turned 21 this year, so pop open the Champagne. Our latest survey gives us plenty to cheer.

 


Read more...

Why I became an educator

News
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
03.04.14 thumbnail teachBY DEBRA RINGOLD | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

How can we strengthen the performance of institutions charged with teaching what Francis Fukuyama calls the social virtues (reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust) necessary for successful markets and democracy itself?


Read more...

Buy the book

News
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
2 03.25.14 thumb bookshopBY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER

Oregon is home not only to many fine writers but also several accomplished small publishers.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS