Long before every street corner housed a Starbucks (or so it seems), Village Roaster was providing premium coffees, teas, and spices to Lakewood residents. Gary and Mary Ellen Mencimer opened the shop near the corner of Alameda and Garrison in 1979, and sold it to Mary Ellen’s sister and her husband, Kathleen and Jim Curtis, in 1994. A founding member of the Specialty Coffee Association in 1982, Village Roaster has adapted and grown with Lakewood residents’ changing tastes over the years. We chatted with the Curtis’ to find out how.
5280: What was the Village Roaster like when it opened in the ‘70s?
Jim: It was just roasting coffee with five [coffee] varietals. Today, we roast 32 different kinds of coffee on the premises. We also used to sell a lot of kitchen wares and even had a demo kitchen where the espresso bar is today. We’d set up folding chairs and invite manufacturer’s reps to come in and demo their products, like woks, pasta machines, baking racks. [The shop sold] lots of cooking gadgets, and the pots and pans and spices that went along with them.
When did Village Roasters incorporate the espresso bar?
Kathleen: We didn’t actually open the espresso bar until the early 1990s. That became more what people wanted.
Jim: We offered the espresso bar for those that didn’t want to [brew their coffee] at home.
How have things changed since you two took over in the ‘90s?
Kathleen: At the time we took over, the beverage bar had only been open one year. Since then it’s grown, along with prepared food items, to make up about one third of our business. The whole bean coffee is still about 40 percent of our sales. The trend is that people like to have their coffee made for them or to have a specialty drink.
Jim: When economic times are good, people spend the money to have their beverage prepared. When things tighten up a bit, we have the ability to teach people how to use the equipment that we sell so they can actually produce the coffee at home for less. We are able to meet both needs.
Is there something about the coffee business that people don’t know?
Jim: The coffee industry is the largest consumer of dairy products in the world. We go through 200 gallons of milk every week. We get ours from Royal Crest because we can reuse the containers.
What other coffee trends are you seeing?
Kathleen: The Keurig and the K-cup. With an aging population, we hear from customers, “Well, my kids got me a Keurig because then I can just make one cup, but I sure miss your coffee.” We sell the reuseable cups that people can put fresh roasted coffee in, but they have to load it themselves. It’s a matter of convenience. A lot of the population has moved to that, but they really compromise quality.
Jim: And they are also putting a lot of stuff into landfills.
9255 W. Alameda Avenue, Lakewood, 303-238-8718