« The Mailbag | Main | Aldo 2.0 - Part 1b »

Comments

Jayfanelli

Well said. This behavior is endemic to Pittsburgh. Locals have rarely experienced the best of anything—the quality of goods or services available in New York, Chicago, or even Cleveland—so there's a suspicion and even rejection of it. Convenience and consistency reigns above all.

If they don't love you in Lebo, bring it to the city.

Jay Roman

Don't go! i just got out of the hospital and am counting on "coffee therapy" at Aldo Coffee Co!!! Bring on the Brazilians! (coffee, that is!) Congrats to Espanha, but look out for Brasil 2014!!!!

VJ Marks

I read your post with great interest, and would like to share my thoughts. While I do not drink coffee, and have never visited your store, I have been a marketing professional for over 20 years - hopefully that counts. Your situation is not uncommon outside of the retail coffee business.

There are 2 primary approaches to expanding your market, as you know: 1) reach more people who prefer the best coffee, and 2) get the average Joe to prefer the best coffee.

Yes, it's difficult to get people outside of your local area, but it can be done - example - Sharp Edge has done it. (I used to frequent it way before new management purchased it and repositioned it successfully.) I suggest that you find a way to talk with the owners of the Sharp Edge on how they did it. Have you tried bringing the coffee to other locations via events or partnerships with restaurants? If you go outside of Mt Lebanon and meet people who prefer the best coffee, you'll get to know them personally, and they will become evangelists for your coffee and store. Are there coffee stores that sell the best coffee like yours but are not nearby in Mt. Lebanon? There is a good chance that they have the same issue. You could possibly partner with them to share the marketing costs for expanding the market for each store. Yes, there are some risks, but they are shared, and the benefits are, too.

For the average Joe customer, it is possible to win some of them, too. It starts with getting them to try it. People that like fine wines, belgium beers, premium cigars, etc. didn't start that way; they tried it and acquired a taste and appreciation for it. Since there are a lot of "average Joe's" out there, you'll need to be more precise in targeting this next wave of lovers of great coffee. Do you know several people who used to be the "average Joe coffee drinker" but now love the best coffees? If so, talk with them - try to understand what other premium products they like, and the places or events they frequent, or the places they live. If you see a pattern, then you could try to reach more people like them. You could possibly partner or co-market with the sellers of those other products to run 'tastings', or other marketing tactics; or reach them by having a presence at the same events or places.

But, all of this marketing and education effort requires money and time. To do so you MUST increase your profits and profit margins to fund the strategy for growth. Sell more per visit. Lower your costs. Raise your prices. Your customers that prefer the best are not likely to be price sensitive. Uncomfortable raising prices, test it on one or two items, in small increments and see what the results are. If you can't raise the prices, try to find other creative ways to get more per transaction (can you offer larger servings at higher prices? or smaller servings at the same prices?) As I said, I don't drink coffee, so I can't be imaginative on this.

Hope this helps.

Amelie

Rich-
You've been in business much longer than we have, however, I'm sure you know that many of the issues you've discussed above are not strictly confined to the suburbs and we experience the same frustrations. I believe there has to be a happy equilibrium whether you're talking pizza or coffee and the mineo's of the world are not going anywhere, nor do I believe they should. Good luck in your future plans! I read that cow girl espresso in Seattle increased their sale 100% when their barista started wearing bikini's. We'll be changing our dress code/uniform in the near future ;)If they don't come for the coffee, Barb's larger ones may just do the trick.

Chris Mayhew

I would pay a premium to not see anyone at Aldo's in a bikini. Except Frank.

Drew Lehman

You are welcome to join Gregory in Dormont...the T stop is very busy...

Ward

Rich and Melanie,
Location, location, location. You could sell swill (many do) if you have the right location. You can lead a horse to water, but ya can't make him drink, and if he has to be inconvenienced like finding a parking space, will just as soon lower his standards and drink from the first puddle that's more convenient.
After closely working with La Prima and witnessing the "I could give a shit" attitude that permeated throughout most coffee shops in the city, it was a pleasure to stumble onto Aldo. Along with Amy at tazza, you have pioneered and carried the weight of introducing this city to higher standards, and the effort was not without results. I can personally attest that La Prima improved their product because of what you were doing in Mt. Lebanon, and the two of you have helped immensely improving the level of quality throughout the city. The followers, my shop included, have found a community where the culture of coffee is promoted, and the city has benefitted. As a former Seattleite, tazza was the first local coffee shop I'd experienced that reminded me of what was possible, and then visiting Aldo prior to opening Simpatico I believed I'd found an example of what I could strive to achieve in the business venture I'd been planning. In fact, the help I got from Melanie – training and talking about the business – was possibly the most important ingredient that helped us establish ourselves to produce a quality product. We've always enjoyed our relationship with La Prima as our roaster, and feel they sell a good product, but it was Aldo's assistance and example that we followed to get the most out of what we work with. We've struggled to make our venture worth the investment, and we also struggle with location. But like you, we enjoy what we do. The unfortunate reality is the toll it can take as the luxuries of life are being enjoyed by many others that don't have to put much effort into gaining their luxuries.
I hope others –– 21st St., Voluto, espresso a mano, and other quality shops I'm forgetting to mention –– join me in wishing you luck in the decision you make, and sincerely thank and respect you for your efforts and what you have done for the local coffee community. I doubt many locals realize the respect you have garnered beyond this city, giving us all a good name (I believe Pittsburgh has gained a reputation as a city you can now get quality espresso/coffee). Simpatico is not in the same league if compared to what you produce (I stand behind our product but we've compromised standards and offer lots of fructose and milk :) ), and hope you continue what you've established but with more financial reward for your effort.
Buona fortuna ed auguri!

mtleb99

Nice shots at Uptown, way to be neighborly

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

What's Goin' On

  • Hey there... if you're looking for our physical store, we closed as of November 15, 2011. The space is under new ownership as Orbis Caffe, still serving delicious coffee and food with great service. We hope you'll give them a try. For info on Melanie and Rich, follow @aldo_mel or @richwesterfield or visit accidentalroaster.com.
Aldo's Slideshow

Coffee How To's

Advancing the Coffee Culture

  • Coffee Kids
    A charity we support that improves the quality of life for children in coffee-growing regions around the world.
  • CoffeeGeek
    Reviews on gadgetry and techniques for the home brewing enthusiast.
  • Coffee Review
    Connosieur Ken David and friends review and rate various coffees, including offerings served at Aldo Coffee Company from Intelligentsia Cofee Roasters like the fabulous espresso blend Black Cat.
  • Coffee Research
    What do you want to know about coffee?
  • Portafilter.net
    The geekiest of coffee geeks aspire to extract the absolute perfect cup.
  • Tea Guide
    Directory of shops serving quality teas.
  • Espresso Map
    A map that pinpoints the best espresso joints in the US and Canada as determined by the site's author and professional peer reviews.
  • Barismo
    Jamie Van Schyndel and friends dissect anything and everything coffee and tea related from beans and leaves to technique and equipment in pursuit of perfection.
  • Pittsburgh Area Coffee Association
    Jake Liefer of Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea built a blog aggregator and community site for local baristas.
  • In Season Coffee
    No coffee served after its time.
  • Sweet Maria's
    The ultimate source for green coffee for home roasters. Tom's knowledge of coffee is encyclopaedic.
  • twitchy
    Liz Clayton's blog is the ET of coffee.
  • Intelligentsia LA
    Group blog from Intelligentsia's Silver Lake and Venice baristas and roasters.
  • Accidental Roaster
    Adventures of a barista/cafe owner on becoming a coffee roaster.
  • Bitter Press
    Jess from Intelligentsia uses science to explain things.

Heroes & Legends

  • Murky Coffee (NoVa)
    Retailer (non-roaster) who's one of the best indie shops on the East Coast. Features selection of top roasters and pulls only ristrettos. No drip - Americanos and press pots only.
  • Stumptown (Portland, OR)
    Along with Intelligentsia, probably the most acclaimed coffee roaster in the US. A certifiable Coffee Mecca that's turned Portland into the quality coffee capital of the Pacific Northwest.
  • Espresso Vivace (Seattle)
    David Schomer is widely acknowledged as a perfectionist. Espresso Vivace is home to his science and art.
  • Intelligentsia (Chicago)
    Our coffee source and one of the most highly acclaimed roasters in US. Taught us most everything we know (although we think they're still holding back some secrets).
  • Joe The Art of Coffee (NYC)
    Preposterous name, but consistently ranked among top espresso joints in New York, which has to mean something, no?
  • Caffe Vittoria (Boston)
    OK, maybe it's not the best espresso in Boston. But Vittoria is a great North End experience. A riot of noise, cappuccino, cannoli and sambuca. This is Rich's dream joint. Except with better coffee.
  • Blue Bottle (SF)
    Beans microroasted fresh daily and whatever doesn't sell today is tossed. Has raised the bar for every other joint in the Bay Area.
  • Peets (Berkeley/SF)
    Alfred Peet is often called "the grandfather of the specialty coffee industry". Started in 1966, Peets continues to have a loyal following, despite tons of regional competition.
  • George Howell's Terroir (Boston)
    George's Coffee Connection was specialty coffee in New England for years. Then he sold out to the dark empire. Now he's back with Terroir, identifying and promoting single source coffees. No stores yet, only whole bean sales.
  • The Roasterie (Kansas City)
    Reginal powerhouse coffee buyer, roaster, trainer and local retail chain in KC, Missouri.
  • Ninth St. Espresso (NYC)
    King of espresso on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
  • Gimme! Coffee (Ithaca/NYC)
    Gimme! was among the first Eastern shops to rival the best in the PNW. Born in Ithaca, they're now in Brooklyn, Chelsea Market and LES.
  • Simon's (Boston)
    Cambridge, MA, used to be home to Jaime VanSchyndel, barista provocateur. Not sure if they're still what they were when Jaime was on bar, but it's likely still the best cup in Boston.
  • Caffe Artigiano (Vancouver, BC)
    Two time Canadian Barista Champ Sammy Piccolo and his roaster brother Vince have put Artigiano in the heads of espresso geeks worldwide. They cornered the market on 2005 Brazil CoE Santa Ines to ensure their proper place on the quality map.
  • Ritual Coffee (SF)
    Ask for Gabe or Baca. Lines usually out the door. For good reason.
  • Cafe Grumpy (NYC)
    In the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and now with a Lower West Side storefront. Top equipment and beans from Ecco and Counter Culture.
  • Octane (Atlanta)
    Hotlanta's cool kids of coffee, led by M'lissa. Great skills, great training, great coffee.
  • Alterra (Milwaukee)
    One of our favorite macchiatos was served here. Scott and Justin rock. The espresso stands up to milk like few others.
  • Zoka (Seattle)
    One of the largest and best macroroasters in the Pacific Northwest. Numerous barista champions worked on bar for Zoka.

Muses

  • Chris Brogan
    Fun guy, busy guy, usually in Pgh for PodCamp. Chris is the best at distilling high-tech social media concepts for use in low-tech businesses.
  • Seth Godin
    There are a lot of big thinkers out there. Seth may not be the biggest, but he's the best at crystallizing big ideas into actionable agendas.
  • Hugh McLeod
    Been following Hugh since the early days of blogs. He called us one of his first global microbrands. We call him a revolutionary genius.