By Chelsea Irvine
The analogy really got me thinking when Lucky Rodrigues mentioned it in passing during our chat recently. Working in the coffee industry for the last 15+ years, he said he felt like there was always a “mystical curtain” in front of coffee roasters and he wanted his staff to get behind that curtain and see that behind the Wizard of Oz-type façade, there was no magical entity. Anyone can roast top notch coffee, if they are taught correctly and using the best products.
That’s the mantra behind Lucky and his wife Vanessa’s coffee house, Identity Coffees, which is celebrating their first birthday today. It’s about the reality, not the branding and the hype.
“We are looking to bring back quality that is traceable,” he told me recently. “We are working directly with farmers; we are roasting together as a company. It’s personal for us, it’s not about branding.”
And it’s true. You can feel a difference when you walk in Identity. While the space is large and open with massive communal wood tables (crafted by Lucky himself), the staff is incredibly welcoming and are always happy to see you (any hint of 6:00 am hangover is cleverly hidden).
“Having positive people around brings up the average for a business and a community as a whole,” he added.
They have a feeling of family missing at the Starbucks and franchise-esque coffee shops we continually see popping up around town. That feeling of family comes naturally for Lucky and Vanessa, who have a home family of eight, as well as a business family of seven. When I asked how in the world they could manage five kids and a blossoming business, neither batted an eye. I, however, had to pick my jaw up off the floor in disbelief.
“We encourage a lot of independence and responsibility,” was Vanessa’s tip for handling a (literal) handful of children.
She didn’t even complain, as most mothers do, about how difficult it was when she was on maternity leave with her youngest, now a year and a half. Instead, she utilized that time to grow an impressive following on social media. Their social media presence was one of the first things that made me love the place. You get a sense for the place and the people; it’s not one piece of latte art after another.
Besides their staff and social media presence, their true connection with those growers at the beginning of their coffee lifespan sets them apart. Lucky has traveled to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Brazil to cultivate relationships with their coffee suppliers. He also has plans to bring his business partner, Ryan, along on this year’s trips, as well as his staff, so everyone can learn the ins and outs of their sourcing.
“We are not looking to expand to work with a whole spattering of producers throughout the world; growers are people we know on a personal level,” he explained. “We work with uniquely family operations where there are three to six generations of producers.”
A family business supporting family businesses is exactly what belongs in a city like ours, with such a community feel.
“We are raising our kids in this community, we are from this community,” he told me. “We want to be an integral part of directly enriching our city.”
Identity Coffees is open everyday from 6:00am to 7:00 pm and offers a menu of your typical coffee drinks, as well as a small selection of pastries and vegan cookies. They host a monthly Second Saturday Maker’s Mart during the day, where they showcase eight different local artisans each month.
To celebrate their birthday, Identity is offering FREE Espresso all day today and they are launching a new menu item: affogatos with vegan Conscious Creamery gelato. YUM!
Happy birthday, Identity! Here’s to many more years together.