Students in need of an energy boost at Passport Cafe might notice the stark contrast of the large black and white sign above the register against Passport's neutral walls. It's a sign for Blanchard's Coffee Co., founded by alumnus David Blanchard (Richmond College '02), which currently supplies the coffee for Everything Convenience, Passport and Lou's Cafe.
Based on what head roaster Seth Bauserman likes to call "sensory roasting," Blanchard's tries to deliver the best quality coffee to the Richmond community and beyond. Bauserman is an artist at heart, so when he roasts coffee, he uses a hands-on approach. That means he uses none of the computer systems that competitors might use--just a timer, a temperature reading, his ears and his nose.
Blanchard started Blanchard's Coffee Co. in his father's garage. It all started with Blanchard realizing that there was no good coffee in Richmond, he said, and that he could make better coffee than what was out there. His wife, Kelly Blanchard, sold her car so they could purchase their first coffee roaster, and he began selling what they roasted to friends. The business quickly expanded beyond that, and in late 2004, they opened up a retail location in Forest Hill.
Blanchard's Coffee Co. continued to grow in popularity and attracted a following, but a big turning point was when Ukrop's supermarkets started carrying Blanchard's coffee, Blanchard said. Ultimately, the Blanchards decided to focus on wholesale and moved to their current location in the historic Manchester district of Richmond. That focus on wholesale and the relationship with Ukrop's helped lead to the current arrangement with University of Richmond.
When asked about the partnership with Richmond, Stephen Robertson, Blanchard's director of sales and marketing, said: "It helped that we supplied Ukrop's, but it definitely helped that David was an alumnus. We just tasted a lot of coffee with people and built the relationships that mattered."
Good relationships are definitely a theme at Blanchard's Coffee Co. "[Blanchard's] is the best coffee around," Robertson said. "But we just have good people and attract a specific kind of customer."
As a business administration major with a marketing concentration, Blanchard said he thought his experiences at Richmond, particularly his interactions with his professors, inspired him to create his business and that kind of familiar culture at Blanchard's. "It was really great to talk to people like Professor Babb, who have been out in the business world and have a lot of experience," he said.
Blanchard also had some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Follow your passion. Some people are often too driven by money, but his philosophy is that "profit is the air that the company breathes, but after that, it's about the passion of you and the people you work with."
Contact reporter Mike Woitach at firstname.lastname@example.org