Getting Our Verve On
Ed. note: We’re crushing pretty hard on Verve these days, and recent visits to Santa Cruz proved swoon-worthy beyond our wildest dreams. In fact, we so fancy Verve’s striking figure that we gave them our coveted 2011 Sprudgie Award for Notable Roaster. Verve’s new space in Santa Cruz will be host to the coffee world for this year’s SWRBC. For now, enjoy the above pictures, and read our in-depth take on what we think is one of the most gorgeous roasteries in the world. – Sprudge.
When Verve opened their doors in November 2007 in the sleepy surf-side neighborhood of Pleasure Point, there was a dearth of specialty coffee in the Santa Cruz area – more elephant seals than baristas, more boardwalk dwellers than cafe haunters. The last four years have brought Verve international acclaim and a loyal nationwide customer base, while cultivating loyalty among fiercly local Santa Cruzans, dominating in barista competitions, and earning a spot as a darling of the specialty coffee industry. It seems as though Verve has been around forever, and we mean that as a very, very good thing.
Now, four years later, Verve has expanded their footprint with gracious surfer ease, opening an impressive roasting facility and jaw-dropping showroom location in downtown Santa Cruz, California. We love seeing our friends succeed, and holy smokes is this new cafe a success.
The new Pacific Avenue cafe is a massive 2,350 square foot space, not counting the mezzanine area they built, located in a historical flatiron building. Colby told Sprudge, “It is a bit bigger then we would normally seek but we were too in love with the space to pass up. It’s hard to find good, natural light in the stores down on Pac Ave. The stores are normally narrow and deep with minimal frontage and thereby windows.”
Verve’s new space is situated directly across from Santa Cruz staple Lulu’s, a second wave Italian themed cafe. “Yes,” Colby admits, “we opened up across from our competition. What are you going to do? The space was too good and we had been looking for too long.”
Verve paired up with Fuse Architecture for the build-out. Colby adds, “We wanted to embrace the style of the building which feels very industrial era, early 1900s and carry that through the space, while making it current and also feel like Verve. That led to the high tin ceilings that we installed, and the use of a lot of repurposed factory pieces (lighting, tables, etc). We embraced the odd angles of the space. To fight it was futile.”
All of the wood in the space was salvaged from their Seabright Roastery and remilled. The wood is one hundred year-old Douglas Fir.
“Other than the play on shape, the industrial influences, the salvaged wood, and the more modern elements, really we just wanted function of the workspace and room for people to breathe – and at the end of the day, for it to feel like Verve. Hopefully we achieved that.”
After nearly a year of work, Verve’s new roast works began operations at the end of September. The facility is Verve’s green storage, training room, office space, and cupping lab, and the space itself is located in the Seabright neighborhood of Santa Cruz, one of few industrial parcels of the city. Verve’s owner Colby Barr told Sprudge, “[It] was really important to us as we like to remain neighborhood based as a company,” and that this ethos informed their decision to keep their second location in Santa Cruz.
It wasn’t a simple job getting the building up and running Verve style. The facility is part of the original Santa Cruz Cannery complex, and is well over 100 years old. Verve is sharing the complex with two bakeries, a climbing gym, a sail company, and offices for Richard Novak, a famous Santa Cruzan with a surf, skate, and mountain bike empire (Mr. Novak also owns the building). The previous tenant in Verve’s space was the O’neill family, famous makers of wetsuits. Mr. Barr told us “They used to manufacture wetsuits here and then had used it as a storage unit for 18 years. Besides the crazy 80s posters all over, there was also Jack O’neill’s old hot air balloon that he used to launch from a boat. Straight Zissou. The guy is a maniac!”
The space was completely overhauled with a new concrete pad, seismic retrofit, windows, siding, insulation; basically everything. A 1000 square foot portion of the four-inch concrete second-story slab was removed to create vertical space for the roastery. The goal was to keep the materials raw, with a modern architectural look: sandblasted timbers line the lofty roof; poured concrete, raw and Corten steel hold the place together; huge expanses of glass and a shou sugi ban redwood exterior that Colby blowtorched himself. The building feels simultaneously raw and polished, but never artifical or forced. For the coup de grâce , roaster Sean White provided the finishing touches throughout with his unique silkscreened artwork. “This is our new and future headquarters and we wanted to make sure it was a great place to work,” Mr. Barr told Sprudge. ”So we approached the redesign more like a home than a warehouse, hence all of the windows and natural light.”
The total floorspace of the facility is 7,100 square feet. The roastery floor is 4,100 square feet. According to longtime Vervet Jared Truby, “We have a 1965 UG-15 installed and have a G45 being restored to accompany it, along with an L5. We’re Probat crazy around here.” The training room is 750 square feet, which is as large as their previous roasting facility. It features training space for both staff and wholesale, as well as a competition layout with WBC certified equipment. The 500 square foot cupping lab adjoins the 1,500 square foot office space upstairs.
The facility is fronted by a frankly gorgeous 250 square foot (“that’s all the space we were allowed”) coffee kiosk, which serves wood-neck pourover coffee in addition to each one of Verve’s four current espresso offerings. Adds Mr. Truby: “Oh, and we have a forklift! I’m very proud of that.”
Verve have created a truly opulent and functional coffee facility that will meet their needs as this company grows, while holding on tight to their unique status: international darling nestled in a small town.