It has been an absolutely incredible season of builds here at the Build-Outs of Coffee, but today we must bid you a hearty adieu. Don’t worry—we’ll keep writing about all our favorite cafes around the world all year long here at Sprudge, so watch for a fresh submission announcement in the coming days. But before we leave you, today’s final Build-Out takes us to the great state of New Jersey, home to Royal Mile Coffee Roasters.
The 2022 Build-Outs of Coffee is presented by Dripos, Dona, and Mill City Roasters. The 2022 Build-Outs of Coffee is sponsored by La Marzocco, Pacific Barista Series, Acaia, Cropster, and Marco Beverage Systems.
As told to Sprudge by Jamie Blanchard.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?[Royal Mile] started out in my backyard roasting on a Huky before moving to the space featured previously on Sprudge. I worked insane amounts of hours (don’t recommend this approach!) to get to even being a viable business. For the longest time it’s been me doing everything, and then some sales people that would stand in Whole Foods stores passing out coffee to anyone who would listen. We (myself included) did something like 9,000 hours in stores across Philly Metro from 2015-2020. Everyone around me devalued the Whole Foods relationship at the time so I went all in with them and at the same time met Steve Mieirsch who runs Pulley Collective (a roasting incubator in Brooklyn). He sold me some of his family’s coffee.
From there I built my company around those relationships. It was a long and dark path to get here but it’s no longer “I’m” here, it’s “we’re” here, which is cool. The people who have joined this past year I’m blessed with, especially given how hard it is for most to hire now. I’m just a person who was fortunate to be in some good places/meet good people at good times then activate on that opportunity. A lot of people along the way have really cared too. It’s not luck, but it feels like it. I had a podcast that documented all this that I’m restarting, which goes into a lot of detail. It’s not a journey I recommend but I know it’s inspired and helped some people over the years so I guess despite the struggle for me personally it’s been a net positive.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
We’ve got two new spaces! First is the cafe in Oaklyn (technically Haddon Township). It’s a block down from where I used to roast, so I knew a cafe could work in this area. When an account of ours bought a building where incidentally I had my first work meeting with my first employee they asked if I wanted a cafe here I jumped all in. It’s a small “local” spot with just 10 seats but it’s a busy road with a few parking spots and a lot of families around us who are happy we’re here!
Gloucester City is a developing town I’ve had my eye on for years. The town needs a shop like ours and not another Jersey Joey’s Java Joint style place. I met a developer there who offered to fit out the space, which is a godsend because I’m a terrible general contractor. We’re just going to plop in some extra equipment I’ve amassed over the years. Its 1,000 square feet and pretty much the center of town so were going to be the town’s living room. It seats I’m projecting 30 at least! We’ll serve those sweet avocado toasts y’all expect eventually but not at the start. It’s very much about the coffee and the relationship with Fincas Mierisch, with many pictures on the wall of their farms.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Light and bright is a lane I try to operate in. I’m also revamping the lineup based a lot on customer requests we’ve had in the cafe. There seems to be a never-ending refrain of what’s new from customers. We’ve become the ones who really reach for the wacky stuff and turnover our lineup. This year I’m listening to those customers and doubling down. We’ll have a lot more special process microlots, especially from Fincas Mierisch. You can insert memes about serving up anaerobics—I’m guilty as charged.
That being said, I’ve had to work both sides as this part of New Jersey is still a wasteland of diner coffee. I had this idea leading up to and during the start of the pandemic to get coffee in front of the most amount of people. We’ve taken cues from beer and tell me about a local brewer who hasn’t done some local sports-themed beer. So I rolled out our sports lineup. We’re fans and we pay homage but don’t outright steal—which is a big thing! You’ve got to be respectful of possible trademark violations. I’ve got a lawyer and did a lot of reading up on what is cool and isn’t. That all said they’ve been a hit. We’re selling to people who want the super dark roasted dunkie’s/bux garbage, but it’s craft coffee that looks a little like their favorite football team. They’d never go into a shop and buy our notes of bergamot “weak” light roasts in a million years but slap on not exactly but close local team colors with a funny name and the game changes. That to me is also a sustainability thing to our industry lacks—being inclusive for all drinkers.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We’re big on the cans of cold brew, we’ve got four different types. People have been doing nuts for them so we push them in big displays right as you walk in. Outside of that it’s the workhorse La Marzocco and Mazzer situation at Oaklyn. Someone gifted us a working Simonelli and I’ve had some Fiorenzato grinders from the past so those are going into Gloucester City. We’ve also got a lever machine from Wega but I’m not 100% positive this area is ready for that. Should we? Tell me in the comments below (and don’t forget to like and subscribe!) Can I make jokes in a Sprudge article? Please say yes.
How is your project considering sustainability?
Call me cynical but I’m not a gigantic compostable bag person as it relates to my business. I do love that stuff and it’s great we’re all doing some part. To me I think the goal for sustainability is to support the producers year in and year out, not just buy the sick microlots and then bounce, and not ask them to install solar panels on their outhouses or use organic compost or make a microlot then you don’t rebuy. Relative to the point and my soapboxing over—I run a lean operation so there’s not a ton of waste anywhere.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
Oaklyn/Haddon Township opened Jan 1 and Gloucester City is this fall. We’re hoping Octoberish.