Sad news and deeply unfortunate timing out of Kansas City, where Blip Roasters were victims of a major fire last week. As hundreds of American coffee professionals prepared to descend on the city for this week’s US Coffee Championships Qualifying Event, the incident roiled across their hundred-year-old building in the West Bottoms neighborhood, resulting in the site being now slated for condemnation. Due to a quirk in insurance law—some real bullshit if you ask us—Blip has been left largely uncovered for the damages, and that’s where you can help.
We profiled Blip here on Sprudge back in the fall of 2015 in a feature by Sprudge Kansas City contributor Charlie Burt, calling them the new standard bearers for coffee in a part of KCMO undergoing a major transformation. Fire struck Blip’s building last Thursday, in a terrifying scene and ensuing aftermath that Blip co-founder Ian Davis described to us as “a whirlwind of shit.” The source of the fire is still unconfirmed, though Davis and others suspect it has to do with an improperly placed heating unit. It began one floor above Blip while the cafe was open for service.
“We were kind of having a normal day,” Davis told us, “and then we started noticing smoke outside. Sure enough, we went out and looked up and could see flames coming out of the second floor window.” 911 was dispatched, as Davis and a few friends grabbed fire extinguishers and charged upstairs to try and find the source of the blaze. They were met by pitch black smoke and minimal visibility, and soon (wisely) abandoned their quest. The fire department showed up moments later and began to douse the fire, cutting out floors and walls along the way, and pushing out windows.
The end result was massive smoke damage to all of Blip’s coffee equipment, including their Mahlkonig grinders and La Marzocco espresso machine. Several inches of standing water were left on the floor when Davis and his business partner, Conrad Amirof, returned to check the site the next morning. “The fire didn’t actually reach our space,” Davis told us, “but the damage was caused by result of everything else.”
Perhaps worst of all for Blip, the outlook for insurance coverage is sub-optimal. “We have a huge amount of liability insurance,” says Davis, “millions of dollars worth, but unfortunately for us the building owner has come forward and said he doesn’t have insurance at all, and neither does the tenant of the second floor space.” As a result, Blip are only due to collect around $15,000 in insurance money from their policy. That’s a drop in the bucket for an owner-operated New Wave coffee roasting company, barely enough to cover the company’s current stock of green coffee. “If the fire had started in our cafe, we’d be in great shape,” Davis laments, “but right now it’s hard to be optimistic about the process.”
You can help change that by directly donating to help support Blip’s rebuilding costs. Simply click the link and select a support option—this effort is being managed directly through Blip’s web store, so there’s no Kickstarter middleman to deal with. We asked Ian Davis how else folks could help out, and he told us “Honestly, I’ve only slept one night since this happened—it has been a whirlwind of shit, but there has also been an outpouring of support.” Davis went on to namecheck members of the Kansas City coffee community who have helped out in these dark days, including Marty Roe of About The Coffee, Jason Burton and the team at The LAB, and Jon Cates at Broadway Coffee. Broadway’s pitching in by collaborating with Blip on a special new coffee, dubbed the “Blip Box of Broadway“—it’s available for purchase online and at select stores in Kansas City, including The Sundry in downtown KCMO.