Coffee connoisseur opens his own roastery in Everett
When someone plans to open a coffee shop in Seattle, Velton Ross is among the first to know. Likewise if a local roaster starts burning...
Seattle Times business reporters
When someone plans to open a coffee shop in Seattle, Velton Ross is among the first to know. Likewise if a local roaster starts burning its beans or flubbing its delivery schedule.
As the area's newest coffee roaster, Ross watches for these things while scouting for clients in a market drenched with good roasters.
"These places are quite often happy with the coffee they're using, and they've not heard anything about me," Ross said.
Nevertheless, Ross has a long track record in the coffee industry, starting as a Seattle barista in 1989. He managed Seattle's Bauhaus Books and Coffee in the late 1990s and spent more than five years as head roaster for Top Pot Doughnuts.
Ross left Top Pot last year and borrowed $75,000 to $100,000 against a property on Whidbey Island to finance the startup of Velton's Coffee Roasting. He has a coffee grinder, roasting machine and espresso equipment in the basement of Lowell Art Works, an old brick building with artists' studios in Everett. Velton's is not open to the public, but Ross thinks he might someday open a coffee shop to showcase his beans.
Ross and his wife, Melanie, adopted a baby girl in December, about the time he started dropping off samples at coffee shops and restaurants around Seattle.
The family is living on Melanie's income as co-owner of Blox Construction in Everett until Velton's Coffee starts making money, which could happen this summer. For now, the coffee is sold at a handful of wholesalers and restaurants and through the company's Web site, www.veltonscoffee.com, which launched last week.
Joel Radin, owner of Bauhaus and co-owner of Top Pot, considers Ross an excellent roaster and one of his best friends. They met while working as baristas for Seattle's Best Coffee in the early '90s.
"He was definitely the one who started really super good lattes," Radin said. "He would make the best foam."
As a roaster, Radin said, Ross is meticulous. "Without sounding cheesy, he considers it an art."
Zayda Buddy's Pizza and Bar in Ballard, which Radin owns, is one of Ross' first clients, selling coffee made with Velton's beans, which are roasted medium for espresso and slightly darker for drip.
Ross said he used his first name on the coffee partly because "if you put your name on it, you're saying, 'I'm very proud of this coffee.' "
He also likes that it's another "V" in the Seattle coffee world, along with Caffé Vita, Victrola Coffee Roasters and Espresso Vivace.
Ross is a longtime acolyte of David Schomer at Vivace, who is known for high-quality coffee and an aversion to overexpansion.
"David Schomer could have owned this town if he wanted to," Ross said. Instead, he kept Vivace small enough that he has time to continually improve the flavor of his coffee.
Ross' aspirations for Velton's are similar. "I want to roast for a living, pay the bills and enjoy my life," he said. "It's not my goal to see how big I can grow this company."
His pitch to potential clients is simple: They get a personal relationship with their roaster, who delivers the beans himself and is willing to train baristas.
Ross is patient about attracting customers.
"Even if they like the coffee, they haven't heard of me and are probably a little skeptical about whether I'm going to deliver on time," he said. "It almost has to come from them. People with samples I dropped off a few months ago are just starting to call."
— Melissa AllisonTidbits
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Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or email@example.com.
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About Retail Report
Retail Report is a look at the trends, issues and people who makeup the dynamic and versatile retail sector throughout the Puget Sound region. Every Friday with Melissa Allison and Amy Martinez. Send tips or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.