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Originally published May 1, 2008 at 9:53 PM | Page modified April 3, 2009 at 4:31 PM

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Retail Report

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.' "

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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 Allison

Tidbits

Parkplace Books in downtown Kirkland stays in business, for now. Owners Mary Harris and Rebecca Willow said they raised about $12,000 after publicly asking for help last week. The money is enough to pay one of their book distributors by a Monday deadline and to increase their summer reading inventory, Harris said. The 22-year-old bookstore, at Kirkland Parkplace Center, continues to work on a longer-term survival strategy, including a move to smaller, less-expensive space elsewhere in Kirkland, Harris said. The owners have been outspoken about their difficulties competing against Internet retailers and national chains. — AM

Icicle Seafoods, of Seattle, plans to acquire Smoki Foods, of Seattle, and subsidiaries American Gold Seafoods, a salmon-farming company, and Cypress Island Seafoods, a processing plant in Blaine. Paine & Partners, the private equity firm that bought Icicle last year, facilitated the deal. Terms were not disclosed. — MA

Glassybaby has opened a temporary store at Seattle's University Village to coincide with the shopping center's "Shop to Make a Difference" event May 16-18. The store, to remain open through June, promises to donate $4 for every $40 "glassybaby" sold to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. A glassybaby is a small colored glass cup that can be used as a goblet, candleholder or vase. Lee Rhodes, a three-time cancer survivor, founded Glassybaby in 2001. The company also sells online at www.glassybaby.com and at a studio in Madrona. — AM

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville posted net sales of $86.2 million in the first quarter, up 25 percent from a year ago, according to a securities filing by its parent, the tobacco company UST. Operating profit rose 1.7 percent to $11.3 million. — MA

Northwest Enterprising Moms, a networking group, will showcase products and services from more than 25 mom-owned businesses on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. Participants include BabyLegs, which sells leg warmers for infants and toddlers; and Blue Dress Press, a maker of birth announcements and thank-you cards. — AM

Ball Corp. will close its Kent aluminum beverage-can manufacturing plant in the third quarter. The plant's 111 workers will be able to apply for jobs elsewhere at Ball, said Scott McCarty, spokesman for the Broomfield, Colo.-based company. Ball has 18 other plants that make beverage cans in North America. The closest is in Fairfield, Calif. — MA

Eva Ribary, formerly a part-owner of Louie Permelia clothing boutiques, has opened a home furnishings and accessories store called Urbanity at Issaquah Commons shopping center off Gilman Boulevard. — AM

While Safeco is in the midst of being acquired by Liberty Mutual Group, Dream Dinners, of Snohomish, has joined the Boston insurer in creating a new Web page, www.dreamdinners.com/families, with tips and resources for keeping families safe. Founded in 2002, Dream Dinners has more than 200 meal-assembly stores in 35 states. MA

Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company


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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 mallison@seattletimes.com or amartinez@seattletimes.com.

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