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Roaster diversifies beyond York cafe

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Dante Strange hands a customer a drink at New Grounds Roasting Co.'s concession cafe at Sovereign Bank Stadium in York. Photo/The Susquehanna Photographic
Dante Strange hands a customer a drink at New Grounds Roasting Co.'s concession cafe at Sovereign Bank Stadium in York. Photo/The Susquehanna Photographic

York-based New Grounds Roasting Co. has branched out at light speed this spring into business lines beyond its shop on West Market Street.

In the past few months, the business has opened a concession cafe at Sovereign Bank Stadium, home to the city's minor-league York Revolution baseball team, as well as landed a deal to supply York Township-based WellSpan Health's York Hospital with coffee, owner Jennifer Anderson said.

The business also includes using the coffee shop property as an entertainment venue on Friday and Saturday nights as well as operating the coffee shop, is like adding a new company's worth of business into the mix, Anderson said.

Adding to the irons in the fire was that key new employees were coming aboard about the time new business opportunities cropped up, with store manager Rairis Carter and wholesale director Colin Cameron coming on board roughly around the time baseball season began and the call from WellSpan came in, she said.

Neither had experience in coffee. Then again, neither did Anderson, outside of being a self-described "coffee-aholic" before she bought the assets and the building of the former Sparky & Clark's Roasting Co. in 2010.

"And I'm just looking, going, 'Gosh, we are all doing this for the first time,'" Anderson said about this spring. "But this team has really hit the ground running and gelled."

It wasn't always like that, Anderson said. She first decided to buy the business when she realized she should step away from her business manager role at education management business 3 Cord Inc. after she decided to marry owner and managing officer Isiah Anderson.

She had frequented the location when it was Sparky and Clark's and knew the owner. About a year after he shut down, he asked if she would like to buy it, Anderson said.

At first, she said, she saw the endeavor as a great preparatory experience for students who were planning on moving onto college or would be entering the working world, and she hired more than half a dozen seniors. With just the relatively young and inexperienced students and her as more of a motherly figure, it didn't work out, Anderson said.

When most of them moved on — two still work for New Grounds — Anderson said she decided it was time to get serious about the business as a business and see what niches it could get into.

Benefiting the company today is interest from both of the new, large partners in supporting local business. Both were calls from out of the blue, Anderson recalled.

And one was Cameron himself, who worked for the Revolution and was a New Grounds customer.

He said he began to realize there was a fit for coffee at the stadium about a year ago during a bike night, when someone asked where he could find a cup of coffee.

Fast forward to the fall and in keeping with the stadium's push toward local business in the concession area, Cameron called New Grounds and asked what the business thought of selling coffee there.

Not long after the deal was in place, Anderson asked Cameron to come on board the business.

The Revolution is thrilled to have New Grounds added to the concession offerings at the stadium, President and General Manager R. Eric Menzer said. One thing the club has emphasized in the last couple of years is working with local businesses to bring a unique identity to the concessions.

"This is fantastic," Menzer said. "This is the essence of how we want to do business."

A ballpark might not be the first place you think of when thinking about coffee, but there are colder games in the early part of the season — particularly this year — and coffee has become more than just a hot, black drink, Menzer said.

There also are no hard feelings about Cameron going to work for the company, he said.

York Hospital recently began serving New Grounds coffee in the cafeteria and with patient meals, said Steven Ferguson, manager of food and nutrition services. Ferguson started at the hospital last summer and had previously worked where local coffee was offered, he said.

Considering WellSpan's support of buying local — which he is a fan of himself — and his interest in improving the coffee at the hospital, Ferguson said he started looking for a local option.

New Grounds seemed most enthusiastic of the ones he contacted and was already interested in expanding its offerings, he said.

New Grounds also is working to bolster a selling point of offering mostly fair trade and often organic coffee by forming direct partnerships with producers in coffee-growing regions of the world. Isiah and Jennifer Anderson plan to go to Guatemala in September to develop the first such partnership, Cameron said.

Anderson said she is passionate about cutting out the middleman and getting as much of the money paid for beans into the hands of farmers.

How products are sourced is a part of the conversation with prospective wholesale clients along with the coffee's flavor profile and characteristics, Cameron said.

"It is a selling point to say it is an organic product and (the growers) are getting paid a fair price," Cameron said. "People want to know where their dollar is going."

Anderson has continued visions for more growth that include online coffee sales, a cafe on the east side of the Codorus Creek in downtown, competing as a roaster, and further developing specialty coffee in a way that appeals to people akin to the passion for fine wine, she said.

Hiring well is part of the reason she can concentrate on new opportunities. She brings people on board because of more intangible qualities rather than just seeking specific resume facts or skills.

In addition to what Cameron is doing, Carter becoming store manager has meant that she doesn't have to worry about front-end sales, Anderson said. She had worked her way up through the ranks at Old Navy, but she didn't have coffee experience.

"I didn't know anything about coffee. I don't even drink coffee all that much," Carter said. "But if you ask me, I can tell you anything about our coffee."

Anderson said she was sold on what she could offer, and now customers go out of their way to say how great Carter is and they look for her when she's not at the shop.

"What I saw in Rairis is that I know how tough she is, and I knew that if nothing else she was going to hold it down here," Anderson said.

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey covers York County, agribusiness, energy and environment, and workforce issues. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at brentb@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @brentburkey.

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