When it comes to coffee in the PNW, you might think we have enough shops. Maybe even too many? And it’s true. We probably have the most coffee snobs this side of the Mississippi. Oh, sorry, I mean coffee enthusiasts.
With all the coffee shops we have including a popular coffee shop chain that shall not be named, it would seem we’ve run out of ways to espresso ourselves. At least, that’s what you’d think…until you introduce your palette to Campfire Coffee.
The name Campfire Coffee is as distinct as the coffee they produce. And aligns perfectly with the vibe the owners give off – super down to earth, welcoming, and friendly. If I were to ever go camping I would beg for these guys to take me!
The vibe is cozy, warm, and as memorable as a night roasting, chilling and sitting around a campfire with friends and family.
Want to know how it all began? Grab a blanket and cozy on up to the fire for a story of TLC – tender love and campfire. Rich in flavor and tastes like nature.
The journey to opening Campfire Coffee was like a grueling hike full of twists, turns, dead ends, bee stings, close contact with unidentified organisms, one or two run-ins with a bear and then finally reaching the top. At the top, there’s an overwhelming presence of sensations and emotions invading your senses, but there’s also peace and a beautiful calmness. Even with your back and legs feeling like they’re on fire, being tired, thirsty, possibly itchy…it’s allll worth it.
A brewing dream
For the owners of Campfire Coffee, Whitney and Quincy, the term uphill battle truly reflected their unique adventure to becoming business owners.
Several years ago, Quincy was killing the marketing world as a partner for a prominent marketing agency in Seattle. He worked his way up and had achieved a ton of success. But, in June of 2018 he was suddenly, and without any warning, let go.
It was shocking, unexpected and equally disheartening.
Four months later, an incident at Whitney’s job left her physically unable to work in mental health care anymore. By October of 2018, both Whitney and Quincy were unemployed and struggling to keep up with their expenses, three kids and life in Seattle.
Not knowing what they were going to do, but knowing they always wanted to have their own business they began brainstorming business ideas on a 13-hour drive home from seeing family in Utah. And it was then that Campfire Coffee was kindled.
Quincy remembers, “We didn’t know we were going to roast coffee over a campfire at the time. We just knew we would have an outdoor-themed coffee shop with the social mission to get more people outside.”
If the name of the business didn’t clue you in, Whitney and Quincy are huge fans of the outdoors. They’ve been camping and hiking for years as a family as well as individually before marriage.
They were ecstatic with their business idea founded on an impactful social mission and were ready to get things brewing.
There was just one pressing problem.
“We had NO experience in coffee,” laughs Quincy.
A family friend who was the manager of a coffee shop in Parkland came to the rescue allowing Quincy to work for her and receive training.
While Quincy was receiving training at the coffee shop, Whitney had a conversation with her sister who gave them the idea to roast their coffee over a campfire. Intrigued by an idea that felt completely organic to their already natural outdoors concept they set out to see if there was any viability.
Bean there, never done that
When they started roasting coffee beans over campfire it was a complete fail for the first few rounds. The beans were ugly, burnt and tasted horrible.
If anyone has ever roasted anything over campfire you’d know how much technique and precision is involved. Fortunately, Quincy’s previous experience working at a BBQ restaurant paid off and after much trial and error they were able to successfully roast coffee beans over campfire.
They tested their campfire roasted coffee against coffee in stores as well as with family and friends and were surprised to find theirs was much, MUCH better.
With so many positive reviews they went into the next stage of building their business with confidence.
Construction on Campfire Coffee began in September 2019. And it wasn’t smooth sailing.
“We ran into every issue you could think of. We went through wave after wave of craziness…and then COVID happened.”
At this point their home was full of bags of coffee and merchandise that had been ready to put into the shop prior to COVID shut downs. Not knowing what to do next they decided to start an online store hoping their growing social media following would love the coffee. And they definitely did.
“In our first week we did about 100lbs of coffee in sales, but we needed every bit of those sales to fund opening the shop since we were denied COVID relief funding twice.”
After selling out 3,000 lbs of coffee in a mere few weeks they were able to fund opening the shop!
“We made it happen. The shop is now open and the online store is still going strong. And it’s just me and my wife and one employee we brought on. We’re just rolling and doing the best we can do.”
While their hard work is starting to finally pay off, a majority of the real work they hope to accomplish is just beginning. Campfire Coffee is not just a coffee shop serving up amazing coffee. It’s a mission to diversify the outdoor space.
Inclusively at Campfire Coffee
Quincy recalls a time where he was working on a product launch for REI. Some of the conversations taking place was the lack of representation for people of color and people with disabilities.
“We saw a cost barrier in addition to a representation barrier in the outdoor space and that really reinforced the social mission behind Campfire Coffee.”
Not only were they a part of the conversations covering racial inequities and lack of inclusivity, they had experienced it themselves.
“For every challenge that’s there with opening a business, you have to add more for being Black. There were no loans for us to get. There was no capital. We didn’t have a rich dad. I had experiences with the city inspectors that were race motivated to the point I had to request one of the inspectors to never return.”
Whitney and Quincy didn’t let discrimination slow them down, instead, they made a seat for themselves at the coffee table.
“It goes without saying that right now there is an awakening of people being more aware of these types of issues…We founded our nonprofit Campfire Explorers Club so we can put together programs for diversifying the outdoors.”
While continuing to build their own programs they have been supporting existing active programs with similar missions and sponsoring children of color to attend camps to receive outdoor learning.
It’s a long, ongoing calling, but one they feel is excitingly worthwhile.
The big goal is to eventually have their own campground with outdoor classes that educate nature newbies on how to be outdoors the proper way.
Favorite place to camp?
We had to know where their favorite place to camp was. And unfortunately, it was a huge disappointment.
No literally, their favorite place to camp is a place called Camp Disappointment.
“The pictures do not do justice! You wouldn’t even think this is a place in Washington.”
A perfect blend
Whether you love the outdoors, coffee, or just trying something new – go support, love up, and check out Campfire Coffee on Market Street in downtown Tacoma!
“We’re a whole vibe. You’re going to feel welcomed. We want you to know we are going to support you as much as you support us. We want to help you get outside and enjoy life’s natural pleasures,” says Whitney.
Quincy adds, “And super low key, we’re really changing the game. Us just existing in the spaces we’re existing in is game changing. We’re a VIBE! And we hope it comes through our social and when you come to the shop!”
Tacoma’s bean ready for this vibe! Check these cool beans and Campfire Coffee out below: