Beer-happy Scott’s Addition will have a different kind of buzz once Ryan O’Rourke’s plans start to percolate.
O’Rourke and his wife Kelly are launching Ironclad Coffee Roasters at 2904 W. Moore St. The couple has leased a 1,100-square-foot former print shop just off North Boulevard near Bow Tie Cinemas, where Ironclad plans to fire up its custom-made roasting machine in December.
The company will look to sell its beans online and at farmers markets, do various on-site sales from its Scott’s Addition home and would eventually look to add wholesale accounts with grocers and restaurants.
O’Rourke said Ironclad hopes to roast between 150 and 200 pounds of coffee each week once operations begin.
For O’Rourke, 37, Ironclad is an outgrowth of a family business and his being a self-described coffee nerd. His parents owned two coffee houses in Tennessee where he helped out after graduating from University of South Florida. While in Ireland working for an Irish cultural website, he found good coffee was hard to come by and started roasting beans at home one pound at a time.
“That trained me on the basics and gave me a foundation of knowledge,” he said. “I really learned the art and the science of it. It was almost a no-brainer to look into doing this full-time because it became my passion.”
O’Rourke said now is the time to invest in small roasters that cater to people willing to spend extra for a quality brew. He said the coffee market is undergoing similar changes seen in the food and beer scenes.
“The coffee scene tends to skyrocket right with them,” he said. “It’s anything but saturated given the curve and growth of craft beer. I really believe the coffee scene has a lot of room to grow.”
There are already roasters with roots in Richmond. Nearest to where Ironclad is docking is Lamplighter Roasting Co. on Summit Avenue in Scott’s Addition. And Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co. and Black Hand Coffee Co. have also a built a following for their roasts.
O’Rourke said it’ll cost $50,000 to get in on the action, which he and his wife have financed themselves and with help from family.
He said the key to a good batch of coffee is the beans themselves. Ironclad is getting its beans from Nicaragua through a program called Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, as well as from other parts of Central and South America and Ethiopia.
“You can only coax out of a bean what’s in the bean,” he said. “You can definitely make it worse.”
The O’Rourkes moved from Ireland to Shockoe Bottom more than a month ago with plans to launch Ironclad. O’Rourke said the activity in Scott’s Addition made it an attractive place for the company to embark.
“It’s such a hot area right now,” he said. “It really seemed to fit what we needed.”