Coffee startup finds grounds for expansion

 

Some of Confluence's canned brands. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Some of Confluence’s canned brands. Photos by Michael Thompson.

After percolating in kitchens in Washington, D.C., a cold brew coffee company has poured into Manchester and already has further growth plans in mind.

Confluence Coffee Co. got up and running last month at 700 Bainbridge St. near City View Landing, the 17.5-acre mixed-used development taking shape on the former Reynolds South plant.

Owner Terry Darcy said the coffee startup has leased a 1,600-square-foot space formerly home to Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co., where Confluence co-founder and University of Richmond grad Mike Woitech used to work.

The pair launched Confluence Coffee a year ago out of two shared kitchen spaces in D.C. Darcy said expanding to Richmond, where he used to visit as a student at William & Mary, gives the company the chance to produce and sell more coffee.

They’re using the Manchester facility to make 45 barrels of coffee every two weeks using a 15-barrell brewing system.

Terry Darcy

Terry Darcy

“Moving down here gives us more tank capacity,” Darcy said, adding that the buzz created by the area’s beer industry was also appealing.

Darcy emphasized Confluence’s relationship with Blanchard’s, which recently relocated to Northside. In addition to Woitech previously working there part-time, the coffee roaster helped him and Darcy pick the beans they use in their Confluence brews. Today, Blanchard’s does contract roasting for Confluence, and Confluence does contract brewing for Blanchard’s.

“Without them, we really would not be where we are today,” Darcy said.

Confluence Coffee makes three styles of cold brew coffee, which is infused with nitrogen gas and sold in cans and kegs. Cold brew coffee can have more caffeine and is less acidic than its more popular hot-brewed form, Darcy said.

“In the past three years, the category has absolutely exploded,” he said. “We’re kind of reaching a time when it’s not just a fad anymore.”

The coffee maker's base of operatoins at 700 Bainbridge St.

The coffee maker’s base of operations at 700 Bainbridge St.

Confluence Coffee is sold in about 100 retail locations, mostly through a regional account with Whole Foods. Locally, Ellwood Thompson’s, Carytown Cupcakes, Fat Dragon and Stella’s Grocery sell Confluence Coffee either by the can or from a tap, Darcy said. The company doesn’t sell online. In the Richmond area, a can of Confluence Coffee sells for $4-$5.

Darcy would not say how much has been invested in the company. He said it is on track to be in the black by the end of July.

As it ponders its future, Darcy said Confluence hopes to open a tap room where customers can try coffee alongside beer. It’s already looking for space to try to make that a reality.

“We’ve actually started looking at new locations because our growth has led to us outgrowing the space,” he said.

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