One of the best things about local, independent coffeehouses is the unique experience they offer their communities. In Seattle, for example, Ancient Grounds is the epitome of self-expression. Fommer’s (www.frommers.com) said “Ancient Grounds is hands down the coolest and most unusual espresso bar in Seattle.” No THAT says something being in the hometown of Starbuck’s.
Rolland, the owner, is deeply passionate about his coffee and his ancient artifacts from around the world. The masks from various native culture surround the space and make one feel comfortably observed.
Inside Ancient Grounds, Seattle WA
In our conversation, he shared his biggest challenge in owning a coffeehouse ~ good, trustworthy staff. He has opted to run the entire business himself. He is open Tuesday-Saturday and takes a two days to refresh. In between preparing espressos for the customers that come in from his 1st Avenue location in Downtown, he trades his artifacts online with people he has met in his international travels.
According to him: the best part of his coffeehouse? The people. He fully enjoys being of service in the world. Rolland even hand-writes thank you notes to his guests and customers, personal and from the heart. He called it his “integrity homework”. How does it get any better than this? 🙂
One pointer he would give to a someone considering opening a new coffeehouse is to diversify the offerings, even if it is to merge it with a business completely different from coffee. After 14 years of operating Ancient Grounds, it should prove to be some sound advise.
You can find Rolland at:
1220 1st Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Although I spend most of an average day immersed in coffee culture and coffeehouses, CoffeeFest Seattle was the first industry event I have ever attended. I was surrounded by people who speak my language and share my passion. It was absolutely invigorating! Or … maybe that energy came from all the espressos and lattes I sampled while navigating through the rows and rows of exhibitors.
The CoffeeFest is held every four months and rotates between Seattle, Chicago and New York City. This event featured the first annual America’s Best Coffeehouse Competition, sponsored by DaVinci Gourmet. According to The Gourmet Retailer, it took 60 days to determine the top coffeehouses in the western U.S. with a “60-day process of elimination by secret shopper evaluation and public vote”. Eight semifinalist coffeehouses were chosen based on ratings in categories like customer service, drink quality, ambiance, cleanliness, organization and efficiency.
Jason Gray is sorta like an icon in Castle Rock and I got to meet him!!
Now … that’s just based on me hanging out at his coffeehouse for a couple of hours drinking his personally roasted espresso and watching him greet his customers. He only roasts and serves the best coffee. There is a genuine sense of pride in his work that emanates from his being.
He has been in the coffee industry for about 30 year and got his start at Starbucks in Seattle in the 80’s. “They had 25 stores back then”, he said. Then he traveled north to Alaska and spent many years with Kaladi Brothers beginnings and trained under Mark Overly now of Kaladi Brothers Colorado. In addition, he spent tons of time and gained the respect of the recently passed, coffee great, Michael Sivetz.
Jason opened Crowfoot Valley Coffee and Crow Bar Coffeehouse in 1999 and is ridiculously happy creating a place for people to come together and to serve them his finest roasted beans.
Gotta check out his shop, now serving a rotating selection of high-end craft beers:
Crowfoot Valley Coffee
734 Wilcox Street #102
Castle Rock, CO 80109