It's no secret that Aldo Coffee is my favorite place to get coffee in Pittsburgh. Five years ago, I wrote on my blog about having wandered into the coffee shop
, expecting to be disappointed, but leaving impressed. I'm still impressed.
What impresses me, and this is something evident to other coffee lovers, is that Aldo's owners, Rich and Melanie Westerfield, care about coffee
. What's less obvious but supremely important is that, out of this care, they have been willing to sacrifice the bottom line.
It's expensive and difficult to source good coffee, to find and train and keep authentically skilled staff. These expenses are hard to bear, especially when most potential customers see coffee as a utility beverage for caffeine delivery or a backdrop for frothy milk confections. To care about coffee, simply put, means sacrificing profits.
And sacrificing profits isn't known to be a sustainable business strategy. Which brings us to the real story.
There's a new post on Aldo Coffee's blog: Aldo 2.0 - Part 1
. In it, the Westerfields reveal that the lease for their shop on Washington Road is expiring. They're trying to decide what to do. Stay? Go? Try something else?
For selfish reasons, I hope they stay. But I can't ignore that my coffee preferences represent only a tiny minority of Mt. Lebanon's coffee drinkers. And that's something that the Westerfields can't ignore, either.
In their insightful and revealing blog post, the first of what is likely to be many about Aldo Coffee's future, they discuss the realities of running a coffee business the way they want to run it. They boil it down to one central challenge: doing for coffee what Sharp Edge
did for beer and Il Pizzaiolo
did for pizza. In Mt. Lebanon, a town that takes its coffee with milk and sugar, that's not going to be easy.
But if anyone can do it, my money is on Rich and Melanie. They have earned a huge following in the specialty-coffee industry and can draw upon an impressive network of industry friends and admirers for ideas and assistance. Plus they are marketing marvels. Whatever they decide to do, it won't fail for lack of word.
So stay tuned, Mt. Lebanon coffee lovers. Things are about to get interesting.Update 2010-07-11 19:59: Minor edits for clarity.
Labels: aldo coffee, washington road