Propeller Coffee Co. has taken the meaning of a multi-use space to a whole new stratosphere. One of the founders, Losel Tethong, took an empty old factory in an industrial part of Toronto and turned it into a roasting facility, café, event space, coffee lab, education space, and warehouse all in one.
“We’re able to have the café, do the roasting, do the lab work,” Losel says. “And then in the evenings and weekends, it gets a whole second life as an event space for weddings, chef dinners, and community events.”
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The core values of the company are quality, sustainability, and community — and Propeller Coffee’s space allowed them to uphold all three. One of the most important functions of the company’s space is to train baristas, which further strengthens Propeller Coffee’s relationships with its wholesale customers.
“In that last 35 to 40 seconds of the life of that bean, you can either make or break that coffee,” Losel says. “It’s a huge part of what we do for the restaurants and the cafés and even the offices that we work with, is sharing that knowledge and those skills and then getting people started or moved along on their journeys.”
That education, Losel says, helps ensure his customers get the best cup of coffee. But it all starts with the coffee beans themselves. Propeller Coffee works with farmers across the world, including in Ethiopia and Guatemala, who are committed to sustainability initiatives like water projects and soil remediation.
“Great coffee is grown by farmers who care not only about the plants and their environment that they’re grown in, but also about their workers and about the community that they’re growing their coffee in,” Losel says. “It’s so important to have those relationships that are multi-year with the same farms and the same communities.”
Still, even with everything Propeller Coffee was doing at its headquarters and with its farmers, it lost almost all of it when the pandemic hit. Before, 80% to 85% of its business was wholesale. That business crashed almost overnight in March 2020.
“If we hadn’t been on Shopify when the pandemic began, we would likely not be here,” Losel says. “It allowed us to kind of really quickly respond to that kind of huge surge of e-commerce demand that we got in late March and early April of 2020.”
Propeller Coffee Co. implemented a new subscription program and a loyalty program for its burgeoning direct-to-consumer business.
Take a listen to Losel’s full interview on Shopify Masters to learn how Propeller Coffee has continued to diversify its revenue streams and what’s in store for a future cafe brand that will be owned and operated by baristas.