Hub Coffee Roasters, at 727 Riverside Drive, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week, so I sat down with owner Mark Trujillo to reflect on the past decade and what to look forward to next.
It’s a warm June afternoon along the Truckee River, and it’s difficult to ignore the budding summer energy. Birds are chirping, the rush of the river is humming in the background, while muffled conversations spark around me as I pull up a chair on the patio.
A few minutes before my interview with Trujillo, I spot him zipping around his flagship location sipping a barista’s freshly brewed coffee while simultaneously greeting old and new faces to his riverside coffee paradise.
As I continue to look around, very few people are basking in the glow of a phone or computer screen. Instead, they are talking to each other, face to face.
This is precisely the type of community Trujillo set out to create 10 years ago at its first location at 32 Cheney Street in Reno’s Midtown District.
Take me back to 2009. What drove you to start Hub Coffee?
Just thinking back to 2009, it seems so long ago, but at the same time, it seems like it was just yesterday. Starting the Hub wasn’t about bringing good coffee, or even great coffee to Reno. It was more about bringing a different style of coffee to Reno. Everybody was used to casino coffee, dark coffee, cowboy coffee. I think for us, it wasn’t about showing people we have the best coffee in town, but to bring something new. It was about evolving and creating something exciting and fun, rather than the same old thing. It wasn’t about us bringing better coffee, it was about us giving a different experience to the customer.
Serving a limited coffee menu must have been a challenge at first. How did Reno respond to your coffee evolution?
It took a lot of effort and a lot of education to get people to understand what we were doing. Now people actually know that when you go to an independent coffee shop in Reno when you ask for a cappuccino to expect six ounces. Not 12oz, 16oz, or 20oz. A cappuccino should be small. It’s a little package of goodness that you want.
Not only did you help pioneer Reno’s current coffee scene, but the Hub also roasts all of its own beans. Why is that important to you?
I wasn’t the first person that was roasting coffee beans in Reno. Roasting for us was about being in control. Why wouldn’t I want to do the seed to cup thing? I can buy product from Rodrigo Sanchez in Columbia (coffee grower/producer) and start a relationship with him where I now know his family. He even calls me on my birthday. To develop relationships with people at the very beginning of coffee, that’s what was important to us.
Our original importer, Cafe Imports, takes their customers on an origin trip, so we got to be introduced to the process of the coffee farmer and got to be privy to a lot of things that people really have no clue about – like where coffee comes from. Many people don’t know that coffee beans grow on trees. And they’re really not a tree, they’re shrubs. And they’re really not shrubs, it’s a plant. Unless you see that first hand, you really don’t understand it. I love being there in the mix of things because it’s the beginning of my coffee journey, which excites me to get back home, roast the coffee, and serve it to the customer.
Speaking of customers, do you have any memorable stories you’d like to share from Hub’s early days?
There are many experiences to share, but this one is great. At our original location on Cheney Street, an elderly couple came in. I had the perfect timing to be able to give them the ideal experience. I talked about the coffee, helped them make a choice, told them what it was about, and explained why we don’t use low-fat milk and that we’re about the quality and not the quantity. It’s not the size, but how impactful that little 6 oz.
It was a great experience because I probably spent a half-hour back and forth intermittently between other customers, but they still were very interested in our whole set-up. In the end, it was really great because that’s when they realized that this was more than just a little garage. They both left, but the gentleman came back a little while later and told me that he had a great experience and handed me a $100 bill.
You have instructions on your website on how to properly brew coffee at home. Why is educating your staff and customers on coffee so crucial to you?
We attend the Specialty Coffee Association’s conferences, over half of my staff has had espresso maintenance training in Seattle for La Marzocco (Hub’s preferred espresso machine), and have even sent staff to tea training as well. I think it’s important for our people. If you’re going to do something, you have to know what you’re doing and why. If you have a passion for something, you have to figure out and learn how to be the best you can possibly be.
We do weekly (coffee tastings) with our staff. We’re researching and experimenting with things to make our coffee better at our roastery daily. We provide ways for our customers to learn how to make good coffee at home. All of this is important to me because it comes back to relationships. Good coffee is one thing, but good coffee combined with good relationships – that’s the goal. We exist to bring people together.
So, what’s next?
I’m creating a thing called co-roasting or toll-roasting. So now I have two roasters that rent time on the roaster from me at my roastery to roast their own coffee for their own businesses. It’s not about helping the competition. I’ve been there before.
A lot of people can’t afford to go straight into something like that. It’s a conscious way of making money, but it is also a conscious way of making sure we’re taking care of people in our community, so they have an opportunity to grow and succeed. That’s huge. At first, it was all about coffee,
Do you think you’ll move beyond Reno?
Oh, we have some things in the works. Not too far from Reno, but we have some things in the works.
Special events celebrating the 10-year anniversary are scheduled at multiple Hub Coffee locations are scheduled this week, culminating with a Father’s Day bike ride at the riverside location. For a full list of events and details, visit https://www.hubcoffeeroasters.com/10-years.