According to Ben Nease, in charge of the marketing and sales of OB Beans, the group started out with a deep love and passion for people, and coffee was something they just “fell in to.”
Mark Bell, the principle owner of OB Beans, says he had taken a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico and while there observed a friend of his open a coffee roaster location and three coffee shops. Bell noticed the way the shops supported the humanitarian efforts taking place in Mexico, a concept that strongly appealed to Bell, who has been involved in nonprofits for 20 years.
Bell pitched the idea to Nease and two of their friends, Ryan Bardelli (production manager) and Taylor Langstaff (involved in the international relations), and the four decided that they wanted to replicate that model and build on a sense of community back in the U.S.
Nease says that, in addition to Bell’s trip to Mexico, the friends got interested in coffee when they began learning how many people are involved in the farming and production of coffee and the amount of good that could be done in the industry.
“We didn’t start off coffee people. We started off people people,” says Nease. “And then through that we started gaining passion for coffee.”
OB Beans started as an online sales company, where customers could purchase merchandise and wholesale coffee beans. According to Nease, OB Beans stuck to roasting coffee and online sales for two years. In June 2016, Bardelli says the friends signed a lease to take over the large building that was formerly Thrift Trader, and open their first brick and mortar location, a moment that Bell describes as “surreal.”
“We’re just trying to figure it out as we go and it’s been a lot of fun,” says Bell. “But yeah, it’s really really satisfying to see people enjoying the space. Not just our friends, but community from all over the place enjoying it and being inspired by it. It’s been really really really rad.”
Though OB Beans was originally going to open in December, the extensive amount of remodeling that the building required pushed the opening back about six months. The four founders, with a rally of friends, family and even acquaintances behind them, jumped into action to essentially rebuild the building from the ground up.
Everything in OB Beans, from the walls, floors, and ceiling to the tables, cement benches and the barista bar, was hand-made or altered by the four founders and the friends, family and even acquaintances that rallied behind them to help, Bardelli says.
He describes the remodeling of the shop as a “village effort.”
“I think that really just speaks to the community that we have behind us,” says Nease. “I mean, four guys, we have our name on the ownership or whatever, but it’s [the shop’s] not ours. It’s the community’s and the people that have been supporting us like crazy.”
The grand opening of the shop will occur when the other two businesses that share the space with the coffee shop are ready to open. The businesses include Coastal Native, which sells beachwear merchandise, and Wailua Shave Ice, a 100 percent organic shave ice stand from Kauai of which Langstaff is a part owner.
Additionally, OB Beans is waiting for its Mill City Roaster to be delivered. When it arrives, customers will have the opportunity to sit at the bar and watch as the coffee beans are roasted right in front of them, a feature that customers can take advantage of even now with the current smaller roaster.
Though the coffee shop is still in its “soft opening” stage, Nease emphasizes the quality of the espresso and the house blends, some from Guatemala, Ethiopia and Chiapas, Mexico. OB Beans plans on continuously providing different single-origin coffee blends.
Specialty teas will be available and a full commercial kitchen allows customers to buy sandwiches and other food items from the shop as well.
OB Beans buys their beans directly from small farmers in Africa, so directly in fact, that the group of friends has traveled to Africa to visit the farmers and form relationships with them. Nease says the group of four friends has traveled to Oaxaca, El Salvador and Guatemala.
But building relationships is just one of the aspects to the OB Beans slogan “Doing Good... Farm to Cup.”
In visiting the farms, the founders of OB Beans get to ensure that the farmers are being paid fairly for the work they put into farming the beans.
Nease says that part of the vision for OB Beans is to show people the processes and hard work that go into a quality cup of coffee — a concept that is visually represented in the shop by the canvas photographs on the walls, showing coffee beans starting out on trees and being picked, processed, dried and stored.
Another perk to visiting the coffee bean plantations is getting to make sure the process is completely organic and sustainable. The outcome is high-quality specialty coffee, with a score of 83 or above on a scale of 1-100, according to Nease.
OB Beans’ vision takes “doing good” a step further by taking it past the coffee industry and into nonprofit organizations.
Currently, OB Beans donates money to Young Life, iThinkBig and Ride4Water. Though OB Beans is not a nonprofit organization, it does strive to give back to the community and nonprofits, says Bardelli.
The coffee shop’s logo is designed by Keet Veylupek, who has his hand on a variety of aspects of the company, from quality control to menu creativity, design, taking care of café manager tasks, training baristas and being a barista himself.
The logo Veylupek designed is a seagull standing still. Nease explains that the OB logo is a flying seagull, so Veylupek designed a still seagull to show that OB Beans can be “a place of rest.”
As Bardelli puts it, “We want people to stay. And if they buy one drink and stay all day, that’s okay. ‘Cause they’re enjoying it. They’re experiencing it.”
Where: 4879 Newport Ave.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Info: obbeans.com, 619-977-9956