Ray: I’m Ray.
Kandace: I’m Kandace.
Ray: … and welcome to Unpacking Coffee. This week …
Kandace: … Forty Weight.
Ray: … of outer Ithaca, New York.
Kandace: Syracuse, on the outskirts of Ithaca. Clearly those are the same thing.
Ray: Apparently those places are so close that their hands could be in one place.
A quote from one of my customers at the farmers market today, " Everything I like comes from Ithaca." #twithaca
— Andrew Ballard (@40WeightCoffee) September 27, 2014
Kandace: Outskirts of Ithaca. Their on the outskirts.
Ray: Or Syracuse.
Kandace: Or Syracuse.
Ray: Forty Weight … Why don’t we start with their story? They were a couple of buddies. One of them was actually from Bellingham, right?
Ray: They settled in New York, and after …
Kandace: So you’re living on opposite coasts. Two buddies, eight grand, that’s all it took. Andrew and Matt. You know what? We talked to them both and they told us a little bit about how they got started.
Matt: My name’s Matthew Marks. I’m one of the owners of Forty Weight Coffee Roasters.
Andrew: My name’s Andrew Ballard. I am also a roaster for Forty Weight Coffee Roasters. I moved here from Seattle about six years ago. I had just graduated from college. I wasn’t ready to get a job with my degree, and I had gotten really interested in coffee while I was out in Seattle. I had started roasting a bit.
When I moved here, I bought a 1970s camper, bought a $5,000 coffee roaster, renovated the camper and put the coffee roaster inside, which started our company.
Matt: After graduate school, I was kind of bouncing around, so some odd jobs here and there. The economy kind of fell apart. 2008, we were offered a shared space on a café, so to speak, in a Brooklyn location right down the street from me, and I ended up kind of running that operation and then formally partnering up with Andrew.
Wholesale is Where It’s At
We don’t own and operate any café anymore. We left that location in early 2013, so it was about a two year kind of experiment, if you will.
We left of our own volition and we kind of pivoted and shifted gears to more of just a wholesale model, which has proven to be much easier, much more lucrative, and just much more versatile than just having a brick and mortar store, which sucks out resources, time, you name it.
What’s in a Name
Kandace: So Forty Weight is a term that truckers use on the CB radio to talk about coffee.
Andrew: It’s like an old term for coffee. It’s meant to be fairly abstract; people aren’t supposed to know what it means.
Kandace: The original packaging was oil, because forty weight is a type of oil.
Andrew: Which I actually still really liked. The bag quality isn’t what it needs to be, and then our second version is that there, which I thought was a pretty good bag. It was a good step for us.
Ray: The current packaging, which you can see is kind of torn into, it kind of ticks all the boxes and the checklists for things that we love in packaging. They use a hand sewn patch. They have these nice labels showing the varietal. They have a hot stamp on the back, that’s sort of, in this case, reflective on the craft bag but it’s kind of different on the different bags.
Andrew: We toyed with the idea of just having random art on the back, having nothing to do with coffee, but then we decided for this first round that we would do hand drawn art that has to do with coffee.
In the future we’re going to continue expanding that and keep doing rotating art on the back. It may be coffee-related in the future, it may not be, but we like the idea of having something cool to look at every time you buy a bag of coffee.
Kandace: They brought in an illustrator, who is a tattoo artist, and he does custom illustration for them. It’s pretty cool. All of their packaging has different illustrations on it.
A Twitter Frame of Mind
Ray: Another thing they talked about a little bit when you chatted with them was social media.
Kandace: Yeah, I mean they definitely have a pretty strong social media presence, pretty opinionated in their Twitter, so I give them a little bit of a hard time about that.
Dont be captivated by the bright shiny lure, #starbucks is a large part of what's wrong with the world. Local economy makes places not suck.
— Andrew Ballard (@40WeightCoffee) December 5, 2014
With all these corporate roasters now operating in New York City, there are some gross heavy-handed business practices going on. #shameonyou
— Andrew Ballard (@40WeightCoffee) March 9, 2016
Matt: Oh no, that’s real … That’s him. That’s not a represent- …
Andrew: Every time I send a tweet, it could be … could see it as offensive.
Ray: Yeah I know, but that’s real.
Kandace: … and that is actually pretty darn refreshing to see.
Ray: Forty Weight Coffee Roasters of New York.