CLARKS SUMMIT — Andrew Walker, a 2011 Abington Heights High School graduate, said when his mother Mari opened Duffy’s Coffee House on Nov. 11 of that same year, he knew nothing about coffee or how to run a business.
But now, a little over four years later, the Clarks Summit native is the owner of his own small roasting business, Duffy’s Coffee Co., which he runs from the basement of his mother’s cafe.
About a year after getting involved in the family business, Walker started doing some research of his own and networking with local entrepreneurs and other people in the coffee industry. Visiting cafes in large cities such as Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, he spoke with the owners, learning all he could. The people at Cafe Grumpy in New York City were especially accommodating, giving him an up-close look behind the scenes of the business.
“They were very helpful to me by letting me come in and see the process and be a part of it,” he said.
Locally, he said Mary Tellie, of Electric City Roasting Co. helped him a lot.
From there, he continued a slow but steady trek forward, not entirely sure if or when his newfound dream of starting his own business would come to fruition.
“After I got a clear visual and a clear idea of what it all involved, I wrote my first draft of my business plan,” he said, adding he initially began the task “mostly for fun.”
He continued learning from and networking with other local business owners, and in December, purchased his equipment and started testing it out. Duffy’s Coffee House, which moved next door from its original location in November, now serves his products, which include a house blend, an espresso blend and decaf. He said he also “dabbles” in some single-origin coffees.
Reflecting on the realization of his dream, he said, “It hasn’t set in completely.” At the same time, however, he said it feels “comfortable,” because he pictured it for so long.
Certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, he said he only purchases specialty grade coffee beans, which are in the top 5 percent of all coffee produced around the world.
He also places importance on dealing only with sellers that offer not only the best quality products, but ones that are ethically sound. He makes it a priority to deal with farmers who do good things for their communities, rather than take advantage of people or treat them poorly.
The process begins with an importer in New York City, who sends him samples, along with information about the farms from which the beans come. He then tastes them and researches the origins. Once he makes his decision and places the order, the beans are shipped in 150-pound sacks, from which he weighs them out into smaller quantities for roasting.
He said the actual roasting process involves a “very specific profile, dictated by time vs. temperature.” Then, after the beans cool, they are stored temporarily, the origins kept separated until its time to blend and package.
One attribute of a good cup of coffee, Walker said, is its freshness. And because of the small size of his business, he is able to always offer the products fresh, in contrast to large operations where the beans are stored for months in warehouses or storerooms.
Another benefit of the small nature of both businesses is the way they serve to connect and unite people.
“I feel like we’ve really drawn a lot of the community together,” he said, adding the coffee house even helped bring his family closer to each other.
But even with all the success Duffy’s has to celebrate so far, there’s still room to grow.
“I have a feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Reach Elizabeth Baumeister at 570-704-3943 or on Twitter @AbingtonJournal.