Beans and spokes

By Posted on Feb 06 2019 | By

Culpeper shop showcasing upscale coffee and bikes

Let’s pretend you’re an entrepreneur looking to start a small business with lots of potential. What might you consider? Gift shop? Restaurant? Pet grooming? Microbrewery? Self-Storage?

All good choices.

But what if you had the opportunity and experience to open two linked businesses with a potential customer base of 250 million Americans who enjoyed your products? Your business plan would brighten considerably.

Such a shop is thriving in Culpeper centered on two staples: coffee and bicycles. And both items are focused on audiences with upscale tastes. Or more accurately, folks who may not know they have high-end tastes until they experience the products for sale.

Welcome to 18 Grams Coffee Labs and VeloConcepts. It’s a twofer business. Open one door and walk into two shops; artisanal coffee on one side and high-performance bikes on the other.

The eclectic business model is the brainchild of Joe Coppola, a high energy guy with an idea never far from his active imagination. Linking coffee and bikes evolved as he sought to build and expand his business.

There are 150 million coffee lovers in the U.S. and 100 million bike riders so the potential is obvious.

Today Piedmont residents can score an exceptional cup of java and a pedal machine of the highest caliber under the same roof at 201 Waters Place #110 in Culpeper.

Coppola, 46, labors as an IT professional during the day while overseeing his two passions. “About four years ago I started a bike shop called VeloConcepts. I carry high-end boutique bikes. I don’t cater to kids and lower cost bikes,” said Coppola.

The reason is he grew up racing both road and mountain bikes beginning in his college days and realized there was a market for riders with similar interests. “It was my way to give back to the cycling community. Over the years I had gained weight and gotten out of shape. I got reinvigorated getting back into cycling.”

As part of his shop, he always had coffee available for visiting customers. “I thought it was better to offer them a cup of coffee or expresso as opposed to saying, ‘What do you want to buy from me’. I was into quality coffee and thought it was just a small thing to provide as part of my customer service.”

The bike shop was opened in 2014 but a year and a half later he learned he was going to lose his lease. He began a hunt for another shop and located an old apple warehouse that needed considerable work to suit his needs. It also expanded his retail space from the original 700 square foot store to 2,500 square feet.

“It was going to be tough to support such a large space just selling bikes. There’s a big-time tie in between cycling and coffee and I said, ‘Let’s open a café as part of the bike shop.’ I also didn’t want to be on Main Street because the expectation is you’d be able to find lower priced bikes there and I don’t deal in that kind of product.”

What do high-performance cycles cost? Be prepared to pay anywhere from $1,500 for an entry level machine up to $11,000. If it helps, think Tour de France.

The bike shop also sports $50,000 in fitting equipment to enable bikes to be custom fitted to each rider. In addition to recreational riders, professional racing cyclists from throughout the mid-Atlantic region call VeloConcepts home.

The Waters Place location also enabled Coppola to safely launch customer bike rides headed out of town without dealing with heavy downtown traffic.

Coffee is coffee, right? Not so fast. If you told Coppola that, he’d leap off his bike to share the fuller story with you. “We serve third wave coffee and expresso and get our product from a roaster company in North Carolina called Counter Culture Coffee.”

Third wave coffee is a movement to produce high-quality coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, much like wine and craft beer. It involves improvements at all stages of production, from coffee plant growing, harvesting, and processing, to stronger relationships between coffee growers, traders, and roasters.

The coffee side of the business is called 18 Grams Coffee Lab because of the technique used to brew the cuppa. “It takes 18 grams in a filter basket to produce espresso and coffee. It’s a scientific method to ensure the perfect cup each and every time.

“We are very temperamental and weigh and measure everything that goes into our recipes. We actually go down to the hundredth gram to make a perfect blend or 18.4 grams per cup.

“We also feature a wide range of seasonal epicurean toasts, healthy starts, and house-made sandwiches, pastries and sweets. We often get comments such as, ‘This is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted,’” said Coppola.

Never willing to rest on his coffee beans, the café recently launched a series of flavored brews that are produced to replicate a craft cocktail bar except coffee and lattes are the prized drinks.

One new offering is the campfire s’mores latte. It consists of graham cracker infused milk with homemade chocolate and marshmallow. The drink is then placed in a smoke infuser box to produce a smoked hickory flavor drink replicating a campfire s’more treat but snuggled inside a 12-ounce cup. It’s served with a signature food item.

Coffee hounds should not expect to drop by and just grab a cup and run. These handcrafted drinks may take up to 10 minutes to produce providing time to gaze at the sleek racing bikes on the other side of the shop.

In summing up his passion for life and business, Coppola said, “Anything I can sink my teeth into and gain more knowledge of while educating my customers is what I’m all about.”

What his customers are all about are enjoying the fruits of his labors. For a sneak peek into this unique café and bike emporium visit: https://www.veloconcepts.com/ and https://www.18gramscoffeelab.com/


Published in the February 6, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.     

Categories : HAGARTY TALES