Get to know one of the many small black business owners in the Tacoma community.
The Ledger got the privilege to speak to the Co-Founder of Campfire Coffee, Quincy Henry, as he shared some insight into what Campfire is all about.
“We exist to increase access to outdoor activities and the specialty coffee industry for underrepresented groups,” Henry said. “We also exist to inspire people to really live and thrive in those spaces.”
Campfire Coffee is a small, black-owned business that wants to bring the great outdoors to those around them. They fire-roast their coffee beans with an aim to inspire people to connect with not just the outdoors, but brewed coffee as well.
He continued the conversation by speaking about the road they took to get where they are today. Henry shared the reasons and circumstances for starting this business, which he said were unlike many others.
“Campfire really came out of necessity,” Henry said. “This definitely wasn’t one of those situations you hear about where an entrepreneur has a great idea and just decides to build something because they want to do it, or we saw some glaring need in the marketplace and wanted to capitalize. Campfire really came about because we needed jobs.”
Henry spoke about the specific incidents that caused this necessity to begin to grow, the incidents that really began making them look towards beginning a coffee business.
“I had just been recently ‘bought out’ at the marketing agency I only recently became a partner in and not 3 months later, my wife Whitni who is a disabled military veteran suffered a pretty serious concussion at her job when she was attacked by a patient. When she got hurt, one thing became painfully clear in that neither of our career paths were providing stability physically or financially,” he said.
With their goal decided, the couple began work to get their business off the ground. However, their share of problems did not end there but grew instead.
“The circumstances even before the pandemic hit were challenging in that the space had issues in terms of being able to build out and then we had issues with the contractors and issues with the inspector we were assigned. Without going into too much of it, we signed the lease in August of 2019 and what was supposed to be a 6-week buildout took almost a year,” he said.
However, these circumstances made it so they had to improvise and change their plans for how they would initially open their business.
“Had we opened up in the fall of 2019 like we had believed we were going to do, there’s a chance we wouldn’t have even been roasting our own coffee. We definitely wouldn’t have had an online store. The pandemic coupled with the circumstances we were facing forced us to get serious about roasting our coffee and forced us to give e-commerce a shot which have proven to be the two things that are most valuable to our business structure and our survival,” Henry said.
Rather than see their small business crumble with the introduction of COVID, they managed to thrive despite the issues they had faced.
“When things shut down, our online store boomed, when our online store slowed, bulk orders picked up. When we got the shop open in August of 2020 we saw a glimpse of what our business could look like in an open and fully functioning economy,” he said
He then spoke about how the Tacomans in particular did not let this business crumble. As a community, they provided as much support as they could for Campfire Coffee, and word about the store spread past just Tacoma.
“Tacoma would not let us fail and that spread pretty fast across the country and across the world. By Sep. 2020, we had shipped to every state in the country and two foreign countries. The community now extends well beyond Tacoma,” he said. “It feels like we’re just tapping into a larger community that cares about the same things that Tacomans care about; that is preserving small businesses that provide value to their everyday lives.”
Throughout the rise of Campfire Coffee, there were some individuals in particular that contributed to their success. To these individuals, they would like to express their sincere gratitude.
“He doesn’t want to be mentioned by name but there is a guy — he’s a friend’s dad and I’ll call him Mr. R — who guided us through the buildout when things got really ugly. I believe that God puts people in your path for various reasons and when I think about the path that led us to Mr. R, it’s just as incredible of a story as the story of us getting Campfire open. Without him, we wouldn’t have gotten Campfire constructed and open,” Henry said. “My parents who support us and continue to help out. Gave us a place to stay after we sold our house to try and get this coffee business going. And all the individual donors to our gofundme we launched back in May of 2019.”
With their business thriving and the support of many behind them, Campfire Coffee looks ahead to the future with a clear goal in mind.
“I really believe our future is as an experience based lifestyle brand where coffee and outdoor rec. become a way of life for people in the cities we’re in. We’re opening up in a second location here in Tacoma where people can view the roasting process and have an ‘urban campground’ experience right here. I think this is a way for us to continue to spread our brand with intent and in a meaningful way without having to try and be as ubiquitous as say Starbucks,” Henry says.
He then noted that Campfire Coffee is a unique place to grab a cup of coffee and realize the importance of helping community small businesses thrive amidst everything going on.
“We’re the only Black/Woman/Veteran owned coffee roasting company in the state of Washington. We’re the only open flame roasting company in the country. Where most 3rd wave coffee companies aim to really help the coffee farmers through various fair trade programs, we go a step further and do that plus look to make a difference right here in our own backyard.”
“I’m a big fan of the Toasted Marshmallow Cream Cold Brew which is made with our Mountain Espresso Blend coffee and house made toasted marshmallow cream. I’m also a big fan of the Gingerdoodle which is a gingerbread flavored latte that is made with cubano (brown sugar and espresso) shots,” Henry says.
Campfire Coffee is located in Downtown Tacoma and is open from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
You can find Campfire Coffee online at: www.welovecampfire.com