Bird Rock Coffee merges with Kansas company, Lofty Coffee opens in Little Italy

February's coffee news

Lofty Coffee’s new open-air café at the south end of Little Italy
  • Lofty Coffee’s new open-air café at the south end of Little Italy
  • Image by Jenny Farhat

Points of origin

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

5627 La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla

In early February, San Diego’s award-winning Bird Rock Coffee Roasters announced a merger with the Topeka, Kansas, business PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. While each brand will retain its own identity, PT’s cofounder Jeff Taylor will move to San Diego to run Bird Rock’s business side, freeing up founder Chuck Patton to continue as head coffee buyer for both brands.

According to Taylor​, ​“Bird Rock Coffee Roasters requires more and more attention to its global coffee partners, which Chuck will lead and is most passionate about.” She adds the move will allow Patton “to focus more on the growing conditions and processing techniques of the coffee” at points of origin.

Patton and Taylor met and became friends over the course of coffee-buying trips going back more than seven years, and the two companies already shared several of the same green coffee sources. The biggest immediate change for Bird Rock will be adding Ecuador and Brazil coffees for the first time, tapping relationships developed by PT’s, which was established in 1993 and operates a couple of cafés in the Midwest.

Taylor will reportedly work to grow Bird Rock’s cold-brew program and will also be seeking opportunities to expand upon the roaster’s three café locations in the near future — first identifying other properties within San Diego, then aiming to move north into other parts of California.

The merger hasn’t been the only change for Bird Rock in February. As head roaster Heather Brisson moved on from San Diego last month, the team had been seeking a new head roaster. Instead, they brought back an old colleague. Tony Gomez worked for Bird Rock for nearly eight years, beginning in 2005, and was roasting for the company when it was named micro roaster of the year by Roast Magazine in 2012.

Escape velocity

Encinitas roaster Lofty Coffee Co. made its first move into San Diego’s urban center this month, opening a bakery and coffee shop in Little Italy.

Lofty Coffee Co. Little Italy

444 W. Cedar Street, Little Italy

The mostly outdoor space features 1100 square feet of patio to go with a litany of coffee drinks, plus pastries, sandwiches, cheese boards, and other light fare.

What’s unusual about Lofty taking the corner location is that property developer Brendan Foote bypassed two dozen other proposals — including a couple of well-known, out-of-town coffee chains — to solicit Lofty as a tenant. “It’s kind of unique in the sense a landlord pursues a tenant,” says the North County resident. “As a customer of Lofty’s other locations, I saw the vision of what we had for this property becoming a reality with them.”

Foote spent the better part of a year convincing Lofty founder Eric Myers to commit to the space, though Myers is clearly pleased with the results. “This location is basically the culmination of everything we’ve done and learned as a company,” he notes. “As far as for the brand and growth, this is escape velocity, it’s high visibility.”

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