Take 5 is a meetup with a local entrepreneur.
From an early age, Tony Andrews knew he wanted to own his own business.
His first foray into entrepreneurship was selling soda and snacks at Little League games when he wasn’t playing.
About 4 1/2 years ago, Andrews and his wife, Kasey, bought Espresso Express, a place he used to hang out at before starting a shift as a Yakima police officer and where Kasey Andrews worked as a barista. He has since renamed the Tieton Drive establishment Yakima Coffee Co., offering all-
organic, shade-grown coffee and sweet treats.
His business employs
Andrews, 31, has a degree in fire science. He and his wife have two children, Haiden, 3 and Hudson, 1.
How did you decide to go into business?
From a young age I’ve always dreamed of owning my own business and using it to give back to my community. I remember dragging a cooler down to Little League games when I wasn’t playing and selling soda and snacks to the parents and kids in attendance.
That dream of being an entrepreneur never died. I was working in local law enforcement at the time but frequented Espresso Express daily before work. My wife was working there at the time as a barista, and we had the opportunity to buy out the current ownership and take over. We jumped on the chance to purchase the coffee bar and implement all the ideas we had to grow an already established company. As the coffee bar grew rapidly, I ended up leaving my career at the Yakima Police Department to continue to build our coffee company into what it is today.
Were there any particular challenges to taking over an existing business, and how did you overcome them?
There were several challenges we encountered when we took over the business. We took over a business that had poor previous financial management and accounting practices, no inventory tracking and employee management that was fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style.
Our first few months were interesting to say the least. We hired a new accountant, implemented electronic scheduling and employee management systems, new register systems, began the process of going line by line through all menu items and making changes where we felt were needed. We also hired new bakers, replaced old equipment while minimizing downtime, and hired more staff, all while we learned as much as we possibly could about our industry. We spent countless hours researching new products, trends and ideas.
We worked many hours trying to keep payroll costs down while learning our business and implementing changes as we moved forward. Our focus initially was to streamline processes, improve products, improve employee relations and build our customer base.
What do you do to stand out from the competition from all the other coffee houses and stands out there?
Yakima is saturated with coffee shops and competition. We knew from day one that to be successful we wanted to be original and different in everything we do. Surprisingly, although we have so many coffee shops around the Valley, many of them don’t sell a lot of coffee. Coffee is our passion, and that was something we wanted to be known for. Sure, we offer energy drinks such as Red Bull and Lotus, but that’s not our target market. We really hit home with the coffee connoisseurs. We are the only place in Yakima that offers some of the top coffee in the world. We sell 100 percent certified organic, shade-grown, fair-trade coffee. This is our niche, our heart and why we are so different.
As we grew, our family grew with us, so to speak. My mother-in-law and her wife own and operate our roasting company (Crafted Coffee Roasters). This is huge for us. She’s able to import coffee directly from the farmers to her roaster and to our coffee bar, ensuring that we have the freshest coffee we possibly can. We also spent a great deal of time and money investing in high-end Italian equipment to keep line times fast, shot times consistent and the coffee just perfect with every sip.
Is there anything you know now that you wished you knew when you were starting out?
Change is good. Implement change without fear; be different than your competition in every way possible while serving your target market the best you can. We have literally over the last four-and-a-half years changed every single item on our menu, our look, our name, our logo and everything that everyone knew about Espresso Express and formed a new identity as Yakima Coffee Co. We wanted to be the place that locals frequent for coffee, so we changed everything to make that possible, and it’s worked.
After working in a coffee shop as long as you have, do you still like coffee?
I love coffee more now than I ever did before. I grew to love coffee for more than just the drink itself. Coffee brings people together. Coffee puts a smile on your face, wakes you up in the morning and can help turn a rough day into a good day. We can use coffee to give back to our community in amazing ways that weren’t possible before. Coffee has brought hundreds if not thousands of new friends into our lives.