The setting: Seattle, WA.
The time: 1994
As the green mermaid spread across the Pacific Northwest and beyond, an espresso shop opened up in the Upper Queen Anne neighborhood under the sign of a fedora-wearing man in a trench coat. Caffe Ladro ("Coffee Thief" in Italian) was bent on creating loyal customers in spite of the mermaid's growing reach. With a crack staff, impeccable coffee, and a heart for building community, owner Jack Kelly and CFO Bob Ohly shared a vision to establish neighborhood cafes serving great coffee and house-baked pastries throughout the greater area. Before long, the signature fedora man had spread to 15 locations with its own bakery and roastery.
Since 2000, Caffe Ladro has served only coffees certified to provide the farmers a fair price for their product and labor. This key decision has brought Caffe Ladro into relationships with farmers who grow its coffees, and for the last 7 years, Kelly has traveled to origin, sourcing green coffee directly from growers. He also launched Ladro Roasting, allowing him to interact with farmers and mills, and together, they’ve created a wonderful symbiosis. Kelly says, “We communicate directly with them so they learn what it is we are looking for. When they improve their quality, we pay them higher premiums which dramatically affects their lives.”
While Caffe Ladro staff obsesses about the details that go into creating a truly fantastic cup of coffee, a core element of their training is learning the stories from coffee origin. As Kelly puts it, “So much work goes into every pound of coffee. It is our duty to respect this effort and deliver perfectly roasted coffee."