Friday, December 15, 2006

Old Soul Coffee Company

The place many people, including myself, love is in trouble with the Sacramento County Health Dept. Give me a break, this ranks up there on my pissed off list with the whole Distillery debacle.

While I am on the subject, stop by and get some pizza dough, my wife and I gorged ourselves in it the night we picked it up and loved it.

This places oozes the culinary entrepreneurship we want to see, and are seeing a lot more of in Sacramento these days, esp in the central city.

From Tim Jordan at Old Soul:

Old Soul Co.
Where we’ve been, Where we are & where we’re going

This week, The Sacramento County Health Dept issued Old Soul Co. a Food Vending Violation Notice, instructing us to immediately stop selling food at retail without a Sac County Health Permit. This is our story, and we’re sticking to it....

We (Jason and Tim) set out to build a wholesale coffee roasting and bakery business in the heart of Midtown, where all the action is—to be in the middle of the burgeoning food scene, where the prospective restaurateur clients were making a name for Midtown Sacramento.

We found an unconventional space, and it struck us immediately that this could be a great fit. Two unknown guys, with no product or identity or background create an incubator on an alley—in an unimproved storage warehouse, where experiments in passion and collaboration of ideas come together to make great product and forge a solid brand identity.

How to do it? Hire the best architect (Ron Vrilakas), consult with the heads of the City Planning and Building Process (Ray Kerridge’s “Matrix” team), and bring in all disciplines and departments to make sure we were doing it right. Three and ½ short months after signing our lease, this terrific team made it happen, and we were officially cleared for business.

Back in July, we couldn’t quite imagine where we are now. Through a combination of hard work and tremendous support from the business and civic leaders of Sacramento, our wholesale business has exceeded our projections. The positive feedback and media coverage has been astounding (especially as we haven’t budgeted any PR time or $$ into our 18 hour days). And shockingly, people have either stumbled upon or embarked upon a pilgrimage to L-Cap Alley, to see why their favorite restaurants, cafes and grocery stores were supporting this new Old Soul Co. In doing so, an amazing coming together of wisdom and optimism has enlivened the space, as bon vivants and raconteurs rub elbows with the aforementioned bright lights of Sacramento’s food and political scene.

In trying to make sense out of the free-flowing chaos that ensued, we made some rules: come in if the door is open (no set hours), you can buy stuff if we have extra (always for $2), and by the way, “we aren’t retail” (no parking, door, HVAC, restroom access). Our come as you are and stay as long as you want policy resonated with those who scheduled their business, social and political gatherings at our space on an increasingly frequent basis.

Alas, unconventional doesn’t always work for everyone, and it isn’t always fair. You can’t count on us being open, you can’t get a mocha or anything “whippy” or with ice, we are OFTEN completely out of extra bread and baked goods (remember, we sell this stuff to our wholesale accounts, not retail), and you can’t use the restroom. It may not be right, but it is the way it is at Old Soul, and has been somewhat self-weeding to the community of people we fit. It also happens to run afoul of Sacramento County, who says if it looks, feels and smells like retail, it is retail—requiring adherence to all of the rules of Sac County Health, and the issuance of a Sac County Health Permit.

So, where do we go from here? First and foremost, Old Soul Co. wants to be a good citizen, to comply with the rules and to continue to be an asset to the community. It is our hope that we can quickly get there, building upon the work done by City and State officials to determine those few things needed to adhere to the standards set by the County. It may take a little outside of the box thinking to allow this unconventional business to thrive, but I’m convinced that Sacramento wants and really does have an Old Soul.


Anonymous said...

Words cant describe , you said it best LIUS . Its things like this that remind me why our city has such a hard time getting things done .

Anonymous said...

Whoa there, folks....

My (new) friend Jason at LJ Urban highly recommends this blog as a place where valued progressive ideas are exchanged.
That being said, I do want to caution all against immediately raging against the machine (Sac County); as of this writing, really nothing has occurred other than what one might expect when a business that seemingly does (guerilla) retail traffic has no valid retail-related Health Permit.
I remain hopeful that with the tremendous outpouring of support we have received, all parties including Sac County will come to the table looking for a solution, looking to keep midtown's Old Soul.
Our business is committed to doing our part, to go the extra mile toward compliance-- I believe we will all be (pleasantly) surprised that Sac County will help facilitate this, for the good of the community.

GA said...

Tim - I understand the Healthy Dept has a job to do and is looking out for the welfare of people, and without knowing all the details, it seems that instead of trying to find a solution for a problem that hasn't been seen before, the Health Department will just follow a narrow set of rules.

Jason mentioned one of this coworkers saw your sign being taken are not closing in the mean time, are you?

Anonymous said...

the sign in the alley was still there this morning

Anonymous said...

I talked with Tim this morning and got to the bottom of the confusion with the sign. A few days ago, right after the Public Health thing came about, a truck hit the sign and they had to take it down for a few hours to fix it. All correlation was merely coincidental.

Anonymous said...

Props to you, Tim, for making sure nobody gets too roudy. :)

Were people to get rowdy I would have to stand up for the old adage: don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I shudder to think what would happen if the health department declared "oh what the hell," and let less responsible restaurateurs than yourselves have free reign.

Anonymous said...

Wow, look at me! I can spell one word two different ways in one post! Hooray!

Anonymous said...

i walked in there the other day and was a little confused about what was going on. it looked like a retail space and people had told me to check it out. the employees told me they only sold to wholesale customers so i left. this explains a lot. thanks for the information.