Stumptown to stop roasting coffee on 12th Ave

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

A pillar of Capitol Hill’s cafe scene is ending its coffee roasting operation on 12th Ave. Sprudge broke the news Tuesday that Portland-based Stumptown Coffee will shut down the roasters at its Capitol Hill shop that opened in 2007. The decision will end the Portland-based company’s days of roasting beans in Seattle.

A person familiar with the move told CHS that ongoing issues with the shop’s old building and plans for Seattle University development in the area factored into the decision. Ten stories of office and dorms are planned to rise above the coffee shop as part of the private university’s expansion plan. We have questions out to Stumptown about the future of the coffee shop and how Seattle U’s plans will impact their operations.

UPDATE: Stumptown vice president Matt Loundsbury told CHS that in addition to having no space for a much needed new roaster, roasting on 12th Ave would become impossible amid Seattle U’s expansion. “What we understand the plans to be will make it really hard to do what we do,” he said.

The roasting operation is expected to wind down in September, Loundsbury said. After that Stumptown plans to expand the cafe and use part of the space for training. All the roasting that was being done in Seattle will move to the company’s Portland facility. Three Seattle employees will be affected by the move and all were offered different positions inside the company, Loundsbury said.

The change on 12th Ave also comes after a major acquisition last year. Stumptown became a wholly owned subsidiary of Peets Coffee and Tea in 2015 after the coffee chain obtained a partial ownership in 2011. Stumptown’s other Capitol Hill venue is on E Pine near Boylston.

Last year CHS spoke with Stumptown’s director of coffee about the significance of Capitol Hill’s concentration of coffee roasting. “For us, part of our mission in coffee is to connect consumers for work that’s done in stores,” Andrew Daday told CHS. “It’s providing that window into this international business.”

Coffee’s ‘biggest event’ just downhill from the fertile roasting grounds of Capitol Hill

The 2014 arrival of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery put a new focus on perhaps the most significant manufacturing industry thriving in the neighborhood. Other neighborhood roasters include Vita and Victrola. Last year we counted around two dozen people directly employed in roasting coffee in the neighborhood, according to roasters that spoke with CHS. In 2015, we wrote about Vivace’s expanded roasting facility beneath Broadway.

Much of the business among the four non-Starbucks roasters relies on shipping coffee to other cafes and businesses. Daday told CHS that the web of wholesale Capitol Hill coffee is thick in the neighborhood and spreads throughout the state and even into Canada.

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6 thoughts on “Stumptown to stop roasting coffee on 12th Ave

    • Yeah, Stumptown had it’s time and place a decade ago and I don’t understand how people still get excited about it. Same with Voodoo Donuts. Both had their quality go downhill, Stumptown when it sold out and went national and Voodoo Donuts when it decided to undertake a massive expansion (same thing happened to Top Pot).

  1. This is because of Seattle U? Yeah right… an easy excuse and target for something that was already planned. Maybe Matt Loundsbury is spending too much time roasting something else besides coffee beans… This SU project is expected to be good business for Stumptown and Cafe Press. The new admissions building is supposed to be built there and will drive thousands of potential customers right by both businesses each week…

    • Concerns with the building project have nothing to do with cafe traffic. Construction would make operations in the space unfeasible.

  2. I would imagine that the smell of roasting coffee and smoke wafting into the SU buildings would be a reason that its unfeasible. That’s a good enough excuse.

  3. Are they unable to handle SU’s expansion because their building will be demolished or because for some reason roasting next door to construction/the new building isn’t feasible? The latter doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, and if it’s the former, then why would they be converting the roasting space into more cafe, rather than moving out?

    I suspect it’s a combination of wanting to roast at a larger scale than the space allows and the roasting and cafe clashing more than they work together. The roasting equipment is really loud, making the downstairs space unpleasant, and causing the roaster to crank the music there. But since it’s a separate sound system from the one upstairs, the back area by the stairs ends up with a very loud combination of two different music systems. The result is that the useful cafe space is from the bar to the front of the store, and the roasting space isn’t big enough to run the kind of scale they’re going for.