The lovely Cafe Pedlar may dip in hipster cred now that Stumptown is owned by Wall Street.
Photo by Joshua Kristal
Oh, a dark day for hipster coffee lovers!! Stumptown Coffee, of Portland, Oregon, and of the rage in Brooklyn and Manhattan (the thick, rich brewed java — fair trade and all, and $14 for less than a pound — is the main attraction at Court Street’s Cafe Pedlar in Cobble Hill) has been purchased by a Wall Street investment firm that also owns shares in Vitamin Water. South Brooklyn Post food writer Erin Behan tipped us off to this unexpected occurrence.
Stumptown competitor Todd Carmichael, the co-founder of Philadelphia-based La Colombe Torrefaction, broke the news gleefully last week in Esquire.com, calling his nemesis, Duane Sorenson, the founder of Stumptown, the fallen “Che Guevara” of the coffee world.
Willamette Week, one of the last remaining vibrant alt-news weeklies, in Portland, Oregon, got the skinny on the deal by tracking down the corporation filing papers in Delaware, Oregon and Washington. The paper reports that TSG Consumer Partners, an NYC investment company, purchased 90 percent of Stumptown in April, and added the “Corp.” to the company name.
Alex Panos of TSG is now the president and representative of Stumptown, according to the documents. He has not divulged how much he paid for the company.
Carmichael, of La Colombe, told the Willamette Week that TSG is hoping to buy and merge several hot coffee companies including Chicago-based Intelligentsia, San Francisco-based Blue Bottle, and Counter Culture, from Durham, North Carolina, though at this point the major buyout and merger is hearsay.
Sorenson in the past has expressed interest in expanding to Amsterdam and elsewhere in Europe.
A nice employee at Cafe Pedlar explained the backstory a bit. Turns out the two Franks, who own Frankies Spuntino and Prime Meats as well as Cafe Pedlar, all on Court, are friends with Sorenson. They brought him to NYC, and Pedlar was the first retailer of Stumptown Coffee on the East Coast.
Stumptown then opened a roaster in Red Hook, and now the coffee is sold all over.
The employee said there is a rumor that Stumptown may open a cafe, like the one it operates in the uber-hipster Ace Hotel in Manhattan, on Smith Street.
Perhaps despite this investment and purchase of Stumptown, the quality and service and relationships with growers will not be impacted. But it surely will hurt the brand’s indie cred.
The news is welcome to Lynn Marquet, the owner of Marquette Patisserie on Court Street. Marquet is a quiet, charming little Parisian oasis on Court Street, selling pastries, coffees and espresso drinks here since 1988. Lynn proudly serves La Colombe coffees, and has watched as throngs crowd across the street into Pedlar every morning to see and be seen (and, yes, to partake in some deliciously rich Stumptown coffee).
When I told Lynn about the takeover, she only responded with a wide smile.
It’s a good story for the Willamette Weekly, as Stumptown officials had denied to The New York Times and other newspapers and blogs, as well as to its NYC employees, that the sale had taken place.
What does this mean for Stumptown in NYC, and Cafe Pedlar? Time will tell.
Sorenson had this to say on Stumptown’s website:
“At a time when it’s difficult to find the financing to grow, run and operate a quality driven and sustainable business, I am pleased to announce that Stumptown has found an investor to help us offer opportunities and take care of our employees, farmers and customers like we’ve never been able to do before. I have been lucky enough to find an investor that will enable me to continue to run Stumptown and focus on the coffee.
“While Oregon’s economy struggles and the unemployment rate is staying high, we’re looking forward to employing more talented and creative people to help us grow and stay focused on the highest quality coffee and the service we are known for. After all, the success of Stumptown comes from the awesome individuals we have and the strength of our team.”