Westside1009-B Marietta Street NWAtlanta, GA 30318
ASSIGNMENT: Tenant Representation
We’ve heard about “the 3rd place”. It’s not home. It’s not the office. It’s the coffee shop. It’s the place that gives us the space to take on a persona, to have a meeting, to relax, to engage. Are you the quick espresso in a smart suit? Maybe French Press in dark denim is more your speed. Or, perhaps you’re a funky glasses and a latte type of gal. Whichever your fancy, and whatever your fashion, we all know that the coffee shop is more than just a cup. It’s a culture.
We’ve done our fair share of drinking coffee, and have had the chance to work with some great folks. Our friend in the biz and former client, Tony Riffel, who co-founded Octane Coffee with wife Diane, knows quite a bit about creating culture and making the perfect cup.
We caught up with Tony Riffel to get the low down on what it’s like to be both proprietor and neighborhood pioneer.
Q: When you opened the original Octane you were a pioneer on the Westside. How did you avoid the proverbial arrow in the back?
Tony Riffel: It was sheer will and determination. We had no choice but to tough it out and work hard to survive. I credit the people in the neighborhood who were also determined for us to succeed. They made a conscious effort to support us and were equally determined to come every day because they felt we were a positive addition to the neighborhood. Looking back, there were many reasons we should have failed, but there were a few key people (like Kris McDaniel of Trinity church) who supported us, believed in us, and influenced others to do so as well.
Q. Octane attracts a creative crowd. Why is that?
Tony Riffel: There’s an inherent relationship between the creative process and coffee. It just fits. Our goal was to become a hub of activity for the community, which includes a lot of creatives, to meet and have a place to work. Back when we started, the rent was cheaper in that part of town and the spaces were amazing. The King Plow Arts Center blew my mind when we first saw it and we knew that area was the right place for us. We offer a laid back atmosphere where a freelancer can come and work or a creative team can meet a client. I think the flexibility of Octane is key.
Q. In addition to a morning buzz, what do coffee shops offer our communities?
Tony Riffel: So much. There’s a certain energy in a coffee shop that helps set the tone of the area. It typically attracts an eclectic crowd and is an environment people want to be associated with. It provides a place to go where you are comfortable going alone, with a group, etc. It becomes a networking place, a place to meet new friends, or a place for you to start your company. Coffee shops are the original co-working space which are so trendy now. I can also think of several love connections that have happened at Octane or companies that have started there that grew to be pretty successful. That makes me happy.
Q: What kind of person makes the best barista?
Tony Riffel: Someone who is passionate, eager to learn, and great with people. Our model is to hand craft everything we can. Coffee is something that is always evolving as far as brewing methods, techniques, etc., so that keeps you interested and striving to be better. We can teach the basics, but you have to be passionate about learning to get really good at it.
Q. What do you get when you go to Starbucks? Come on, you can tell us.
Tony Riffel: I go to Starbucks a good bit, especially when traveling. They made it possible for us to do what we do by making it part of the culture. I usually get a drip coffee or Americano. I stay away from the high calorie, sugary drinks and keep it simple. Black coffee is my drug of choice there.