Atlanta is a coffee town - Jules Tompkins | East Pole Coffee Co.

Photo: Liz Chai

Photo: Liz Chai

We started our business because we noticed something: Atlanta was growing up in specialty coffee. New shops were –– and still are –– opening all over the city, and Atlantans were –– and still are –– beginning to love excellent coffee.

Though we were both from here, my business partner, Jared, and I became “coffee people” elsewhere. Jared first fell in love with coffee while living and working in Indonesia –– a place he liked to call “the East Pole.” And I found specialty coffee on my hunts for wifi while working as a copywriter in Kansas City and Phoenix.

We started our business because we noticed something: Atlanta was growing up in specialty coffee.

In 2014, while Jared was working at Taproom and I was living in Phoenix, working for Cartel Coffee Lab, we started to talk about the Atlanta coffee trend, and how we wanted to be a part of it. A year later, soon after I moved back to Atlanta, we started the way a lot of businesses start –– in a garage. We bought a small, five-pound U.S. Roaster Corps. roaster from a hobbyist in Orlando and a couple of 152-pound bags of coffee. We set up in a friend’s 350-square-foot garage in Grant Park, using his ping-pong table as a catch-all. There, we suffered through some really cold, late nights and some really humid, hot days, slowly building our customer base.

That was a couple of years ago. And today, though we’re still a small part of the market, we’re really excited to be riding the swelling wave of interest and growth in specialty coffee here in Atlanta. Since the day we drove down to Orlando to buy our first roaster, some excellent coffee programs have sprouted up. Places like 8 Arm, Brash, Brother Moto, Read Shop, Spiller Park and, most recently, Muchacho, have all sprouted up in these last couple of years. And for everyone of those, there are others joining the ranks, serving Atlantans better coffee every day.

We blinked, and now almost every nook and cranny of this sprawling town has an excellent coffee shop –– or two or three –– to celebrate.

photo : Jonathan Wade

photo : Jonathan Wade

Two months ago, we opened our own coffee bar over in a not-so-well-known industrial pocket called Armour Yards. We tucked our roasting operation into the same space –– in the back, behind a glass partition –– and made sure to carefully plan our operating hours, leaving time to help train our wholesale partners.

And if the development and product demand weren’t enough to boost our confidence in this hunch that Atlanta was growing up in specialty coffee, the fact that people have found our coffee bar –– in spite of it being located in a one-way-in, one-way-out horseshoe lined by warehouses and manufacturing outfits –– has us totally convinced.

We can confirm first-hand: Atlanta is a coffee town, and we’re proud to be a small part of that reality.

photo : Jonathan Wade


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Q&A with Jules Tompkins


1. Two Months in... what has been the most exciting and hardest part about opening your shop?

When we decided to pull the trigger and open up a brick-and-mortar coffee bar, the number one thing we wanted our guests to experience in interactions with our staff was approachability. Specialty coffee is too often pretentious and aloof. We resented that, so we focused on hiring a staff that was warm, friendly, and not holier-than-thou. For me, the most exciting part of these first two months has been seeing Google and Yelp reviews come in that highlight that very initiative. Our staff has done an excellent job embracing this vision, and I'm very proud of the way they've kindly interacted with our customers.

So far, the hardest part has been leaving the shop, or staying away. It has become my center of gravity, and I'm constantly drifting toward it. There's always something to do, and all of us on the East Pole team love to work on building and constantly improving the company and customer experience. 


 

2. For someone who dreams of starting a small company in Atlanta, what is one piece of encouragement or advice you would give them?

The more and more I talk to other small business owners –– almost regardless of vertical or tenure –– I'm always so surprised how much we have in common, specifically in one area... we don't really know what we're doing, but we're trying to figure it out every day. Starting a small business is very much like building a ship at sea. This is so cliché, but you really do learn something new every day. It's not really "survival of the fittest" out here, but it might be "survival of the most resilient," or something like that.

We've only taken a few steps, so I don't mean to suggest we've arrived, but I do know that the attribute most responsible for getting us to where we are is resilience. We've caught a lot of bad breaks, but Jared, in particular, has always kind of carried this inexplicable confidence that things would always work out. So, our other business partner, Matt, and myself would kind of just go with that and, sure enough, because we were still standing as a business, we were eligible to catch good breaks, and we've had a few of those, too. 

 

3. What are you most excited about for the future of  Atlanta as a coffee town?

When I lived in Phoenix and worked for Cartel Coffee Lab, I once had to pinch-hit and manage a Cartel store downtown in the heart of the tourism district the weekend Super Bowl XLIX came through town. This was the year the Patriots played the Seahawks (and won, because the Seahawks chose not to run the ball, which is all too familiar and all too painful for us Atlantans... so, for the record, the Patriots have really won two Super Bowls because their opponent chose not to run the football... I digress.)

That weekend was probably the hardest I've ever had to work. We served a non-stop line of people for nearly 72 consecutive hours –– no exaggeration. And many of those people were Seahawks fans, who were very quick to tell us about Seattle coffee. "You know," they'd say, "Starbucks started in Seattle." Or they'd kind of watch us as we made their drinks and remark, "We're from Seattle, kind of the coffee capital of the world, so it will be interesting to see how this stuff tastes."


Their attitudes were often obnoxious, as were the neon green accents on their Seahawks jerseys, but I kind of appreciate how pumped they were about their town's coffee scene. 

I hope one day, when Atlantans travel to Seattle en masse –– perhaps for Atlanta United to beat the Sounders or something –– that they walk into a café brag about how great the coffee is back home, just hopefully in a less obnoxious, more politely Southern way. I think that reality is attainable. That's kind of a weird answer, I know.

 

4. Lastly, I have to ask, who designed your beautiful space!?!

Designing our space was a team effort. Jared and I always knew that we'd want a roastery-coffee bar space, and that we'd want the roasting operation in sight. So we conceptualized it together, and Jared sort of sketched a plan out for our architect, Chris Evans with E+E Architecture in Athens. 

Jared's wife, Sara, and I collaborated on a lot of the interiors and finishes, with a lot of input from Jared and Matt. And we worked with Matt Hicks of Matix Woodworking and B10 Union on the furniture and bartop, which is all custom, except for the chairs. 

 

A Decatur MidCentury Ranch Transformation | By: Jonathan Rich

Early last summer I got the opportunity to walk our clients, DKE Custom Homes, through an incredibly unique property in one of Decatur’s most prestigious neighborhoods, Glenwood Estates.

165 Mt. Vernon - Exterior Before

165 Mt. Vernon - Exterior Before

165 Mt Vernon was an aging mid century ranch with fading curb appeal & little to no offering once inside. The compartmentalized galley kitchen, in the center of the house, had original pine stained cabinets & laminate counters. There were aging bathrooms with outdated finishes, a bonus room addition with vinyl flooring and paneling on the walls, and gold fixtures everywhere. The overgrown yard still boasted the residue of once being the talk of the neighborhood when it came to gardening with all of its native plantings, winding walkways, & mature hardwoods.

The price was incredibly steep for investors looking to renovate and possibly make a profit.  At $599,000 it seemed like the only buyer would have to be someone who would be willing to move into this tired & aging home as-is with the idea of tackling a laundry list of DIY projects in the future.  But the more we walked the lot, the more we investigated the floor plan, the more we fell in love with the possibility that there might just be a way to reinvent this sprawling one level (or split level depending on how you looked at it) home.

165 Mount Vernon BEFORE - Back.jpeg

The wild card was the 1200 sq ft addition behind the garage that had been connected to the house sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s.  It was built as an in-law suite (literally) and was incredibly well done.  With 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, a living room, & a kitchen, everything was there, including a porch out to the rear courtyard off the living room. 

The addition, that I am sure was the reason not to buy the home for most due to functional obsolescence, gave us the existing sq ft we needed to possibly pull the whole thing off.  Once you added in the original house & bonus room addition, the in-law suite brought the above ground sq ft to around 3,200. In addition, we were able to capture another 400 sq ft in the basement with an existing bonus and bedroom.

SO we went for it!  We got the price down to 550k and thought that with enough innovation, design, and good ol’ fashion elbow grease we could turn the non-functional & ailing 5 bedroom 3 bath ranch into a 6 bedroom 4 bath masterpiece craftsman cottage. This home would be turned into an open concept, with all new amenities and a new elevation that sharpened the roof pitch and added gables to define the home from the street. This home would be the pride of Mt Vernon Street boasting a brand new finished basement with a bath, a luxury filled master suite drenched in sunlight, a gourmet kitchen with every upgrade, & a reconfigured lot that was absolute magic!

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Earlier this year we delivered that incredible home & within 3 days we had two offers!  Another amazing home to another incredible family we’re proud to call our neighbors! To see the story via images scroll through the before and after photos below.

Best!

Jonathan

Introducing... Dave Sanders!

Friends,

We are so excited to announce we have a brand new agent on our team : Dave Sanders! Dave will be the lead agent of Tucker, GA! Get to know Dave and his family a little better by reading his bio below! Welcome to the team, Dave!


Dave Sanders, Lead Agent of Tucker, GA!

"  I am excited to join the J.Rich Atlanta Team and extremely proud to be given the role of lead agent in the Tucker area. Not only was I born and raised in Tucker, but I recently moved home with my wife, son (with another on the way!), and our dog to begin planting our own roots in the city I love the most. I’ve lived all over Atlanta, but home is where the heart is and my heart is in Tucker!

For the past 11+ years I've worked in the technological field, managing accounts with companies such as Motorola and most recently with Mophie. While I enjoyed those years, managing and working with some wonderful people, the time has come to follow a passion that I’ve had for some time.

J.Rich Atlanta is built on the idea that families and communities need Homes not Houses; Homes where you can create memories that will last a lifetime. Homes that give you rest and peace and a sense of place.  While this is a new and exciting venture, I feel confident that my passion and loyalty for wanting to help others plant their roots in Tucker and the surrounding areas will propel this amazing neighborhood into one that we can all be proud of! Thanks for thinking of me and the J.Rich Atlanta Team as you and your family search for a House that you can call Home. "


Q&A with Dave

  • What is your favorite restaurant in Atlanta? This is an impossible question. Feet to the flame I think I'm going to go with Kimball House in Decatur. My wife and I go every year for our anniversary, from the oysters, to the drinks to the Hawaiian Roll (it's a must!), it never disappoints.
  • Favorite thing to do on a Saturday? At this stage in my life it's definitely spending time with my family at the lake. Hanging out with the little man and watching him splash around and jump to me from the dock is hard to beat. Plus, selfishly it's one of the few times I'm able to sneak away and play a little golf these days.
  • What are you most excited about for the city of Atlanta? As a team we are actually currently reading "City on the Verge", a book about Atlanta by Mark Pendergrast. The book goes over the history of Atlanta and all of the things that happened to get this city to where it stands currently. All of that goes to say that I'm most excited about what our team is going to do to be a part of that narrative going forward.
  • One thing most people might not know about you? Most people know this about me by now, but I have a HUGE shoe problem. I have lots of shoes. So much so that I walked down the isle in Jordan 11 Concords, which are my favorite pair. The one thing people might not know is that we were also able to sneak those into the wedding budget. Thanks, Gary!