Sister and brother, Julie and Chris Galloway, of
SLO Roasted Coffee in Los Osos.
Norm Galloway launched SLO Roasted Coffee in 1984 in a 1,400-square-foot warehouse on 2nd Street in Los Osos. He imported, roasted, packaged and sold premium coffee. One of his marketing tactics was offering tastings and tours to walk-ins. He welcomed the opportunity to teach customers how his product achieved a richer tasting coffee than the nationally popular brands of the times.
Today, Norm’s children, Julie, Chris and son, Eric, continue the legacy, but they have expanded the company and now work out of a much larger industrial-green 7,000-square-foot warehouse at 1172 Los Olivos Avenue. Still in Los Osos, they moved in on Easter Sunday, 2000.
“We needed to accommodate the large-volume roaster that supports keeping us well stocked,” said Chris. “We’ve developed 100 brands over the years.”
The mammoth roaster is a focal point for visitors to see, hear and smell pungent coffee beans roasting during their annual holiday open house each December. Although they are open for sales and pick-up, open house gatherings are another casualty of the pandemic. Once safe again, inviting the public in for socials and tours will continue to be the Galloway’s outreach to the general public.
“The coffee industry has developed much like the wine and beer industries,” Chris said. “Customers’ palates have change over the years. We source our beans worldwide from family owned farms. They take more time to care for their crops.”
On the shelf, SLO Roasted Coffee might look like a large national brand, but they are a small family owned business that creates limited roasted batches, only purchased from small, family owned growers that they have gotten to know over the years. Growth for the company has been a steady business-to-business effort — a sales call then servicing one grocer, office or hotel at a time.
Early on they served SLO County’s popular grocery outlets, Williams Brothers and Scolari’s. Today, customers find SLO Roasted brands in Albertson’s, Vons and Spencer’s Markets as well as area liquor stores, hotels and offices from Paso Robles to Montecito.
When the rage for K-cup coffees took hold, they adapted. Automated bagging allowed for volume production and new bag sizes. Their 4-cup bags work well for travelers; locals going elsewhere and visitors enjoying more than one cup in their hotel room. Various sizes offered for brands that rotate seasonally has also expanded their online orders. They have even tipped their toes into private labels. Cal Poly Mustang Coffee is available at the student store. And they developed a SLO Roasted Cold Brew Coffee.
“Many of the hotels now offer our coffee for the 4-cup makers,” Chris said. “They discovered more positive Yelp reviews when visitors had coffee with flavor in their rooms and once home we often had a new online customer.”
Chris explained they were just starting to build a factory tour-package with area hotels before COVID-19. Also temporarily parked is their popular Espresso Cart, a full coffee-bar service enjoyed at weddings, area events and nonprofit activities. One of their biggest events was Babe’s Ride-Out with 1,200 ladies on motorcycles and Live Oak for KCBX 2019.
When COVID-19 hit in March, business accounts with grocers, area offices, restaurants and hotels dropped 60 percent. “Everything was going strong,” Julie said, “but then we had to figure out how to pivot.”
The national grocery chains pulled their bulk orders. “It slowed us way down,” said Chris. “We also lost the office and hotel business. People were working at home and the hotels were empty and not able to set out self-serve breakfast.”
Julie complimented her brother’s flexibility, “The grocers don’t like open space on shelves so Chris designed and installed new shelves for all the stores so our bagged products could go on their shelf. After July 4th tourists have come back to the hotels, but it is still slow.”
What is the prognosis to rebuild their business in the future? Besides not raising prices and still offering a 20% discount and free shipping for online orders $50 or more Julie said, “We’re heading into winter and people always drink more coffee when it is colder so we’re hoping for a very wet winter.”
Writer’s Note: An aha-moment was confirmed while interviewing #4 of this ongoing series. If you, my treasured readers, discover nothing else from Chris and Julie Galloway, notice a theme continues showing up in each interview that is key to keeping locally-based businesses going strong during this 2020 onslaught on their livelihood. Together we can survive and especially if a business can “pivot,” it might even thrive.
“SLO County has so many products produced right here in our own backyard,” Chris Galloway said. “Right now our residents are searching for quality high-end value and I believe they’ve learned to appreciate buying local. They say they want us to stay in business. We must all continue to support each other.”