What used to be a simple cup at home with cream and some sugar now can be made into a variety of flavors from vanilla, cinnamon — and even green apple with white chocolate. Yes, it has been concocted. The owners of the Brewed Awakening coffee stand just off South Kitsap Boulevard have in fact made that drink.
“It’s probably the weirdest one we’ve ever made,” Marcy Cartwright said. Marcy and her husband Jason have owned Brewed Awakening and two others in the chain since its opening in 2007.
“Hey, if a regular comes in and asks us to make a green apple, white mocha with white coffee beans, we’ll make it for them.”
That’s what the Cartwrights like most about owning a small shop: the ability to have relationships with their customers.
“Corporations own corporations, independents own independents,” Jason said.
And being independent has set Brewed Awakening apart from the rest of the roadside coffee stands. In 2013, they were voted the Best in the West Sound by a Facebook poll, and they have stayed true to that acknowledgement.
The key to their success has many layers. It starts with the face of the company, the baristas.
“We’re very particular about who we hire,” Marcy said. “I believe you can’t train care or customer service. If they have that skill, I’m willing to train the rest.”
Each of the three stands — in Port Orchard, Wildcat Lake and Belfair — hires three to four customer-focused baristas. As a result, customers agree with Marcy’s idea of customer service. Most reviews on Yelp and Facebook write that the workers are “great,” they “remember repeat customers” and agreed that they “always expect your drink to be what and how you want it.”
And that leads to the stands’ next strength, its quality of equipment and ingredients.
Not only do the the Cartwrights use a top-of-the-line espresso machine (a La Marzocco from Florence, Italy that has LCD-lit temperature controls and a software program), the stand also uses a different kind of bean.
“We use an organic, shade-grown bean,” Marcy said. “They’re crisp and fresher in flavor compared to a lot of bigger chains, which are chemically processed.”
These beans, both white and regular cocoa, are the secret to their signature drinks. The Awakenator, for example, is a 32-ounce drink with five shots in it. “People will come and say, ‘What’s the biggest you got? I’ll take that.’ We make it for them and they don’t even question it.”
The stand didn’t even offer beverages of that magnitude until a customer requested it.
“It took us a while to accept a coffee drink that big, and believing people would actually drink it,” Marcy said. “But they do. The same went for the 24-ounce.”
Marcy and Jason said they encourage customers and employees to offer suggestions for specialty drinks or combinations.
Every Monday, they offer a new special for the week. This week’s special was the cherry blossom, a latte with white mocha, almond and cherry flavoring.
“If a customer or employee has an idea, we’ll totally run with it and let it be their signature drink,” Jason said.
They take the idea and play “mad scientist” until they are able to get it just right — as happened with the green apple and white chocolate suggestion.
“We couldn’t figure out how to make it not curdle because we used real green apples, which was not a good combo,” Marcy said. “But eventually we figured it out. Trial and error.”
This kind of creativity is what the Cartwrights say is key to their business. It’s their ability to develop relationships with their clients by fulfilling their needs.
“Small shops allow time to customize the flavor profile and really personalize drinks,” Marcy said. “We have the time to make sure it’s what they want on a personal level. It’s relationship building.”
They will recognize regulars in town. “We can’t go anywhere without her knowing somebody,” Jason said of Marcy.
“I may not always remember everyone’s names, but I’ll be like, ‘Hey, 20-ounce mocha,’” Marcy laughed.
They’ve even had an employee get married to a customer before.
“You develop relationships,” Jason said. “We’re people’s therapists and counselors. It’s way more rewarding to get to know people.”
Because the shop is open 365 days a year, many regulars especially show their appreciation during the holidays.
“On Christmas, we got a huge plate of cookies,” Jason said. “We got a full Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving.”
And it’s because of, yes, customer service.
That’s what the couple likes most about owning their own brand of coffee shops: the versatility and creativity it allows them to be a part of a community.
“We take part in fundraiser stuff. PTA raffles. Bingo nights, banners on fields,” Jason said. “We sponsor a cheerleader so our name is on her box, and we’ve sponsored plays at the high school.”
They also do custom events such as weddings, birthdays and even, sadly, a funeral.
“It’s about that small-town feel and community,” Marcy said. “To take part in the community and its events gives us those one-on-one interactions.”
With their customer-first mindset, it’s easy to see how the evolution of the small home-brew has turned into such a booming business.
“If you treat people good, the success comes naturally,” Jason said.