Coffee Club Chats: Nicholas Rodriguez

We got to sit down with Nicholas Rodriguez of Steelhead Coffee to get to know him.  Previously Nicholas was at Paramount Coffee Project in Los Angeles and a ton of other local coffee shops. 

We got to sit down with Nicholas Rodriguez of Steelhead Coffee to get to know him.  Previously Nicholas was at Paramount Coffee Project in Los Angeles and a ton of other local coffee shops. 

Tell us about your coffee story...

I needed a job and I applied at a ton of places.  The first shop I got was a job at a coffee shop.  It was at the Daily Grind (where Dunkin Donuts is now off of 7th street) in Long Beach, Ca.  I quickly realized I was good in a fast paced service environment.  My managers really liked me but couldn't afford to promote me at so instead they took me to a coffee conference. They brought me to my first SCAA conference.  Around that time I was at a crossroads between coffee and film two things that I loved.  

What was the moment you picked coffee over your other passion(s)?

It was about the time I met Sterling.  We started to go to any free coffee event, trade show, anything that involved coffee.  This one time we drove all the way to SF for 2 nights for a coffee event.  We were all in.  

What was your God in the cup moment?

Well, when Andrew from Rose Park dropped off some coffee at the Daily Grind it looked very different.  We brewed it up and tasted it.  We tasted citrus and all these other flavors (which I didn't know could come from coffee).  If I remember correctly it was a Colombia.  That was my God in a cup moment where everything changed.  That lead to my next employment with Rose Park Roaster.

Ok, now tell me about your experience with Rose Park Roasters?

I worked there for about a year.  Working with Andrew was great.  I started out as a wholesale account manager.  Getting accounts, training, servicing machines.  I delivered coffee and I helped bag.  Mostly production and behind the scenes stuff.  Then, one of our accounts offered us a brick and mortar.  That account was called Roasted Notes.  He wasn't feeling it and he gave them (Rose Park Roasters) an opportunity to take over his shop.  To Rose Park Roasters it was really hard.  Their business model didn't include retail.  They wanted to go the Counter Culture path and focus on wholesale and training.  But the opportunity was so good that they had to reevaluate and it all worked out for them.  

You know, I gained a lot of experience working with Rose Park and I was able to contribute a lot.  They were very gracious and awesome to encourage me to move on when I was ready.  

Alright, what was next for you? 

I started at Paramount Coffee Project in Los Angeles.  

Tell me about PCP (not the drug)...

The history of PCP was interesting.  One of the owners was from Melbourne and the other owner from Sydney, Australia.  They loved LA and wanted to open up a shop focused on the service aspect.  Quality as well but mostly service.  They saw a lack in service from their eyes and opened up PCP.  They use examples of long lines in LA for coffee, bad interaction with baristas, and baristas only giving proper attention to friends (giving them high fives & such).  They thought the Australian cafe experience would do great here.  And it did...

Do you think they accomplished their original goal?

Yes.  It was extremely hard but they pulled it off.  It was weird for people to wait to get seated at a coffee shop but they changed the culture.  

What was your favorite aspect of PCP that you would love to bring to Long Beach?

Professionalism in hospitality.  Caring about how the customer feels in their entire experience from start to finish.  It's not that coffee is the after thought but coffee needs to be perfect and you get it perfect and you get it out of your mind.  You have your time to dial your coffee in the morning and then you have your recipes (that you outsource to your machines).  After that you focus solely on the customer.  

Little things like you don't walk down the hallway of a cafe too many times because you are disturbing people.  You don't talk or laugh too loudly.  You take your job seriously.  

 

Let's talk where you're working currently... 

I'm working at Steelhead in Long Beach (Cal Heights neighborhood).

What do you think makes Steelhead standout in Long Beach?

I think Long Beach shops do a really great job with community.  Especially Steelhead, we have the same people their everyday.  They all know each other from being there.  We care about making people happy in providing great service.  I think John (the owner) does a lot of research about making the entire experience at his shop better from making employees happy to making customers feel welcome.  

Great, what's next for you?

I am doing some consultation projects with systems and trainings in some shops.  I help with operations and systems for cafes to run more automated.  That should be the final goal for coffee shops.  I help out coffee shops and restaurants with this.  Down the road I would like to open a shop and roastery.  

Looking at the entire coffee industry what's one tip you can give to the 3rd wave scene right now? 

Hospitality.

How can people find you online?

On Instagram at @nicholasrodriguezz

Last line?

Support your local coffee shop!