It Takes a Community to Build a Business
The Most Important Key to Our Success was to Open Our Doors in Annandale.
By: Amy and David Starr
Allmost a decade ago we opened our first business venture -- Beanetics Coffee Roasters -- in the heart of Annandale. Many of our family members and friends thought we had lost our minds leaping into the world of entrepreneurship. As we look back and think about the hundreds of choices that we made (or avoided) there is one that stands out as the most important key to our success – our decision to open our doors in Annandale.
Coffee is a ubiquitous product, enjoyed by nearly every ethnic, racial, religious, and socioeconomic group. Our mission was to introduce a higher-end product than offered by the traditional coffee shop chains. But if we built it and roasted it, would the customer come?
We thought that choosing Annandale would give us a fighting chance to succeed because we believed it was a community with a pool of potential customers who would indeed come if we took the risk and made the investment.
Annandale is rich with diversity. It has household income in excess of $110,000 with median home values in excess of $500,000. The surrounding population is well educated. And while half of our community is Caucasian, the other half is composed of Asian, African American, Hispanic and other ethnic groups. We believed that this was a diverse community that would support our business concept.
The last several years have proven to us that indeed Annandale is a community willing to frequent and support a local coffee shop. Given the fact that more independent local coffee shops fail than succeed we knew finding the right location was so important. We witness the fact that our choice was a wise one every day.
We watch college students working on homework, mothers with their kids taking an afternoon break, a small group with a Bible or Koran, or the business meeting taking place in a foreign language. We watch as regulars who first met one another over a cup of Beanetics coffee continue to enjoy our coffee and each other’s company. These are the types of scenes that reflect our community-at-large playing out every day within our store. It is why choosing Annandale was a wise decision that we will never regret.
As the community has supported Beanetics, Beanetics has in turn enjoyed supporting our community at many levels. The many plaques from our sponsorship of Little League teams and the Annandale Bed Race show that we recognize our role as a local business in supporting our community. Though there are no plaques as evidence of our efforts, we are always offering coffee to local schools and community groups. We make our walls available to local artists to exhibit their work and sponsor an artist opening each month. We are also a member of the Annandale Chamber of Commerce who daily helps to build the Annandale Marketplace and protect us from unreasonable regulations. These are the types of efforts that should be expected of any local business and they are the steps that help enrich us all. It is why we know that adding more businesses such as ours and those of our neighboring businesses will only enrich our community that much more.
Of course, success requires many good partners. There are many partners that make Beanetics a success. They include landlords, community groups, and of course our local government. And by-and-large our community offers such great partners to any new business that wants to come to Annandale.
For example, we found despite the many challenges of permitting through a host of government agencies– Health, Agriculture, Zoning, and the like – Fairfax County agencies are largely responsive and helpful. The rare frustrations are usually resolved quickly and with a smile. All in all we find a pretty good partner with the alphabet soup of local regulators.
As we look to the future we hope that Annandale continues to attract other businesses that add to the richness of our community. Why? Because any business, including ours, can continue to thrive only so long as it can continue to grow, and it can only grow if our community at large grows as well.
As we think about the future of Beanetics, we think about the future of our community. We ask ourselves what will carry us into the next decade and beyond?
We believe the challenge of looking forward is the need for a vision of Annandale 2026. With all the characteristics that make Annandale a great place to locate a business there are always challenges that face any community as old as Annandale. Creating a vision requires the leadership from many quarters – our local business community, neighborhood associations, and local elected officials just to name a few. What has worked yesterday may or may not be the recipe for success tomorrow.
Of course we are biased but we don’t believe that Annandale needs more thrift shops or pay day lenders – it needs more independent businesses such as Beanetics. It needs to attract entrepreneurs willing to make an investment and take a chance. But that will require an investment by our county government as well – an investment in our infrastructure that will maintain Annandale as a community that can continue to support businesses such as ours. It requires an investment in maintaining a sense of community with its diversity as its strength. And it requires a county investment into plotting a course to make Annandale attractive to businesses, customers, and residents alike. After all, it takes a community to build a business.
ABOUT BEANETICS: Located in the Annandale Shopping Center, Beanetics Coffee Roasters want their customers to taste the full potential of a coffee bean by experiencing freshly-roasted coffee - before the aroma and taste is eroded through time. If you have never tasted coffee that has been recently roasted, you have never really enjoyed a true coffee experience.
The evolution of better coffee starts at the source – the country of origin of the green coffee bean. Beanetics starts by selecting the finest green coffee beans from a variety of growing regions around the world. They roast the beans to accent the unique flavor characteristics of each coffee, not burn the flavor out of them. Customers can watch as they use a computer controlled roaster in their glass-enclosed roasting room. For sale are single origin beans and blended roasts to satisfy a variety of tastes.
Along with the best cup of coffee you will ever taste, Beanetics carries fresh bagels, muffins, and authentic NY Black & White cookies, plus other sweets. For those who prefer non-coffee drinks they offer a variety of smoothies, teas, and other beverages.
This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission of the author. For more history articles, please see the ENDEAVOR NEWS MAGAZINE: www.annandalechamber.com/theendeavor.rhtml