First there was the trendy beverage mash-up of coffee beer — a blend of uppers and downers, day and night — but the newest thing to drink with your specialty coffee these days is actually a far more natural breakfast-time pairing: cold-pressed juice.
For its first L.A. retail coffee shop, Santa Cruz–based Verve Coffee Roasters has teamed up with local juice bar mini-chain Juice Served Here to bring both of our favorite morning liquids into a first-of-its kind dual-purpose storefront. With the two brands combined into one shared prep space and employees cross-trained on both companies' products, you can walk up to a single point of sale inside the minimalist, well-lit storefront, which opened last week on South Spring Street in downtown, and buy a cold brew on tap along with any of Juice Served Here's 20-plus pre-packaged juices — all in the same order.
Originally, the like-minded businesses were looking into splitting the architecturally stunning interior into two distinct retail counters, with a wall down the middle, but as planning moved forward it became clear that coffee and juice were a logical fit for an even more integrated space.
"When we started to see it from the customer-experience side, we began to move the two counters closer together," Verve co-founder Colby Barr says. "Now you only go to one register and you get everything you need in one place. It's seamless."
The coffee-and-juice-in-one-place idea is not necessarily novel, since it can already be seen in play at places such as Starbucks (which purchased Evolution Fresh in 2011 and now stocks packaged juices in its chill cases); at small-time coffee shops that also stock fresh juice (see: Geo's Organic in Culver City); and at elevated one-off concept stores scattered around the country.
In all of these instances, however, both the coffee and the juice are either produced by the same company or are purchased from different outside producers — and either one or the other is introduced as an afterthought. Never before have two leaders in their respective worlds come together like a gourmet Voltron to put all previous coffee-juice attempts to shame.
"This store is certainly a concept store," Barr says. "It's the result of a 'What happens if...?' conversation. We didn't know if it would work or not."
Barr and Juice Served Here's CEO and co-founder Alex Matthews first bonded a few years ago over a similar dedication to quality in what they do. In addition to having a mutual love of clean aesthetics and branding, the two value deep connections with their producers (Barr often travels around the world seeking quality beans, while Juice Served Here's blog offers posts about their "Farmer Friends") and are aligned in their reflections of the laid-back, healthy California lifestyle.
"I've always been passionate about Verve Coffee and what they offer, but after visiting them in Santa Cruz, I came to understand their depth of knowledge on the regions their coffee comes from and their passion for their product," Matthews says. "We're similarly fanatically passionate about juices, so it made sense."
This personal connection has led to some additional mind-melding that's helping expand the coffee-and-juice combination at the new downtown space beyond just serving the two products side by side.
As an almond milk producer, Juice Served Here has expanded its offerings to include a custom Tres Leches blend of almond, macadamia and cashew milk, which is being used in Verve's Tres Leches Cappuccino, a drink unique to the downtown store. Verve also is using Juice Served Here's house-made almond milk as the standard milk alternative for all its coffee drinks.
Verve is in the process of building out a roasting operation in the Arts District and already has plans for two more retail locations, one in West Hollywood and another at Third and Fairfax. Neither will be collaboration stores like the downtown location, though the two brands will maintain a presence at one another's shops.
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For now, we at least have Verve's much-anticipated retail entrance into the L.A. coffee game and the first of what we hope are more ingenious partnerships that allow us to have our pour-over coffee and drink a juice cleanse, too.
"It totally works," Matthews says of giving people the option for both beverages. "I think because both things are a daily ritual for people. We've been sitting in here working the last few days and I'm watching people order a green juice and a coffee — that's their breakfast."