Scout Coffee Company

To hear Sara Peterson talk about opening up Scout Coffee Company is a lesson in humility: it seems impossible that the location was secured by parking fortuitously in front of an empty storefront on Garden Street, and that Scout Coffee Company was opened with a fair amount of persistence (no fewer than ten banks refused to give them a small business loan), elbow grease (they built it out themselves, literally painting, building the bar, and running all the plumbing and electrical), and passion (yes, they love coffee). For those out there putting off their dreams for another year, take note: Sara’s story will either entice you to quit your day job and go all in, or instill in you the (rather appropriate) fear that no one, much less a mother of two from out of town, could open up a coffee shop with such name recognition and cult following as Sara Peterson. And yet, that’s just what happened. Here’s her (and co-owner and husband Jon’s) story.

In the four years that it has been open, Scout has truly become an institution Downtown. Though their second location on Foothill opened a year and a half ago, Scout Coffee started on Garden Street shortly after first daughter Lilly was born. Says Sara, “She was the catalyst- are we going to go after this dream, or not?” While still working full time in Santa Cruz at Verve Coffee Roasters, where they cut their teeth in the coffee industry, Sara and Jon collaborated on business plans and road tripped around different communities along the Central Coast to seek out potential locations for their future business. A cross between serendipity and preparedness, they parked in front of the empty storefront located at 1130 Garden Street after a decade of dreaming, and Scout Coffee was born.

Today Scout Coffee Company also includes HoneyCo Coffee Roasters, the wholesale and online retail coffee roasting arm of the brand. Husband Jon sources the beans and travels to meet producers in search of the perfect bean. (For those not versed in coffee roasting, the name HoneyCo originally comes from a processing method – the Honey Process – where some of the fruit remains on the coffee seed, giving the final product a fruit sweetness and the golden color that the name comes from.) Jon also builds and manages the web and ecommerce presence, heads coffee quality, spends time on marketing, and manages the back end and accounting for Scout and HoneyCo.

Though now they have a team of bakers in their Foothill location to whip up their delectable creations, Sara initially did all the baking- her Scout Cookie recipe is all hers­- and handles hospitality and day-to-day operations. It’s this precise division of labor that makes Scout Coffee work so well. Affirms Sara: “Having each other has been tremendous. A lot of people ask us what it’s like to work with each other… I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

It’s also their collective attention to details. They measure their coffee down to a tenth of a gram, make everything from scratch every day, including their baked goods and almond milk, and they log and save temperature probe data every 4 seconds of each and every roast using the latest technology for unparalleled consistency and repeatability.  The merchandise in the shop is similarly curated, and everything, down to the way the store is laid out to the hospitality-centric service, is crafted with grace, intent, and passion. Sara summarizes that though the hours can sometimes be really tough, the reward has been seeing their dream come to fruition: “It is very rewarding in those hard times to take a step back and look at what we’ve created, and know it’s taken on a life of its own…. we have created a space where people can connect.”

Scout Coffee will be launching online coffee and merchandise sales in the next few weeks, and was recently awarded “Business of the Year” for California’s 35th State Assembly district. Enjoy a cup on Garden Street between 6:30 AM – 6:30 PM, daily.

Kat Thompson
Author: Kat Thompson