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Restoring Purpose

Blake Ryan, founder of Restoration Roasters, is a man whose heart is focused on helping people achieve their fullest potential. When first introduced to specialty coffee, he was intrigued to find that the story of the intricacies specific to a coffee’s journey from farm to cup, also told another, different kind of story – a story of restoration.

– The story of the coffee bean reminded me of our story, the human story, Blake recalls.

After feeling enlightened by his discovery, Blake wished to merge the story of coffee with the story of restored lives. Fortunately, being the director of Corona Norco Rescue Mission – a transitional housing program for the formerly homeless – he had the opportunity to make his vision come to life. And in December 2014, Blake could proudly witness the opening of Restoration Roasters, a coffee shop employing the formerly homeless, bringing something new to the local community of Corona, CA.

The specialty coffee shop has all the usual trimmings: hip aesthetics, cool music, gismos and gadgets lining the bar. Tools used in preparing the finest coffee creations. But the special ingredient at Restoration Roasters? The purpose tucked into every crevice.

You can read it right there on the wall as you sip your cappuccino: “Restoration Roasters provides quality coffee to support a quality cause. 100% of the net proceeds from your purchase today assist the efforts of the Corona Norco Rescue Mission in serving the least, last, and the lost of our community.”

This passion and purpose has infected the lives of volunteers and staff alike. Sofi Tongos, assistant manager, spills with equal excitement over coffee and people.

– You take a green bean of coffee and you refine it, it gets put through the fire a bit, but that’s what gives you the quality of the coffee. It is the same with people. Coffee and people, that’s what we are about.

It is rare to find a business that is equally driven in their compassion as they are in their quality. When Gabe Venegas came on the scene as shop manager, he was quick to ensure that quality would not be overlooked.

Gabe came into Restoration Roasters with an extensive background in coffee and a love for the craft.

– I think he has dreams about coffee, shift supervisor Noah Castellanos laughs.

It was Gabe who taught the staff the mechanics of espresso, the chemistry of milk steaming, and the importance of excellence.

– Gabe brought out characteristics in the coffee that I had never tasted before … and he was using the same coffee we had always used, Sofi recalls with delightful surprise.

The attention to detail was obvious. Noah and Sofi were ecstatic to share his newfound love for the craft. Cold brew flights, innovative mocktails and finely dialed espressos fill customers’ tables at Restoration Roasters.

As keeper of the shops’ purpose and quality, Gabe is vigilant in seeking new ways to teach and intrigue both customers and baristas alike.

– Part of the challenge and fun for me is that we are mostly volunteer-based, meaning, I have more volunteers on staff than I do paid staff. I am constantly in training mode and I always keep an eye on quality control. The bright side is, I really love teaching people about all things coffee.

When “students” in the rescue mission reach a certain point in their program, they are encouraged to volunteer at Restoration Roasters. But volunteers can also come from the general public of people who are intrigued by specialty coffee and want to learn more.

Gabe, Sofi, and Noah are happy to train volunteers in all the mechanics of specialty coffee.

– Specialty is all about educating people, Sofi says.

Educating and training the formerly homeless gives them an edge in the competitive business world. It allows them the opportunity to stand for something, and to excel in a craft business.

– When you restore their dignity, you restore their life, and you restore a person, Sofi tells us with obvious compassion.

– People often discard what they think is trash, counting it as worthless. But when you find the right person to put in enough care, it can be restored to as good as new, she continues before Gabe jumps in to offer a final thought on what makes Restoration Roasters so unique.

– Not only is it specialty coffee, but it is also a place that you can come in as a patron and walk away knowing that your business is going to a good cause.

In other words, Restoration Roasters offers a genuine service and a genuine investment, making the people as important as the coffee, and the coffee as important as the people.