Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Local Restaurant, A Local Coffee Distributor and a Thank You Note Can Make All the Difference

In the faceless, virtual world of the Internet and retail, a vendor's only tool for repeat business is to provide decent customer service.  At a minimum, that means timely delivery, a quality product and getting the order right.   Smart promotion can get the customers through the digital door.  Most times it takes more than all of those moves combined to be successful.

The story I'm about to tell you, reveals a superb example of supporting the local guy (and gal) while thinking globally and how it can benefit so many.

Silverback Coffee of Rwanda
John and I came across this remarkable company, Silverback Coffee of Rwanda by patronizing one of those unique little breakfast hotspots in the Valley, Charlie's Pantry.  The ever delightful Maria Di Salvio  who owns and runs Charlie's believes in making most of what you eat in her restaurant there on site.  She knows how to maximize flavor by using seasonal, farm fresh, locally sourced ingredients while crafting simply prepared dishes.  

Charlie's Pantry in Studio City, CA
On our first of many visits, we were immediately enticed by a most intoxicating aroma of coffee when we walked in the door.  Sometimes a fragrance fools the desire but in this case the aroma did not lie.  In fact, the aroma delivered on its promise with a sultry but richly mellow body leaving a slightly toasty after taste.  Funny thing about love at first sight (or taste in this case), you must know the name of the object you desire.  

Silverback Coffee and Charlie's have cleverly seized their ability to satisfy the senses while motivating customers to buy the coffee beans at the restaurant.  With subtle signage and a retail aspect to the restaurant we were hooked  We now buy a bag of Silverback's beans every time we visit Charlie's to satisfy our caffeine desires at home.

Charlie's Coffee Station
When we couldn't make it over to Charlie's, we tried to mail order from the distributor directly.  Low and behold, their offices are in Los Angeles.  Visiting their website, we learned so much more about the company's mission:

SILVERBACK COFFEE OF RWANDA™ supports its values by donating a percentage of its profits to organizations that build schools in Rwanda's local areas and provides services to widows and orphans as a result of the genocide.

In addition, together with the Rwandan government, SILVERBACK COFFEE OF RWANDA™ will improve the quality of care and growth of the native endangered silverback gorilla. Furthermore, our product can be traced to the farms where it's grown, to ensure fair wages and proper treatment of workers.
Not that I needed further encouragement to buy their product, but I'm confident their motivations are in harmony with my desire to put my money in worthwhile causes.  Imagine our delight when Silverback Coffee of Rwanda not only gave us good customer service, but the Founder & CEO Jack Karultetwa sent along a thank you note in his own handwriting no less!  What a great touch.

Jack's family became refugees of Rwanda during the 60's.  He ended up in college in Arizona where he discovered he had a talent for basketball.  Ultimately, he became a Harlem Globe Trotter with stints as an actor.  Now with means he, is able to help the poorest coffee farmers in his homeland realize their value and empowers them to become a part of a global economy.


By merely treating ourselves to breakfast out, not only did we keep our money local but we also helped in our own minor way on something of a much grander scale.  Thank you Charlie's Pantry and Silverback Coffee for providing us the opportunity to do so.   Do you have any similar stories?  I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Epicure Imports!

In a most unassuming industrial location deep in the San Fernando Valley, resides a gourmet treasure hunt.   Directly under the glide path into Burbank's Bob Hope airport, Epicure Imports distributes high-end gourmet items to restaurants, hotels, caterers, chefs, resorts and retail.  Their daily deliveries can include stops San Diego, Palm Springs, Orange County, LA as well as San Francisco and Las Vegas. 

Fortunately, I caught a random blurb on my neighborhood Patch back in December announcing an Open Warehouse sale at this import place I had never heard of.  Intrigued, John and I viewed this as a culinary field trip where we may or may not buy anything.

Owner Preparing to Open the Doors
A Small Portion of the Line Waiting to Get In
When Epicure Imports has their Open Warehouse sales for the general public (next one is this coming weekend), it's usually discovered by word of mouth.  By the looks of the line to get in before the doors opened, it appears Los Angelenos can't keep this a secret.  We went on the second day of their December sale, a Saturday at 9a (the moment they opened their doors) and the line strung through the parking lot out to the street.

Talk about a kid in a candy shop, any foodie will go bonkers in here.  Those impossibly creative restaurant specials more than likely started with sourcing an ingredient from a place just like this.  No wonder high-end restaurants appear to be superheroes.  Here is just a minor sampling of the goodies we found during our winter excursion:

Here's what you need to know before going.  Bring a jacket; you'll want to spend plenty of time in their refrigerated rooms where mountains of cheeses, butters and meats are stored.  Also bring your own bags.  They do accept debit, credit cards and cash. 

One more thing to anticipate; the sale is popular and wait time to checkout may take a bit.  Be's worth it. 

Their schedule for the Open Warehouse events is below.  If you still are unsure and need further enticement, click **here** for their February product list.  Happy hunting!

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