There weren’t a lot of choices for coffee in Huntington, West Virginia, last year. There was a Starbucks, a dairy-free, paleo-diet-focused coffee shop and health-food store, and a diner.
“It wasn’t like there wasn’t a good coffee place,” Lamplighter Roasting Company owner Noelle Archibald says. “There wasn’t a coffee place -- there wasn’t a modern American coffee house at all in that city.” The closest spot was in West Virginia’s state capital, Charleston, an hour away.
Although Lamplighter’s three Richmond shops are the most visible part of its business, it also sells its beans to other coffee houses. Locally, Sub Rosa Bakery and Petersburg’s Demolition Coffee are just two of the places that serve Lamplighter coffee.
But on the wholesale end, it isn’t a matter of shipping off bags of freshly roasted coffee beans and entering the transaction into the accounting ledger. Lamplighter helps train employees to make espresso drinks, offers menu suggestions, advises on equipment and helps with floor plans.
“We’ve always offered barista training and consulting,” Archibald says, “but it’s only been lately that a lot more people have taken advantage of it.”
“We’ve been hitting the road a lot,” she says, “trying to find like-minded people that are trying to do for their city what we’ve wanted to do for ours.” The Huntington spot was a part of that process. In 2014, owner Rita Evans opened a clothing and furniture store, A Southern Company, with a warehouse space attached that she wanted to turn into a coffee shop. She came across Lamplighter on Instagram and got in touch.
Archibald, her husband, Zach, and co-owner Jennifer Rawlings traveled west to meet Evans. “There was this big space, and we were on the floor with chalk and measuring tape,” Archibald says. Once open, the shop, Bittersweet Coffeehouse, took off instantly.
You'll find Lamplighter coffee served at Yellow Dog Bread Company in Raleigh, North Carolina, and nearer to home, the Archibalds and Rawlings are helping Hopewell’s Guncotton Lounge and Art Gallery get their ground-floor coffee shop up and running. They've also consulted on design with Nettie’s Naturally in Jackson Ward, slated to open in late May.
While the coffee scene heats up in Richmond, Archibald says that the competitive nature of the business you see in larger cities isn’t their focus -- or goal.
“That’s not what we’re about -- we’re about sourcing awesome coffee and making relationships with people on both ends [of the business],” Archibald says. “It’s how we want to live our life.”