Vigilante Founder starts off in Hawaii
It was in Hawaii where our founder got his start; where he likes to say “the epiphany” happened: to pursue happiness over the almighty dollar. This was fundamental in his development of a passion for coffee. His first hands-on job in coffee was as a barista at a small coffee shop in downtown Honolulu. There, he learned to roast coffee, the art of serving coffee and to appreciate coffee from seed to cup. Working directly with small coffee farmers both in Oahu & the Big Island, Chris, our founder, got a personal, in-depth understanding of specialty coffee.
Starting off in DC
Knowing his fellow East Coasters would appreciate these world class coffees, he came back to the East Coast to get started on his dream of owning his own roastery and café. Arriving in Washington DC with a dream, a used 1994 4runner with over 300,000 miles on it, and a small investment from a surf/marijuana mogul buddy, Chris had just enough to get a used 5 pound roaster and launch the business from his back porch in Northeast DC in 2012.
Farmers Markets, Pop-Ups and Selling beans to local businesses all while roasting from a basement in Trinidad, DC. In 2012, Chris met Ashley at a coffee bar where he was working part time. After a year of helping Chris with various aspects of the business, Ashley came on board full time as a part owner in the company. She brought her business acumen, professionalism, design, and style to Vigilante Coffee. As Chris likes to say, “when Ashley officially joined the company, that’s when Vigilante Coffee became official.” It was around this same time that Harold came into the picture, the defacto Vigilante doggy. Harold is a labradoodle and has been roasting alongside Chris since the early days of Vigilante Coffee. Harold brings joy to customers and company employees. We strive to be the company Harold views us as.
So there we were, literally building a company from the basement up and learning as we went. We faced our fair share of hardships during that time, including having two delivery vans stolen (old hand me downs from family - but hey, they got us to and fro!). However, we persevered, and eventually, business was growing and operations were expanding, so much so that one day the fire department axed down the door to the house where we roasted. When there’s that much smoke billowing out of a row house, someone’s eventually going to call the fire department. We felt this was a sign that it was time to move, leading us to Hyattsville, MD right over the DC border.
Our Home in Hyattsville
A quaint arts district blooming with life, where we were quickly enamored by the surrounding community, is where we launched our humble café & roastery in 2014. From the onset, we focused on the customer experience. We aimed to deliver a ‘Vigilante experience’ based on authenticity, transparency, world class service, and the world’s best coffees.
We can’t cap off our history without mentioning Franklin Ventura, our Master Roaster….
Franklin Ventura joined the company in 2014 as a production team member. Franklin grew to become our production manager, then onto roasting. In 2017 he helped bring the company a 5th place finish at the 2017 US National Roasters Championship. In 2018 he competed again in Regionals. Today, Franklin is a part owner in the company and our master roaster. He spends his days perfecting our various coffee roast profiles, sourcing new coffees for our customers, collaborating with breweries, and leading our roasting team.
From 2015-2016, we re-built the coffee bar and upgraded to a larger roaster, nicknamed Big Red. Big Red was a huge upgrade for us, going from roasting 5lbs at a time to 23lbs at a time. In 2017, we built our state-of-the-art coffee lab and expanded our production and packing operations. In 2018, we added our 2nd café near the University of Maryland in College Park. And in 2019, we launched our new website & our newest line of coffees, the Crème de la Crème.
We hit the ground running in 2020 and have begun to bring new dreams into reality…
So What Keeps Us Going
What started this whole thing? A dream to be happy through the work; to pursue passion and purpose over the dollar; to roll the dice and see what happens. What happened as we pursued this was incredible communities embracing what we were doing and giving us the opportunity to live out a dream. Without you, without them, none of what we do would be possible. So, thank you. We tell you this story so that maybe it will inspire you to get out there and challenge the status quo, find your passion and make yourself and others happy through it. We hope you enjoy our coffee & we wish you much success, joy, and enlightenment on your journey.
-The Vigilante Coffee Team