ANCHORAGE, Alaska — For a quarter-century, it has been one of Alaska's favorite choices for a morning cup of joe: Kaladi Brothers Coffee is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week.
Tim Gravel, the president and co-owner of Kaladi, has been with the company since 1989. He says timing is everything, and he along with the company were in the right place at the right time -- ready to ride the wave of the so-called "espresso revolution" in the 1990s.
In 1984 Kaladi was nothing more than a summertime coffee cart on 4th Avenue. In 1986 the company went full-time and moved into the Brayton Drive location, where it is headquartered today.
"It was purely a very small, little café,” Gravel said. “Not really an 'official' café -- just if people showed up, they could have a coffee because we had an espresso machine."
In the early days Kaladi had to post signs explaining what espresso drinks were, as they were still a new concept to Alaskans. Many didn't even know how to pronounce the names, but as they figured it out the company continued to grow.
"There wasn't really a big vision from the get-go that today we would have 14 or 15 cafés," said Chief Operating Officer Dale Tran. "But a lot of our growth strategy was to listen to what the community had to say about what we had to offer."
"I had no clue that coffee was going to become something like this," Gravel said.
Now Kaladi roasts 3,000 pounds of coffee per day. About half of that is brewed in one of its 13 cafés -- a dozen around the state, plus a recently opened one in Seattle -- and the other half goes out in whole-bean bags.
It hasn't all been smooth sailing through the years. Kaladi’s first attempt at expansion before Seattle, in Colorado in the late 1990s, didn't go well and had to close down.
“Managing from thousands of miles away was difficult, and the technology back then wasn't the technology you have now,” Gravel said. “So back then you couldn't easily watch what's going on in that store, where you can now.”
Company leaders say the community as well as their employees has made Kaladi successful over the years. Joshua Garcia has worked for Kaladi for 17 years and done just about every job possible.
"It feels like family, it is family," Garcia said. "For people looking for a place to work, this is the place to be; you'll never find another job like this."
Kaladi says it doesn't have any big plans or announcements for expansion right now. Over the next 25 years, it plans to continue growing in response to community demand.
The company is keeping the celebration pretty low-key this week, but is having daily trivia contests on Facebook and Twitter for prize giveaways.
Contact Todd Walker at email@example.com