It took a global pandemic for Mitch Young and Evan Addams to wake up and smell the coffee in terms of how they could assist their fellow man.
Last April, the longtime friends and business partners launched Richbarn Roasters. The subscription-based roastery, headquartered in Avalon, helps fund the coffee expenses at local homeless shelters.
The business model is similar to Bombas, a company that gives a pair of socks or another article of clothing to a community organization for every item that is purchased.
Richbarn roasts between 250 and 600 pounds of coffee each month. They have several varieties that are simple, approachable and tasty (even without cream and sugar): Brazil Mogiana (also available in decaf), Ethiopia Organic Dry Process Sidamo and Guatemalan SHB HHT.
Customers can buy an individual bag of beans for $15, or purchase a subscription for $15 per month. Beans are roasted within the same week an order is received. Shipping and delivery are free for Pittsburgh residents.
The coffee also is sold by national and local retailers, such as Soergel Orchards in the North Hills.
Richbarn recently partnered with Light of Life Rescue Mission. The shelter, which is opens a new North Side facility on Feb. 3, spends close to $40,000 a year brewing cups of joe for folks in need. Young and Addams want to eliminate that expense so the funds can go into programming. Through sales and subscriptions, Richbarn has already covered 55 percent of Light of Life’s yearly coffee budget.
In the next month or so, Richbarn will invite shelter residents to join their mentorship program focused on coffee roasting and other aspects of the business (the company packages, labels and tags every bag by hand). Participants can then parlay that knowledge into gainful employment at local coffee shops and roasteries.
Young and Addams met at Grove City College in 2007. In 2014, they developed the Nowait app that helps restaurant patrons avoid long lines. Yelp acquired the waitlist service in 2017 for $40 million. Since then, the pair has launched other enterprises, including a coworking space in Ben Avon and a nonprofit that connects and supports young professionals in Pittsburgh.
The friends started roasting coffee as a hobby in a garage on Richbarn Road in Brighton Heights. They shared the beans with friends and family who, after trying the coffee, encouraged Young and Addams to market it. But they had other ideas.
“This isn’t about opening a coffee shop or creating the world’s best cup of coffee — although we think it’s pretty good,” Young says. “We want to use what we’ve learned over the years to serve other people, not just ourselves. We’re partnering with everyday, at-home consumers to directly benefit those in need. Hopefully, it inspires other companies to do the same.”