By Eric Sims-Brown
The coffee shop conjures certain images. The murmur of conversation set against the soft melody of clinking ceramic. Acoustic guitar playing quietly though speakers as if it was trying not to offend. A college student huddled in the corner clicking away on a paper. There’s another side – a darker one. An eleven o’clock at night kind of dark. The doors at Dino’s Coffee Company are closed and locked. The chairs are empty. The last customer left hours ago. Co-owner Joel Hart slices through a pepper with easy precision. He tosses the rings into a container and starts on another.
“We don’t have a deep fryer and that’s an intentional decision – and we don’t have a freezer,” says Hart. This ensures everything at Dino’s is made fresh. This also means daily trips to the store and long days prepping ingredients. “I’ve worked about a hundred hours a week for the last year,” says Hart.
Dino’s opened in February 2012 with the intention of being a small coffee shop. Sixteen months later, the company is a little bit of everything packed into six hundred square feet near the intersection of Harrison and Division. Mimosas are on the menu as well as breakfast and pastries made by local vendors.
While the company has expanded, the core of Dino’s is coffee. Says Hart, “It’s very important for us to be a coffee company first and a restaurant second.” Co-owner Andy Cronin agrees and adds, “you really just have to pinpoint what your style is and what appeals not only to yourself, but to your customers.” Cronin has worked in the coffee industry for more than fifteen years. He’s serves as the company’s Master Roaster. It’s his job to find elbow room in a crowded Olympia market. There are multiple Starbucks’ within a mile of Dino’s. Olympia Coffee Roasting and Batdorf and Bronson are not too far away.
So how does a startup stay competitive? “If you keep your ears shut and your mouth open all the time then you won’t learn anything, you won’t be able to provide a service or product that people want,” says Hart. Determining what people want is simple: good coffee. Making this a reality is a time-intensive and intimate process. “Andy’s approach to roasting is humbling. He starts out with an idea in mind, but that can change depending on the unique characteristics of each batch,” says Hart.
This philosophy seems to be paying off. The company is now selling its beans to businesses, including other coffee shops. A steady procession of people filter through the café on a given morning. Finding a spot to sit can be difficult on the weekend. Thirty-four-year-old Olympia resident Zach Draper doesn’t mind. He believes Dino’s makes the best mochas in town, but that’s not the only reason he comes back. “It’s not hurry up, drink it and leave. They’re not trying to drive you out the door,” says Draper.
Dino’s has all the familiar images of a coffee shop and some not familiar. It has paintings and pictures from local artists next to framed posters of Batman. The music is eclectic. The range? Anything from Mumford and Sons to Ginuwine to Toby Keith. There’s also a massive Great Dane. He has his head on my table. This is Dino, the company’s namesake. The dog nuzzles under my arm. He wants my leftover eggs benedict. I scratch him under the chin. He gives me the droopy eared sad face. Nothing. He leaves, meandering between the tables before settling. He plops down on the patio in the warm sun and waits for Joel to finish.
1822 Harrison Ave NW
Olympia, WA 98502
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