Five years since its founding, Oakland roastery Red Bay Coffee is making big moves with an expansion to Los Angeles this spring. Located in the city’s Jefferson Park neighborhood, Red Bay’s new roastery and coffee shop will lead the coffee company’s national expansion in 2020.
Oakland Coffee Roaster Red Bay Expands to Los Angeles
“L.A. makes sense because it is a gateway to the rest of the nation,” says founder Keba Konte. He notes that Los Angeles is experiencing a coffee rush with major coffee brands from across the nation opening up shop in the city.
Konte, a visual artist and community organizer who established his coffee career co-founding North Berkeley’s Guerilla Café in 2005 and San Francisco’s Chasing Lions Café in 2012 credits his early ventures with helping him clarify the vision for Red Bay. “It showed me the limitation of a coffee shop,” he explains. “Or better yet, it gave me an understanding of the potential in coffee roasting.”
“The level of infrastructure that it takes to be a coffee roaster, it almost demands that there's some level of scale involved,” Konte says of Red Bay’s growth. “I suppose we could've opened a roaster and supplied the Bay Area but the vision was always much larger.”
In 2014, Konte founded Red Bay Coffee with a coffee stand in downtown Oakland and a public roastery in the Fruitvale which doubles as a community space, holding film screenings, concerts and markets for local vendors. “What we’ve done with the public roastery [in the Fruitvale] is the blueprint for what we'll be doing in Los Angeles on an even larger scale,” he says of the 11,000-square-foot building and lot Red Bay is in the process of purchasing. “We will have a performance venue, we will have a coffee shop and a factory all co-mingling together.”
Backing Red Bay’s impressive expansion is a series A funding that’s raised $5 million with more coming. “That is a model of fundraising that is built around any business that is planning to scale large,” Konte says of the venture capital model. “We were able to identify and connect with capital that was also mission-driven and believes in what we want to do,” he adds. Valuing growth at a sustainable pace, Konte also notes the growth trajectory of is driven internally by him.
While also eyeing Philadelphia, Los Angeles’ appeal to Konte is also the opportunity to provide coffee, community space and employment opportunities for the diverse neighborhood of Jefferson Park. “Everyone is welcome to Red Bay Coffee. We hope everyone enjoys our coffee and the experiences that we provide,” he says, adding: “In particular, we're creating spaces and experiences and products that are culturally geared towards people of color, black people in particular.”