This week, I made a couple stops at City Built Brewing.
It does appear to truly be turning into a community hub and my meetings kept suggested it as our location. I can’t be mad about that, the beer is tasty, the food is good and the people are nice.
Anyway, while there one day this week, I was introduced to Mario Rodriguez-Garcia, the owner of Soldadera, an innovative coffee company here in Grand Rapids. I’d heard of it and tried it before, but was excited to meet Mario.
Extremely nice guy!
He’s in the midst of a fundraising round to help propel growth, so I chatted with him in hopes of learning a bit about his story.
Pat: How did you fall in love with coffee and at what point did you know it was time to start a company?
Mario: Coffee has been in the family for a long, long time. So, I was adopted into it. It’s been a thing, it was a necessity for my grandparents, they couldn’t afford milk so they had coffee; always having coffee, it smells good, and I was having it too. I used to help her, and I never really thought about it, it was just a second thing.
In college I was the coffee guy. As an engineering student I’d be making it at 2-3 in morning, come out and say, ‘OK the coffee’s ready.’
You start the Nescafe, then Folgers, maybe graduate to Starbucks, then the roaster coffee
shops. Then you’re making your own being the fancy guy, grinding beans in the office. I was that guy.
Pat: When did it take the next step to a company?
Mario: One day, during my time at Chrysler, I took a trip to Monterrey, Mexico, and went to a shop; a steakhouse actually. The steak was delicious and I ordered a cup of coffee as second nature. I tasted it and a huge Ratatouille moment looking back to when I would make coffee with my grandmother. It was sweet, but black, it was awesome.
Can I make this into a cold brew? I got back to the states, with my beer kit I didn’t get around to making beer with and after 70 tries, I came up with the right ratios.
We did some research and we found out the recipe dated back to 1910 and was developed by Mexican women called soldaderas, which translates to female soldiers, and it was the energy drink of the day. It was an original story and we just went from there.
We started with little glass jars, won some competitions and then I left my job at Chrysler to see what happens.
Pat: So, what’s new?
Mario: We rebranded in 2021 and we’ve been growing. We’re in Meijer, 112 Meijer stores and, in January, we’ll be in all Meijer stores.
Just this week, we launched GVSU, through their diversity program. We’re also looking to raise $4 million to get us to a new level, working to make the product shelf table and we’ll grow a lot with our distributor. We’re taking a page from Liquid Death [Editor’s note: the crazy hot and rapidly growing canned water brand], but we have a more innovative product and original story.
What’s Pat Drinking?
As mentioned in the intro, I’ve ventured to City Built a few times in the last week. Definitely worth a trip if you haven’t been! Or just a return trip.
Last week, I spent multiple days in Detroit, finishing up with the Killers concert at Little Caesars Arena. It was awesome to see a Grand Rapidian get pulled up to play a song with them on drums.
Prior to the show, my wife and I had dinner at the Detroit Founders taproom right around the corner then ventured into the show, where I had the tried and true Bell’s Two Hearted.
One of the best summer drinks is the Aperol Spritz. So crisp and refreshing. For a lot of people, spritzs are then left behind during the colder months.
Martini & Rossi, however, had other plans and sent over some fall weather spritz recipes. While it’ll probably take a trip to the liquor store, it sounds fun! Autumn Spritz:
1 oz. Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato
1 oz. Martini & Rossi Riserva speciale Bitter
1 oz Sparkling Apple Cider
Method: Combine the ingredients over ice and serve with an apple chip.