Blip Roasters’ Ian Davis talks accessible coffee and new space perks in The Pitch Questionnaire
Blip Roasters owner Ian Davis has always stood up for exceptional—yet accessible—coffee and roasting practices.
He’s seen multiple Blip locations through all seasons; most recently, amid a pandemic that closed the doors on so many well-loved bars, coffee shops, and restaurants in Kansas City. Blip temporarily shut down and used the time to purchase a new space in the same area. There’s more room there, says Davis. Recently, Blip brought live music into the mix, and collaboratively shares the 19,000 sq. ft. building with other West Bottoms operations.
Now Davis hosts a variety of clientele including folks from KC’s motorcycle community, truckers, and heavy machinery operators who work in the Bottoms and want a good cup of coffee after a long day, regulars, and people who have just moved to the industrial area.
Davis shares with us his first-rate approach to business, art, and affordable coffee in The Pitch Questionnaire.
Social media handle: @bliproasters
Hometown: Kansas City
Current neighborhood: Coronado, Wyandotte County
How did Blip Roasters come to be? My coffee career started in Kansas City in 2009 working and managing at Oak Street Coffee (now closed) and Aixois in Crestwood. After a brief hiatus from coffee in 2013, I spent some time in Charleston, SC returning to it and getting my first real introduction to craft beer. When I got back to KC in 2014 I decided to take the plunge and start Blip strictly as a wholesale operation with the intention of creating a specialty coffee brand that would be more accessible to a greater population of coffee drinkers.
Coffee is a massively consumed commodity; however, specialty coffee only makes up a small fraction of all coffee sales. So I set about developing a brand that produces high-quality coffee in the specialty market whose marketing and price point attract coffee drinkers outside of specialty coffee.
You moved to a new space on Woodswether Road recently. How’s it going so far? The COVID shutdown was wild. In early March several contacts on the West Coast were warning us that shutdowns/stay-at-home orders were coming and that we should consider ceasing operations. Bob Asher at The Ship was one of the first here in town to successfully close and sign their employees up for unemployment, and with their help and in consultation with our entire staff, we decided to do the same. This decision eventually resulted in the permanent closure of our café on 30th and Troost and of our roasting café at 11th and Mulberry in the West Bottoms.
We took time during the shutdown to do a hard reset of the business. We purchased our new location at 1301 Woodswether Rd. in the West Bottoms and got to work organizing the space. While getting our larger operation open was a huge undertaking, the real work for Blip was going on behind the scenes. We took the time to rebuild our operating structures, systems for the café, roasting and retail operations.
We were closed to the public from March until September in 2020. While it was very difficult to remain closed, the back-end work we accomplished really allowed us to hit the ground running upon reopening. The new space includes a commercial kitchen that houses Velouté Catering, Anchor Moto, our new screen printing operations as well as larger areas for roasting, seating, and a new deck and outdoor patio.
Can you tell us about the coffee-making process? What unique thing are you doing? Our goal with coffee is to stay approachable. We always offer a $2 post-tax cup on our menu. I think it’s equally important to serve great coffee and to make that accessible to anyone who finds themselves in our shop. With the added space in our new cafe, we’ve expanded our draft options that now include: a rotating Draft latte, currently a Vanilla Bourbon Oat Milk latte (syrup made in-house and coffee aged in a West Bottoms Whiskey Co. oak barrel), our flash-brewed iced coffee, iced Cascara tea, and chai.
One trait that sets your coffee shop apart is its connection to motorcycles—from the décor to the customers, biking culture is embraced. Can you talk about this relationship? Similar to coffee, I found that the motorcycle market is just as diverse. Lawyers, architects, baristas, students—folks from every walk of life ride and were looking for a gathering place outside of dealerships or bars. While just about everyone I know drinks coffee, not everyone is comfortable with the price point or approachability of specialty coffee.
Your merch line has quite the following around KC (for good reason). What new projects are you working on, screen-printing or otherwise? We just launched a new merchandise line with Normal Human, who recently reopened in the West Bottoms, moving from the Crossroads. While we still have many of our screen-printed main-stays, we have added a ton of embroidered options that include button-downs, polos, and hats.
Favorite musician / artist right now? RMR. If you haven’t listened to “Rascal,” you’re definitely missing out. Locally, Mac Lethal just released Winter Heartbreak II, which has been on my Spotify playlist since it came out last week.
What do you like most about the space you’ve created? Our new space in the West Bottoms is huge. The entire building is almost 19,000 sq. ft., with additional space on two sides with its own parking lot, outdoor patio, and deck. We’ve never had this much space at our disposal and it’s been so much fun to get creative, not only with the physical spaces, but with the opportunities to host indoor and outdoor events on-site. We just hosted Manor Records for an album release show with local artists Dylan Pyles and FaceFace—something that would have been very difficult to pull off in our previous spaces.
The West Bottoms area is going through changes: new apartments pop up, buildings are renovated, cherished bars close permanently. What difficulties come with maintaining a business there? The West Bottoms is almost in a world of its own and presents a lot of interesting challenges. While its core is still very industrial, the addition of more housing and retail businesses creates a unique balancing act. Folks are out walking dogs, going on jogs while dodging trains, semi-trucks, and forklifts. We have always sold coffee to the residents and workers alike, so it’s not unlikely that you’ll see a John Deere tractor parked out front next to sedans and motorcycles.
What does a day in your life look like? My days start and end with chasing after my partner Madison’s 5-year-old daughter, Pearl, and our two dogs, Charlene and Amelia. If left unattended the three of them would wreak havoc on our neighborhood. In between, it’s developing merchandise, tasting all the coffee, and working on projects at the new building.
What do you like most about what you do? At the end of the day, I think that everything we do is art. Whether it’s the design of the space, new packaging, the way a cup of coffee tastes or printing a new piece of merchandise, I feel extremely lucky that I get to wake up every day and come make art at Blip.
What does Kansas City need more of? I love Kansas City. But Kansas Citians need access to more affordable options for just about everything. It’s exciting to see new apartment projects being built all over downtown but Kansas Citians need safe, accessible, and affordable homes. Our tax dollars should benefit folks all over Metro, not just specific neighborhoods.