In Search of: Advice / Info on starting a coffee house


New member
Aug 17, 2007
I''m doing things a bit reverse - I''ve secured what appears to be a good location for a coffee house in suburban MA, but don''t have any background in the industry. In the area there''s really only Starbucks, Peets and other major players around - so I''m planning to go the locally grown micro roaster route for that \"FRESH\" factor.

I''m starting my research and am hoping to learn some pointers from other owners out there. Any advice, things to watch for, websites for research info, etc would be greatly appreciated.

Top of mind ?''s
1) Do I need to hire a barrista or can anyone (meaning me) make coffee?
2) Is there a preference towards using whole beans, pressed or variations of grind (coarse, drip grind, fine grind)? What''s the difference?
3) What machines/ equiptment are needed? Estimated cost or where to purchase?
4) Am I at a disadvantage for not have worked in the industry? I''m have no issues struggling to persevere, but want to take notice of barriers I should be aware of if they can be detected early on.



New member
Mar 7, 2007
Atlantic City, NJ
Hi, Rich... I am sure as you go through the research you will see that there really isn't a short answer to your questions. To be honest, there are so many factors to consider, that there really isn't one right answer, and I would beware of anyone who tells you to "do this" and "just buy that". You need to make the decisions for youself, based on what you have learned. If you need funding from a bank, you might have a tough time getting it if you have no experience in this busniess or foodservice industry.

As far as an affect on your operation hiring someone experienced vs learning yourself: I think that you can be trained to be a barista, if you are willing to learn and have a desire to serve quality. IMHO, I think that just because someone has experience doesn't mean its good, or that they are doing things correctly. Sometimes being new is better from a training standpoint.

You can visit and there are excutives there to answer questions as well.

I would do a search on this forum (espresso machines, beans, layout, etc), and it will provide you with loads of information. I am new to the business as well, working on my buildout right now.

Good luck with everything!

John P

New member
Jan 5, 2007
Salt Lake City
IMMEDIATELY Follow up on what ElPugDiablo said.
If by "secured a location" you mean "signed lease" your probably have made and extremely poor decision. :shock:
BE an expert barista.
Hire an expert barista.
Know that local microroaster doesn't mean good coffee. It could be fantastic, it could be bad. Know the difference... However, it should, in most cases, be better than any of the large chains.
Don't waste any time... get moving:!:


New member
Aug 27, 2007
I''m in a somewhat similar situation as this guy. What we have done is purchased what was once an art and framing gallery. We originally purchased it because of the large basement for my wife, who''s a sculptor, to use as her studio space as we have run out of room in our garage! But, after owning the building for a year now and doing a lot of talking about it, we''ve finally decided that we''d like to open up the main floor as a coffee shop/art gallery where people can come in and enjoy specialty coffee and relax, enjoying art by local artists. The building itself is very quaint, and the previous owners were quite successful as the art and framing gallery (they retired and their children, who live out of state, didn''t want the business, so they closed it and sold the building).

The downsides to this situation (that I''m aware of at this moment anyway):My wife and I have zero experience in running a coffee house.
The location makes it impossible to have a drive-thru
The area that makes the most sense for the counter has no plumbing run to it. I do know some plumbers that can help, though.

The positives are that the building is in great shape, we''ve had to do very little remodeling (just the kitchen and one bathroom that was in bad shape. We''ve got a great location for a beautiful patio that could have 5 or 6 tables w/ umbrellas. The main showing room has beautiful hardwood flooring. Sprinkler system is already run through entire building.

We''re researching as much as we can now, and I''m putting a business plan together for some financial help, but we''re just not exactly sure what we''re getting into. There are no coffee shops within 7 miles of us (we''ve walked around, driven around, searched and searched some more to make sure) and I have found 5 or 6 reputable local roasters (we''re just outside Cincinnati)

So, I guess my question is similar to the original poster''s: what should we expect? And, apart from establishing the business name, where should we start?

Thanks in advance for any and all advice!


New member
Apr 5, 2007
Akron, Ohio
Hey Folks,
Here's my two cents:
If you want to do it right you need to start with 1 of 2 options.
#1. (Preferred Option Money To Spare) Hire a business law attorney who will take care of everthing for you from start to finish which includes your incorporation, trademarks, C.P.A services, geographical surveys, business plan, investors, etc.
#2. (I don't have money and need to do this myself) Every major city is the U.S. should have a Chapter of S.C.O.R.E which is a group of retired CEO'S, Presidents, and small business owners who will help you start your business for FREE. They will give you all the info you need, you just have to do all the hard legwork.

Hope That Helps



New member
Sep 3, 2007
Option #1- Even if you had the money, why would you hire someone to do what you can and should do for yourself and the success of your business. Especially your business plan, no one knows your dream & vision for your business better than you.

Option #2- S.C.O.R.E is a good reference

My 2 cents


New member
Mar 7, 2007
Atlantic City, NJ
I agree with both of the previous posters. You can do most of the work yourself, which is what I did. BUT, I also had/have a trusted attorney to review things for me (lease, corporation, etc). I believe that you don't have to be an expert in the business, but you need to surround yourself with good people. Build a good team! Perhaps you could reach out to one of the industry consultants on this forum and they could help you decide if this business is right for you. I also think an architect can help you efficiently design your space. Its worth it to at least talk to someone with coffee experience.

What to expect? The unexpected. Seriously. We just started the buildout for our place and all I can say is that it has been one hell of a ride so far, and this is the "easy" part!

Some things that come to mind: you will need more money than you think and double or even triple how much time things will take. In June, our architect told us we'd be open in September, when in reality we'll be lucky if we open in November. Be agressive with everyone: your vendors, your contractors, your people--everyone.

C.Y.A., too. Don't just take people's word for it--find the answers yourself, or double check that code someone references. Make sure YOU understand it.

And, yes, SCORE and your local SBDC are great resources.

ETA: READ all that you can on the business and attend some trade shows as well. You have to invest your time and money into this.