Community coffee institution Groundwork celebrates 30 years of purpose-driven roasting – Santa Monica Daily Press

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What started as a small family owned rare books store and coffee roastery tucked away on Rose Avenue, has now become a West Coast hallmark of sustainable and organic coffee.
In celebration of three decades of sticking true to their roots, the Groundwork team has launched a rebrand of their Certified Organic coffee and tea centered on the close connection between the earth and the product.
These days Groundwork beans can be found in the aisles of Wholefoods, Sprouts and Vons; its Portland roastery HQ; and ten Los Angeles cafes including the longstanding Main Street, Rose Ave and Boardwalk locations. But, back when Richard Karno opened his first small coffee shop and roastery in 1991, his agenda was simply to produce the best cup of coffee for the planet, the producers and the drinkers.
“He was really a local Venetian and really part of the neighborhood,” said Groundworks CEO Eddy Cola. “He, even from the early days, had a commitment to quality and organic coffee, and he became one of the first certified organic coffee roasters in Southern California in 1994.”
While these days terms like fairtrade, certified organic and third wave coffee are part of any keen caffeinator’s lexicon, they were fairly foreign concepts at the time of Groundwork’s founding. Yet, these principals have always been at the core of how the coffee company does business.
“We were innovating, early on, well before anyone had coined the term third wave,” said Cola. “We were really driving the coffee experience and coffee quality and roasting our own coffee beans.”
What exactly drove Karno’s passion to carve out a new mode for roasting coffee is not completely clear, but Cola speculates it came from a love of people, of the earth and Venice’s bohemian counterculture. Although the commitment to always pursue certified organic coffee means higher margins, less product per harvest, and time intensive relationship building with farmers, the Groundwork team has always deemed it worth it.
“Organic is more than a certification, it’s a way of life; it’s really around the desire to propel people in their lives, to promote a clean and healthy food chain and clean and healthy eating,” said Cola.
Groundwork’s coffee is free from pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, which Cola said is not only better for the coffee drinkers, but also for the coffee producers, who no longer have to suffer the health impacts of these chemicals seeping into their water and soil. It is also non-GMO and grown on farms that pay workers well and reinvest in their local communities.
The earth to human connection behind Groundwork’s purpose-driven coffee is the focal point of the new design rebrand. Now that more people are experiencing Groundwork coffee from a grocery store than their local barista, the team wanted to ensure that their consumers were still getting a sense of their story and ethos.
“Another example used in the updated packaging and website is the image of a graphical hand with a flower sprouting from the soil,” said Cola. “It represents the intersection of humans and the environment, communicating our stewardship and the nurturing, relationship-focused way of making coffee.”
Although the brand’s footprint continues to grow, Groundwork still strives to be an important part of the communities where its shops are located. The team has a long history of working with local organizations including the Venice Family Clinic and Downtown Women’s Center.
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