We had the good fortune of connecting with Danielle Connor and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danielle, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
Put the blinders on and focus on the work you’re doing for your brand. Before starting Retrograde Coffee Roasters, we spent a lot of time surveying what competitor’s in our area were doing for market research. I got very used to doing this and with social media being so prevalent, I started to pay too much attention to what other people were doing and feeling like we weren’t doing enough. I decided to put the blinders on after that and stop looking at what other coffee brands are doing. Now, we focus on what we’re doing and what we’re excited about, and share that with others. Of course I still peek at what other folks in our area are doing from time to time, but I’m much more productive, happier and feel more accomplished with the work we’re doing now.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Casey and I founded Retrograde Coffee Roasters in 2014 when we were both working as baristas for different cafes. We had a vision of creating a sort-of community living room with the best hospitality that served amazing coffee and food. The kind of place where everyone knows your name, but modernized. Our journey began in Oakland at Beauty’s Bagel Shop, where we roasted coffee in their kitchen after hours and hosted occasional pop-up cafes when they were closed on Mondays. Seeking to slow down, we headed North to Sonoma County where we began vending at farmer’s markets and events around the county. We got a Cottage Food permit and began roasting coffee in our apartment’s kitchen. We’d spend the morning at the market, then roast coffee into the evening, working our day jobs in between. After a couple of years doing farmer’s markets, we opened our first brick & mortar in Sebastopol, California. We fell in love with the community of small businesses and makers. It’s like no other city in Sonoma County… it’s truly a special place, a gateway through the redwoods to the Pacific ocean that houses the most eclectic mix of friendly folks.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Sebastopol is the perfect quaint town to escape to. To get the full experience, book your stay at the Bluebird Ranch on Air BnB. You’ll enjoy staying in the cutest country home where you can sip wine in the hot tub overlooking the vineyards. It’s just far enough away from downtown Sebastopol to feel like you’ve escaped to a fairytale and can enjoy the quaint, quiet feeling of West Sonoma County. During the day, the first stop is Retrograde Coffee Roasters (duh) on Main Street for a killer coffee and pastry. Stroll up Bodega Ave until you get to Florence Avenue, where you can enjoy the endless quirky junk sculptures by local artist Patrick Amiot. Then, it’s onward to the Gypsy Cafe for a big plate of their Eggs Benedict before a day of wine tasting. Red Car Wine, Iron Horse and Horse & Plow are some of our favorites. After sipping wine, enjoy a casual meal on the patio at Handline or dress up for a romantic evening at Fern Bar. Both restaurants source produce locally with seasonally changing menus that are truly representative of the flora and fauna of our area. We highly recommend strolling through Sebastopol and checking out all of the small businesses along our Main Streets. Milk & Honey has all your spiritual needs, head to Many Rivers for a pot of tea, stop by Sagestone for one of a kind gems and crystals and peruse through The Barlow for a little bit of everything. If you love antique goods, Sebastopol is home to the antique row with many different shops to visit and our favorite, the Antique Society indoor mall.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to shout out Amy & Blake, owners of Beauty’s Bagel Shop in Oakland, California. I worked for them managing Beauty’s for 3 wonderful years. I watched their busy bagel shop grow over the years and understood the growing pains of running a small business, both personally and from a business perspective, first hand from them. Amy involved me in every aspect and taught me about running a successful business. When we decided to start Retrograde Coffee Roasters, Amy and Blake went above and beyond to help us. They let us roast coffee in the kitchen at Beauty’s when the shop was closed in the evenings. Eventually, we hosted our first pop-ups at Beauty’s when they were closed on Mondays. It was a huge success! If it wasn’t for their mentorship and support, I would have never even thought it would be possible to bring my dream to fruition. They not only showed me that owning my own business was possible, but they helped me figure out the path too. I’m forever grateful for them.