We had the good fortune of connecting with Shawn Anderson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shawn, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Old Town Roasting was founded on three things: coffee, community, and compassion. Since founding the company in 2011, I have proudly used 20% of Old Town’s profits to make a positive impact, both locally and globally. Our financial donations have been used to support various groups such as Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, GLAAD, The Innocence Project, The West Memphis 3 justice campaign, Beyond Blindness (formally the Blind Children’s Learning Center), Reclaim the Block, the ACLU, the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters, to name a few. We also fund interest-free loans for coffee farmers around the world through Kiva.org. Coffee donations are made throughout the year to local food banks and all-inclusive faith communities. Environmentally, we use recycled kraft bags for our coffee and donate our chaff (a byproduct of roasting) to local gardeners for use as a soil amendment. We have also offered free educational opportunities for people in our local community to learn more about coffee and home brewing techniques.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My journey to becoming a coffee roaster was not easy. After losing my job during the Great Recession in 2007, I found myself looking for a new career. I took a job bagging coffee for my local coffee roaster. It paid substantially less than my unemployment, but I saw it as a chance to learn more about coffee while working with an incredibly talented roast team. Over the next few years, I learned everything I could, taking orders, being trained as a barista, and eventually becoming an apprentice roaster. I kept a full-time job while getting my company off the ground, typically working a 60+ hour week. My motivation to help others through my company kept me going through the long hours and exhaustion. I am a survivor of childhood trauma who lives with PTSD and other invisible disabilities. I work to be a good ally and coconspirator for BIPOC and marginalized communities and will always use my company to support the causes I believe in. My company, like myself, is dedicated to helping others. I also realize that people work hard for their money and deserve a quality product. That is why, unlike many companies, I do not roast your coffee until you order it. I do everything I can to ensure my customers receive the highest quality product I can provide.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Since I spend time in both LA and Orange County, my guest and I would be putting a few miles on the car. Unfortunately, some of my favorite spots are temporarily closed due to Covid, such as Animal Restaurant. Here are a few things we would definitely have to do…
Entertainment: As a music lover, one of my favorite things is “The Session” live with Christian James Hand. Largo at the Coronet is my favorite small venue for comedy and music. You can go to any show on any night and you will not be disappointed.
Coffee: Even though we would drink Town Roasting at home, a visit to Wide Eyes Open Palms in Long Beach, Rose Park Roasters in Long Beach, and Bodhi Leaf Coffee (various locations) would be required.
Food: We would have to Uoko in Tustin for sushi, La Pergoletta in Los Feliz for Italian food, JD Flannel Donuts and Coffee in San Juan Capistrano, and Blackmarket Bakery in Costa Mesa for delicious baked goods
Recreation: I love a good hike in Peter’s Canyon in Orange and Back Bay in Costa Mesa, and nothing beats a motorcycle ride down PCH.
Books: I can spend hours and far too much money in bookstores. We would have to visit The Last Bookstore in LA, Bookman in Orange, and my favorite; Artifact Books way down in Encinitas.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As much as I admire “self-made’ people, I would not be where I am without the help of others. I would like to thank my parents for their lifelong support, Andrew Phillips of Rose Park Roasters in Long Beach for training me as a coffee roaster, my apprentice and right-hand man Jerry Colunga, Scott Rao’s book The Coffee Roaster’s Companion for changing the way I look at roasting, and my Mistress of Propaganda and Encouragement, Darcy.