Interview with New York Rising Star Artisan Dillon Edwards of Parlor Coffee

by Caroline Hatchett
February 2015

Caroline Hatchett: How did you first get into coffee roasting?
Dillon Edwards:
Pretty much by accident, I entered the coffee business as a barista and now I've been roasting for eight to nine years. I was first a barista outside Nashville, then I moved to Portland and discovered Stumptown. They were at the forefront of the trade—marketing, how it's roasted. I was enamored by it and got a job there. I worked with them in Portland for a year, then they brought me to New York City to work on recruiting staff at the ACE Hotel location. After another year in New York, I left Stumptown because I was eager to see new places. I worked in Germany and then returned to the States and worked for Blue Bottle on Berry Street in Williamsburg as a barista. It was during this time I learned about Brooklyn and the people here while putting together a plan for Parlor in order to set up something of my own.

CH: What did you learn?
It has become easier to get high quality coffee without a buying team. It’s a more DIY green market, I was tapping into that. I bought in super small quantities and found a place to roast coffee. Then I met Steve Marks, owner of Persons of Interest, and pitched showcasing coffees at the barbershop. After some time, I assuaged concerns about coffee smells in his shop, and set up an espresso bar.

CH: What was your business plan?
The first impetus was for selling coffee to the Wythe Hotel, and then build a foundation for wholesale from there. Then I discovered Pulley Collective and moved operations into Pulley. Then I signed a lease on this space. Now I have 30 wholesale accounts.

Our coffee is on the menu at the Wythe. We’re their daytime espresso. We also have accounts in Montreal and Los Angeles. We’re building a better company, focused on quality and strengthening. I saw Stumptown and Blue Bottle grow a young, sophisticated coffee market. The market of coffee consumers is more sophisticated today. We can’t compromise on quality.

CH: How much roasting are you doing? 
We roast in small batches, for a very tight cup. It gives me more control, and the mouthfeel is nicer. Batch size is 30 to 35 pounds. We’re roasting two days a week—Sunday is the big day. We’re roasting 1,000 pounds a week, and expecting to grow. But we don't want to grow too fast. We want to preserve the quality of the coffee. We built out a beautiful roaster and want to be roasting, hopefully, three full days a week. We brought on a sales person who drops off bags of coffee, and stays aware of places rumored to open, targeting selectively who we want to work with. We really do take our accounts seriously.

CH: What accounts are you most proud of?
Reynard at Wythe Hotel, Cognoscenti Coffee in L.A., Propeller Coffee in Greenpoint, Nick Morgenstern’s restaurants. We're as involved as possible with education as well. The vision for this space is to make it easy for people to come in, and we’ll have an espresso training lab upstairs to teach form and technique, extraction theory—how we extract coffee, steam milk, and pour beautiful drinks. Things that seem obvious, but are blurry. If we opened a coffee bar, it would be to showcase our roasting, 6 coffees at a time, plus decaf.