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Java Jive

Photo courtesy Grady's.

A cofounder of Grady's Cold Brew spills all

When we first profiled Grady’s Cold Brew in May 2012, they were a ragtag team of four who spent half their time brewing, bottling, and delivering the product and the other half explaining just what in the hell cold brew coffee was.

Today, it’s nearly impossible to find any self-respecting New York coffee spot that doesn’t serve up some cold brew of their own, and Grady’s has become a nationally-recognized brand, with a team of 18 full-timers. We talked to Grady’s cofounder Dave Sands about their newest product launch and a whole lot more.

Wakefield: You introduced the Cold Brew Bean Bags around two months ago – was that a big step for the company?

Sands: It changes everything for us in a lot of ways. One, we only partially manufacture this. So we get the regular coffee that we get delivered from Puerto Rico and we blend it… our blend is a company secret. And then we deliver it to Greenpoint, they package it in these bags, vacuum seal it, they put it in these cans, and we get the finished product. It’s the first time that we’ve ever had the ability to say, ‘Alright, let’s build like 25,000 of these things and just move them.’

W: So there just happened to be someone in Greenpoint who does this?

S: Well, it was funny. The way we met these guys was, for the longest time we were labeling our own bottles. And we had these – you’d think it would be an electronic machine – but it was these really antiquated machines where you put a bottle on and you twist the dial and it rotates the bottle.

W: Kind of like Laverne and Shirley?

S: Yeah. We’d do our normal jobs from 8 to 5 and then…

W: So were your forearms ripped?

S: Yeah! That’s what I miss, I miss the guns!… Kyle and I were also the delivery guys for a while so it’s funny because I’ll see a lot of people who used to be in the offices we’d deliver to and they’d be like ‘Ah are you still doing deliveries for Grady’s?’ And I’m like no, I don’t actually do deliveries anymore. And that was funny, because the goal with that was always to carry two cases at a time, so you didn’t have to do two trips. And each case weighs 41 pounds, so you’re lifting 82 pounds of dead weight, all day, everyday.

W: I was looking at the first time we really covered you, and it was a day in the life, and it was you guys in the truck, lugging this stuff around.

S: The reason that happened is two-fold. It was because no one had ever heard of it, and we talked to food distributors, and it’s like, they want to see some proven sales, they want to know that they’re not going to have to do all the leg-work to build your business for you, and none of them would talk to us… It was a unique price point, and frankly, a lot of people told us it wasn’t going to work.

And so, we were kind of at a crossroads. Well, what the fuck are you gonna do? So we bought an army truck from Texas, had it shipped up, got it refrigerated… And we were just killing two birds with one stone, because we had to build a business. So we had to deliver the product but we were also doing all the sales calls.

W: I imagine you got to know your customers that way.

S: You get to know your customers, and none of us had a beverage background, so we had a lot to learn. Things that, in hindsight, are so stupid. Like, it’s really important that you have a well-branded box to deliver to the customer, that preferably has a UPC code printed on it. And we were just putting the bottles back in the regular brown boxes that we were getting the bottles in and putting one of the stickers from the bottles, slapping on it. And then you realize, when you go in the back of a Whole Foods or whatever, there’s 85 brown boxes, and you want to identify one.

Because we didn’t have a marketing budget, the way I looked at it, just from like my Xerox background, it was like alright, well if I can get one office manager to make one purchasing decision, I can get 200 people drinking the coffee. And 200 people who don’t have to make that buying decision, or decide to spend $12.99 on something they’ve never heard of before. And we really targeted smart accounts, we targeted places like you guys, and Tumblr, and Refinery29, and Conde Nast, and influencers, and that was great. They wrote about us, they knew us by name, like we were always in there, once a week, communicating with them.

W: So are the Bean Bags just the natural next step in expanding the brand?

S: We went through Google search terms and were like, the number one thing that people were looking up to do with Cold Brew was to do it at home… The question was how do we make this as easy and as simple as possible? And we just suddenly realized tea bags! After a lot of testing, they were ripping a lot, and then we finally found the right ones that were the right micron level and all that kind of stuff. And so, really, the beauty of these things is that you can do it in whatever you want and wherever you want.

You can check out Grady’s full line of products here.

Now go forth (and grind it).

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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