The gourmet coffee business has been good for Ed Freedman. So good, in fact, that he’s opening a second Shearwater Coffee Bar in Westport.
“I planned on opening more before I even opened Fairfield,” Freedman, who debuted his first location at 1215 Post Road in that town in 2017, said. “Being the one and only USDA-certified roaster in Fairfield County, we felt the time was right.”
The Westport location at 833 Post Road will be “a little under 1,000 square feet” — the Fairfield store is a little over that size — according to Freedman. Currently “just a shell,” the new location, formerly a Bertucci’s, could be open by mid-July, he added.
The coffee bars are a natural outgrowth of Freedman’s Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters in Trumbull. Founded in 2013, its brews are available in some 50 coffee shops and restaurants throughout Connecticut, while its bagged coffees are sold at Whole Foods and a number of independent stores as well as on its website.
“I was roasting a couple hundred pounds a month when I started six years ago,” he said. “Now I’m doing 80,000 pounds a year. It’s really taken off.”
Freedman believes the quality he delivers fills a hole in Fairfield County. “We have a very precise roasting system and process,” he said. “And people seem to appreciate it — millennials especially. Once they taste good coffee, instead of the mass-produced stuff you can get elsewhere, they don’t want to go back.”
The Shearwater Coffee Bars are meant to be welcoming meeting places, rather than a “get ’em in, get ’em out” proposition, he said. Large glass windows, indoor and outdoor seating as well as natural light have helped the Fairfield location’s sales grow by some 20% year over year.
“It’s becoming a specialized market,” Freedman said of the growing thirst for upmarket coffee. “Colombian tastes different than Sumatran or Ethiopian — it’s almost like wine. People know the difference between a Cabernet and a Pinot Noir, and it’s the same with what we sell.”
Both shops were designed by Freedman’s daughter Amber, an architect based in Boston. Works by local artists, and performances by local musicians, will help raise its profile.
Although there isn’t a lot of street visibility for the Westport location — Brooklyn-based pizzeria Ignazio’s and the One River Westport art school share the building — Freedman said he’s confident that “within a month, Westport will know we’re here.”
Westport was chosen for its demographic similarities to Fairfield, he said. “We were looking at a number of places, but this is the perfect space for us.”
The store will be staffed by six baristas working different shifts, seven days a week.
Further expansion is in the cards, although the Fairfield resident said his focus is on getting the new store up and running.
“We want to be the leading boutique coffee bar in Fairfield County,” he said, “and we might grow outside the county, too.”
Franchising could be a possible route, he allowed — “We might look for outside investors to grow at a faster pace” — but Shearwater will remain very much its own entity.
“We’re never going to take the cookie-cutter approach,” Freedman declared.