Name: Tom Brown
Business: BlackHorse Espresso and Bakery
What they said then: In April 2011, The Tribune reported that BlackHorse Espresso and Bakery in San Luis Obispo was planning to open a third location on Foothill Boulevard the following summer.
The company, owned by Tom Brown and Greg Hind since 2008, had just opened a bakery on Cross Street. Running up to 18 hours a day, that facility would produce pastries and cakes to feed all the coffee shops.
“Our business continues to grow,” said Philip Deal, then manager of the Broad Street BlackHorse. “With the completion of our new commercial bakery, we felt the time was right.”
What they say now: The Foothill coffee shop opened last August. Black-Horse’s bakery supported that expansion and boosted the company’s catering.
“We’ve tried diligently to put everything under our umbrella,” Brown said. “It’s worked.”
The original downtown café — formerly Uptown Espresso — previously baked everything in house.
“When we opened the second store (on Broad Street), it was pretty evident we couldn’t do it in the Higuera Street location,” Brown added. “For a brief period of time, we contracted.”
But hiring an outside baker wasn’t the solution. With the Cross Street facility, BlackHorse can control quality and the timing of multiple daily deliveries to all three stores.
“We’re not dependent on somebody else,” he said. “We know our baked goods are going to be in that store between 4:30 and 5 in the morning.”
Catering — something Brown before said “just kind of happened” — is more focused and actively promoted.
BlackHorse just sold about 15 graduation cakes. It also gets orders for pies and cakes at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We’ve been doing a lot of special-order cakes for people,” said Eric Pettis, manager of the Higuera Street shop, where he has worked since 1997. “That would have been nearly impossible in this small space.”
The only loss, Brown confessed, is the smell that used to greet customers when the ovens were firing. But the shop has gained necessary storage.
After the Foothill store opened, BlackHorse also volunteered to be a testing ground for the EarthKare Kup.
The biodegradable product of a Los Angeles-based manufacturer, the cup and its hinged lid are designed for cold and hot beverages. It can also be composted.
BlackHorse tried out a prototype, while Earth-Kare collected feedback from the baristas and their customers. That helped the Los Angeles maker revamp its design. If EarthKare can raise the capital to bring the cups to market, Brown said BlackHorse plans to use them.
“The cup is going to be made domestically. We like that a lot,” he added. “It just works with our philosophy.”
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