Randy Coates, 63, the former owner of BlackHorse Espresso in San Luis Obispo, died Sunday of a heart attack.
BlackHorse opened as Uptown Espresso on Higuera Street in downtown San Luis Obispo in 1995. The BlackHorse name was introduced in 2007 by Coates, who said at the time that he wanted to honor the legend of O. L. Deloloy, an old man in 1910 who would use a black horse and a wagon to steal bags of coffee beans from Seattle docks to brew for his neighbors.
News of Coates' death spread quickly through the community, said Eric Pettis, who manages the downtown coffee shop.
“He was really a good friend to a lot of people,” Pettis said.
Coates retired in 2008 when local business owners Tom Brown and Greg Hind bought the shop, and a second location was opened in the Broad Street Village in 2009. Both are known as "Home of the Velvet Foam." A third location is planned for 796 Foothill Blvd.
Coates’ daughter Mia Russi said that the coffee shop was his “pride and joy” and something that he built alongside his family.
Deborah Cash, executive director of the Downtown Association, called Coates “a real visionary about business,” saying that he raised the bar for coffee shops when he opened his shop featuring baked goods and an expanded coffee drink menu.
Coates, who rode a Harley, was an avid motorcyclist.
He is survived by his daughter, his son Randy “Doobie” Coates, who owns High Street Deli, and his ex-wife and friend Norene Cantella.
The community is invited to a celebration of his life at 4 p.m. May 25 at the Elks Lodge in San Luis Obispo. A hike up Bishop Peak, something that Coates did almost daily, will also take place at 9 a.m. that day.