Space, Support and Inspiration Unite in Vista, CA to Afford Businesses a Long-Term Home
The Steeping Giant …Businesses in Vista are brewing more than just beer. Coffee is quickly becoming a cornerstone of Vista’s business ecosystem, and The Steeping Giant is a notable example of what is percolating in North San Diego County. Born out of a rich love of coffee and the grounding role it can play in everyday routines, The Steeping Giant is pioneering how coffee drinkers access their cups of Joe, by merging traditional beer brewing and distributing philosophies with artisanal coffee filtering techniques.
“When I first tasted this coffee, I knew I needed to get involved with the company,” said Joseph Henschel, chief operating officer of The Steeping Giant, of how he was introduced to the company he would soon lead in 2018. “At the time, I was working for a technology company in Orange County, and of course, coffee is a big part of that culture. The idea surfaced that it could be tapped, so offices could have this delicious coffee available by the keg. It just took off from there.”
The Steeping Giant started brewing cold brew coffee in the back of Mama Kat’s in San Marcos in 2016, and by 2020, they had moved to a much larger location in Vista. “It was always my dream to find space for us in Vista, and when we first moved here in 2020, we had 1,000 square feet of space,” said Henschel. “We had big plans for that year. As the stay-at-home orders were going into effect, we had vans full of cold brew coffee to be delivered to our main clients in Orange County, and then I started getting phone calls. We were decimated by COVID-19 in 2020.”
Henschel noted that before the pandemic most of their business was based in Orange County, but the support for small businesses in San Diego was so great that now 90% of The Steeping Giant’s customers are in San Diego. “The City of Vista has been incredible to us. Especially when securing recovery funding literally meant making payroll or not, it was amazing to have their help,” said Henschel. “They were very communicative and made sure Vista businesses had the information we needed. And it was fantastic to see how the community rallied. Their support for us made all the difference.”
Mayor of the City of Vista Judy Ritter noted how much of a priority the city placed on helping businesses during the pandemic initially, and how it continues to evaluate ongoing ways to assist. “It was our responsibility to help businesses as much as possible because they are the backbone of Vista economically and culturally,” said Ritter. “With our small businesses, specifically, so many are owned by our own residents that being proactive and responsive in our recovery efforts helped keep our community together in many ways.”
Evolving in response to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging, but The Steeping Giant was able to add a new dimension to their business by brewing and packing products for other companies that are mostly located on the East Coast. “We made the bold choice to sign a new lease in 2021 for a larger space – almost 2,000 square feet – and that gave us the space needed to keep exploring how our business can meet customer demand. We also introduced front-door delivery for individual coffee customers, who were working from home, but still craved our coffee,” said Henschel.
“As a business owner, I think it’s my job to continue expanding the business, so my team can continue providing for their families.” Henschel noted that The Steeping Giant is projecting to almost double their business again in 2022. “We just need people to stay open and get back to some type of normalcy,” said Henschel.
Another Vista company making their mark on the drink scene is Local Roots, a kombuchery born from a desire to blend healthfulness with the art of brewing. “After my cousin and I both had the desire to embrace cleaner eating, we found hard kombucha, and we knew it was something worth exploring,” said Joe Carmichael, co-founder of Local Roots. “We always appreciated the craft beer scene in San Diego, and wanted to start a venture of our own.”
Carmichael, with his co-founder and cousin Ryan White, first launched Local Roots in May of 2019 in Vista, and within three months, they maxed out the production capacity of that space. “We really enjoyed our first space in Vista, but we outgrew it pretty quickly,” said Carmichael. “We’ve built a great community here, and we were able to find another larger space in town that, as luck would have it, also had a lot of brewing equipment to sell as well.”
The manufacturing equipment acquired with their new tasting room also afforded Local Roots the critical ability to can their product directly, a capability that made a big difference when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “We continued to grow through COVID. In the beginning about half of our business was through restaurants, but now it only accounts for 5%. We made a deliberate shift to canning, and we also expanded into Los Angeles, Northern California, and recently Arizona, which we are really excited about.”
Carmichael attributes their success to “scrappiness” and their efforts to stay small. “We have been careful about our growth, and just made it work.” According to Carmichael, they took eighteen months to build out their new tap room, and while they are still a few months from opening their full plant-based Mediterranean kitchen, their new space is a good fit for the company. “We want to plant ourselves here, and we want to have a taproom that is open to everyone. That includes families and dogs. We are more kid-friendly than most breweries, and we like that. We love the Vista community, and want to be a part of it.”
Henschel echoed this sentiment and shared how much the community of business owners supported one another as they grappled with the pandemic. “Through Innovate78 and the City of Vista, I was able to talk with other owners, collaborate and share information. With their help, I was able to get information that helped me keep our doors open and pay our people.”
To continue to support Vista’s businesses like The Steeping Giant and Local Roots, please visit VistaIsOpen.com and Vistamade.com to learn about the entrepreneurs that call Vista home.