By Sean Boyce – VCU Capital News Service
In a sunny corner in the Scott’s Addition Historic District sits Noelle Archibald. The steady hum of the Diedrich roaster bounces off the brick walls while the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans wafts through the air.
Noelle is one of three owners of Lamplighter Coffee Roasters and Tall Bike Coffee LLC. She, along with her husband Zach Archibald and master roaster Jennifer Rawlings, created a cultural epicenter of specialty coffee, food and community space.
Founded in 2009, Lamplighter has grown from one location on Addison Street with seven employees, including the owners, to employing over 70 people with three locations in Richmond.
“Our original goal was to serve 50 people a day,” Zach said.
According to Noelle, Lamplighter was the first exclusive “specialty” coffee roaster and café in Richmond.
For coffee to receive a specialty grade, it must score 80 or above on a 100-point scale set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Specialty coffee is grown only in geographic microclimates located around the equator, according to Noelle.
“Less than 7 percent of all coffee in the world can be ranked as specialty grade,” she said.
What separates Lamplighter from other coffee roasters in Richmond, Noelle said, is that her company releases small batches of different roasts.
“Other roasters will run a certain roast for a year because they buy in such a large volume,” Noelle said. “Buying in small batches allows us to maintain the quality of our coffee and offer different roasts throughout the year.”
Lamplighter has been voted best independent coffeehouse in Richmond by Style Weekly five years in a row and has been awarded a place in the news and lifestyle publication’s Best of Richmond Hall of Fame.
Noelle said it’s important for Lamplighter to be not just a coffee shop but a community center. “When we started our business, we wanted to build a place where everyone would feel welcome.”
Lamplighter’s newest location, at Main and Morris streets, has become a hotspot for Virginia Commonwealth University students due to its proximity to campus.
“I come here about three to five times a week,” said VCU senior Mason Tilghman. “All sorts of people come here: older people, business people, sorority girls, the whole mix.”
Over Lamplighter’s eight years of business in Richmond, it has seen tremendous growth from its humble beginnings.
“We’ve never spent a penny on advertisements,” Noelle said proudly. “It’s all been organic growth through word of mouth and personal relationships.”
Lamplighter had modest beginnings with a coffee shop at 116 S. Addison St. In 2012, the company opened a second location at 1719 Summit Ave. The VCU coffee shop was started in 2014 after buying the rights to the location from Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream.
But Noelle said growth for Lamplighter is less about opening new locations and more about internal expansion and self-reliance.
“Taking links out of the chain,” Noelle said. “We want to grow slowly and carefully over time. What people don’t see is our internal growth.”
Over the past two years, Noelle explained, Lamplighter has expanded its baking and food preparation operations. Lamplighter is now a coffee equipment tech representative for other businesses and offers classes to teach customers and retail clients about coffee, including its preparation and production.
As first reported by Tina Eshleman of Richmond Magazine, Lamplighter recently purchased land off Brookland Park Boulevard for a potential fourth location.
“We see purchasing real estate necessary for longtime financial security,” Noelle said.