Has the Roaster Project Died?

2010 December 14
by Joe Johnston

A few of the readers of this blog have wondered aloud, “what ever happened to the Roaster Project?”. Does the dearth of posts mean it has died an untimely death? Has it gone ┬áto the idea graveyard while showing so much promise? I assure you that it has not. The project is alive as ever, just the timeline has slipped a bit. Like many idea people, I work with many ideas and projects simultaneously. The priority for each varies over time and at some points, one project dominates the creative capacity out of necessity. I wanted to share a glimpse of the project that is dominating my time at the moment. The project is worthy of its own blog, which will likely happen in 2011.

The “EpiCenter” at Agritopia

We have been working since 1999 on developing our family farm into the community known as Agritopia┬«. Located at the corner of Higley and Ray Roads in Gilbert, AZ, its name conveys the two main ideas: preserve urban agriculture and try to create the best community we can. At this point, all of the homes have been built and several businesses thrive in the former homestead (Joe’s Farm Grill, The Coffee Shop, The Farm at Agritopia). The commercial corner is the final parcel to be developed. Since day one, we have envisioned it being a very food-focused center with a strong link to the urban farming effort within the community.

This year, I have been working with a group of clever volunteers to focus on the corner and what it ought to become. The basic idea is to create the “epicenter of food experience in the Valley”, hence the working name “EpiCenter”. We began with mind mapping to help brainstorm and build a storehouse of ideas.

We also began an image board to get on the same page for the look and feel of the place.

This summer we broke up into cohorts: land plan, business plan, look book and social component to start developing the ideas more fully and concretely.

An example of some of the work is the draft land plan (above). The point of all of this work is to convince ourselves that this is a concept and an approach that will work. We continue working hard on the details to be able to make an informed decision by the first quarter of 2011 with the hopes of the first stores opening in 2013.

Our goal is to create a district that is characterized by passion+craft+quality and a sense of pride in the State of Arizona. We have nothing to apologize about. This state has some incredible artisans and people of vision and we intend to collect their talents in one place — a place that people will want to spend a whole day exploring. If we have our way, it would be a treasure in LA, NYC, Paris, or Rome, but it will be here.

The Roaster Project

Given the scale, timing, and importance of the EpiCenter, I hope one can see why I have had to slip the timeline of the Roaster Project. The roaster itself will be showcased in a building at the EpiCenter, so the “home” of the roaster must be designed, as well. I do think about and doodle component sketches of the roaster frequently and am planning some days away from everything in February to sketch the whole thing. Fear not, the Roaster Project is still very much alive — it will just have a bit longer gestation period than originally thought.

Merry Christmas!

4 Responses
  1. Jonathan permalink
    March 4, 2011

    Sounds nice! The only problem is for me is that I live on the West side. I guess it is a lot closer than Rome.
    How about including some of the local wineries like Dos Cabezas or Callaghan? We’re not Napa but AZ has some great local wine artisans. For example, maybe a tasting room or restaurant like FnB in Scottsdale that highlights AZ wine.

    • March 9, 2011

      We are working with an AZ winery to do a barrel room. I would love to see it come to pass.

  2. June 30, 2011

    I found your website and project intriguing, but want to know where you are with your project. Also, do you have a systematic guideline/process outlining the steps of setting up a mini-roastery ?

    • July 18, 2011

      I am still at the prototyping stage and will take about a year to produce the final roaster. I do not have a guideline for setting up a mini-roastery, but I would approach it as follows. First, I would start to get trade journals such as “Roast” magazine and read them carefully. I would join the SCAA and be a part of the Roaster’s Guild. I would go visit roasters (not in my trade area) and try to get some time from them to discuss what you want to do. Next, I would write a complete business plan and have people you respect critique it. Lastly, once you are certain that your plan is good and the risks are reasonable: go for it!

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