In addition to the exhibitions, Coffee Fest also offered several free classes (and some paid ones) to help people improve their businesses and increase their coffee knowledge. Because I am one of those people who liked school, and because they were free, I decided to attend the Saturday morning classes. I had to get up at 6:15 to get there on time Fortunately, it was a beautiful clear, crisp morning and the walk to the bus stop was invigorating. The bus from Everett dropped me off a block from the convention center about twenty minutes before my first class started (Side note: Seattle’s public transportation, although primarily buses, is better than its reputation).
My first class, “How to Effectively Compete with National brands,” was taught by Sol Salzer, one of the owners of the City Bean Coffee in Los Angeles. The first thing he did was to thank Starbucks and the other national chains (Peet’s, Gloria Jean’s, Coffee Bean, etc.) for raising the standards of the coffee industry. Then he spent the next hour talking about how to beat them. He used Starbucks as his main example, telling the story of how he used the Starbucks that moved in across the street to help grow his business. Starbucks brought many customers to the neighborhood, and City Bean was able to capture some of that traffic by effectively targeting them.