Kestrel Coffee Roasters: New (and New Again) to Burlington’s Café Scene
by Amanda Kuhnert
Two cafés in two years. Not even Charlotte and Johnny Steverson, owners of Kestrel Coffee Roasters, would have believed you if you had told them in July 2018, when they opened their first café and coffee roastery on Community Drive in Burlington, that they’d launch their second location just over a year later. But this fall, the couple announced the opening of a second café in downtown Burlington.
These are major strides for newbie entrepreneurs who are also recent transplants to Vermont. Johnny is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute and met Charlotte while working as the director of coffee at the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in Tarrytown, NY; she was the dining room captain. After they left Blue Hill, Charlotte joined an event planning company and Johnny started a specialty coffee roasting business in upstate New York.
The Steversons moved to Burlington in 2017. “We wanted to work together doing something we loved … to share great coffee with more people and make specialty coffee more accessible to all,” Johnny said.
The couple’s combined background in hospitality and coffee roasting set the stage for their current ventures. But early on, they realized these skills would only get them so far. They needed help planning and setting up their new business. “Since we were also new to Vermont when we started the business, we wanted to make sure we were taking advantage of any available support and resources from the state” Johnny said. “We were looking for suggestions and guidance on everything from our financial projections to the location of our commercial/retail space.”
Off and Running
A couple of years ago, Johnny took a class at the New England Culinary Institute taught by Steve Densham, an advisor with the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC). Densham soon became an integral part of the Stevernons’ business journey. He helped them strategize and execute their business plan, which included market analysis, revenue projections, and budgeting.
“We jokingly say that Steve was like our Gandolf (a reflection of wisdom, not age!),” Johnny said. “He guided us when needed, but was not overbearing…When the tougher, more intangible questions came about, he helped us to see things from other points of view, which informed many of our decisions, big and small.”
The Steversons’ latest big decision was to open café No. 2 in the former Maglianero space at 47 Maple Street when it became available. The second location will enable them to engage in the vibrant downtown Burlington community and get more creative with their food offerings, which will include catering options for nearby businesses. For more info: kestrelcoffees.com.