Founded by Jay Rostov in 1979, Rostov’s Coffee & Tea has been roasting coffee in Richmond, VA, for decades. In 1999, Jay’s daughter Tammy Rostov took over the store and gave it the family name.
Today, Tammy Rostov and her staff continue the tradition of providing fresh roasted coffee and teas. And the Richmond community crowds into the shop daily to enjoy the art of finely roasted brews.
“Under the guidance of our master roasters, we roast more than 1,500 pounds of coffee each week on the premises using a 1930s Jabez-Burns roaster,” Rostov explains. “Since beans from different countries all have varying roasting temperatures and times, this process requires extensive knowledge and experience.”
One stop into one of the most popular coffee spots in Richmond and you’ll see why. Scroll down for our interview with Rostov about the art of brewing coffee and running this family business.
Be Inkandescent: What inspired your father, Jay, to open a coffee and tea store?
Tammy Rostov: My father loved to eat and drink! He was a single parent with two teenage daughters, and he was having a hard time finding a job in the 1970s, so he combined the two things he loved best: retail and food.
Be Inkandescent: You took over in 1999, and have been the chief coffee diva ever since. What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Tammy Rostov: Change. Business is always changing and the coffee industry is constantly changing. How to stay relevant. We have also changed the business’ name and relocated. Oh, yeah, and in 2011, coffee prices increased 400 percent in three months. That was the biggest challenge so far. But we are still here!
Be Inkandescent: What are you most proud of?
Tammy Rostov: I am most proud of keeping the family business going and prospering. Now that it has our family name on it, I feel even more compelled to operate the business and to be true to the values I learned from my family.
Be Inkandescent: You offer a wide array of coffee and tea options. What are some of your best-sellers?
Tammy Rostov: Even though the coolness of dark roasted beans has faded some, that is some of our best-selling coffee. We are also selling more Rostov’s Selects, coffee with a story and that can be traced to its origins.
Be Inkandescent: What is the best review you’ve gotten?
Tammy Rostov: The best review was on Reddit. Someone posted that Rostov’s is a store your grandma could shop in and feel comfortable. I think it might have been meant as a slight, but I took it as the feeling in our store is, “Everyone is welcome!”
Be Inkandescent: What is the worst review you’ve gotten?
Tammy Rostov: Someone posted that the customer service was terrible — and I was the one who had helped them!
Be Inkandescent: You are centrally located in the heart of Richmond’s Main Street, not far from Virginia Commonwealth University, in the Fan district. In addition to being in the thick of things, and relying on walk-by traffic how have you promoted the business?
Tammy Rostov: What haven’t we done?! We use social media, traditional media, word of mouth, donations, and promotions.
Be Inkandescent: You were located in Carytown for years. What made you decide to move to Main Street? And what changes have you seen in Richmond in the years since your father opened the business?
Tammy Rostov: I was renting in Carytown, and the landlord raised my rent 35 percent in one year. I decided that if I were ever going to retire, I needed to be the man I paid the rent to. Richmond used to be full of mediocre restaurants and blinking yellow traffic lights after 9 p.m. Now it has a fantastic food scene and we have real traffic.
Be Inkandescent: What is your best advice for someone who wants to get into the food / retail business?
Tammy Rostov: Be ready to work. Small business (truly small business) is amazing if you don’t fool yourself into thinking it is going to happen overnight and by itself. Also, you might love food or clothing or whatever you are selling, but make sure that you understand the financial side of it. That is the downfall of most small businesses.
Be Inkandescent: With the big international bike race, Richmond2015, coming to town Sept. 19-27, what are your expectations for how much business you’ll do?
Tammy Rostov: I am hoping to do three times my normal sales on the busiest weekend. In reality, if I don’t lose money, everyone has a great time, and Richmond does well on the international stage, I will consider it a win!
For more information about Rostov’s Coffee & Tea, visit www.rostovs.com. Open Mon-Fri, 7:45 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. | Sat 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. | 1st Fri open til 8 p.m. | 1618 W. Main St | Richmond, VA 23220 | 804/355-1955