Originally published in The Columbian – January 15, 2015
Torque Coffee Roasters is taking its blend of “guilt-free” coffee and pastries to downtown Washougal, marking the first expansion for a company that opened a single location in downtown Vancouver three years ago.
Torque hopes to be up and running in the Washougal Town Square by Valentine’s Day, says co-owner Ryan Palmer. The company chose Washougal after looking for a new site in Clark County communities including Battle Ground and Hazel Dell, Palmer said. The Washougal shop will be at 1700 Main St., Suite 130, in the heart of downtown and a short easy distance from the Pendleton Woolen Mill, which has about 200 employees who could be potential customers. “It had all the right ingredients,” he said of the site.
The Vancouver location, in an old building across Columbia Street from the Hilton hotel, has an edgy urban vibe that is rare for coffee shops in Clark County. It’s a large space filled with vintage tables and chairs, where customers can stretch out with their coffee and laptops. The coffee shop attracts downtown workers and residents as well as visitors from the Hilton and nearby Esther Short Park, Palmer said.
The family-owned company takes a socially conscious approach to its purchases of coffee, and it contributes to community projects in coffee-producing countries including schools, housing and crop development initiatives, he said. “We have great relationships with farmers and with importers and exporters,” he said. “People can buy guilt-free.”
Torque is the fourth retail tenant in Washougal Town Square, a two-floor Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver-certified building with 22,000 square feet of retail space and 25,000 square feet of Class A office space that opened in 2008. Property owner Lone Wolf Development announced this week that it also has signed with two new office tenants for the building, Exit Studios Inc. and American Family insurance agent Cynthia Cruz.
Adam Taylor, leasing manager for Lone Wolf, said the building is now about 50 percent leased both in its commercial and its retail space. While progress in leasing is slow by standard measures, Taylor said Lone Wolf, owned by Washougal resident Wes Hickey, has embraced “a longer-term vision” for attracting tenants who will be a good fit for the small city’s downtown. “We’re aggressive for the right type of tenants,” he said.
In the case of Torque, the company fills a niche in a downtown without a standalone coffee shop, Taylor said. Torque’s local ownership and community involvement, its three year record of success, and its local credentials and its multiple revenue streams in retail and wholesale markets made it a desirable tenant for Lone Wolf, he said.
“Downtown has never had a coffee roaster, or even a dedicated coffee shop,” Taylor said.
Washougal Mayor Sean Guard said he is ready to welcome Torque as the kind of business that will draw people to downtown. “They’re the kind of people we love to have here,” said Guard, who has visited the Vancouver coffee shop. “They’re engaged and want to do things in the community.”
And, Guard added, they fit the emerging profile for the city’s downtown of “trendy, edgy things coming up that create excitement this community hasn’t seen before.” Of Torque, he said: “They’ve got that vibe, even in their name.”