Growing up in Honduras, brothers Patrick and Spencer Clapp took for granted that good coffee was a given. Their childhood home was an area of the country near La Tigra National Park, where the conditions were just right for growing high-quality coffee. It wasn’t just a beverage to them; valuing coffee was a part of life in Honduras that would stick with them even after they left the country for the United States.
“We grew up in high elevation, so we had a lot of friends who had small coffee farms,” Patrick Clapp says. “We’d get coffee from our friends, but we never really thought much about going into the coffee business ourselves.”
That changed five years ago when two friends from their old neighborhood in Honduras started their own coffee business and sourced the beans from their home country.
“It gave us the idea for our own coffee business here,” says Clapp, “so we started doing research to figure out how we could have them bring their coffee to us and start selling it.”
While it was years in the making, that spark of an idea has been realized through Coffeestamp, the name of the Clapps’ specialty coffee brand and their café in Fox Park.
The Clapps came to the U.S. in 2012, and Patrick worked as a carpenter by trade in New Orleans until his job brought him to St. Louis in 2016. He loved his work and was proud to look around his new town and see the newly constructed schools and hospitals that were the fruits of his labor. Still, he could not shake the idea that he and his brother had a role to play in bringing their friends’ high-quality coffee to St. Louis.
For three years, Clapp and his brother dove headfirst into coffee research, learning all they could about the specialty coffee industry and processing, as well as how to start a small business. In 2018, they felt ready to take the leap and bought a small commercial roaster to begin roasting their friends’ coffee under the name Coffeestamp. They sold the beans at farmers markets and through an online store, gaining a loyal following for their high-quality beans. Their success pushed them to plan to open a brick and mortar shop.
Then COVID-19 hit.
“We came up with our business plan for the brick and mortar in December of 2019, so of course our loan came through the day St. Louis went on lockdown,” Clapp laughs. “There was nothing we could really do, so we just started working on the renovations to the space, which was in the same building as our roastery.”
His background in carpentry came in handy in as they updated the 100-plus year-old building.
“Everything we could do, we did ourselves,” says Clapp. “We had no idea what to expect and had no money in the bank. We figured that if it didn’t work out, the worst thing that would happen is that we’d ask for a discount on rent for all the work we did to the building.”
If Clapp was worried about opening the Coffeestamp café in the middle of a pandemic, the reception it received would soon ease his mind. Almost immediately after opening the doors in August 2020, he and his brother were greeted with eager patrons who were thrilled to support their efforts. Though he credits much of their success to the delicious coffee they roast, he believes the other reason his customers keep coming back is Coffeestamp’s support of the ethical coffee supply chain — something he and his brother are committed to every step of the way.
“It starts all the way back with the pickers,” Clapp explains. “On big farms, they pay pickers by the pound, so they will fill bags with whatever they can grab from the tree because, understandably, they want to get paid more. If you are a producer and really care about quality, you will make sure you pay the extra money per pound or red cherries. That’s one of the first things that impacts the quality in the supply chain. After that, the way it is processed and how it comes through the exporter – all of those are options that go into quality.”
While the Clapp brothers are committed to making sure their coffee is excellent, it’s not the only reason they’re concerned with the source of the beans. They’re also concerned with the livelihood of the folks who are part of the process.
“It’s not just about quality,” says Clapp. “Good supply chains create more, better paid jobs; when you support that, you are putting your money in the direction of better businesses.”
Clapp believes that businesses like his can also have a significant impact closer to home. He points to Coffeestamp’s Fox Park neighborhood and the community he and his brother are creating at their café as one of his main motivators. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and its restraints on social interaction, he’s been heartened by the support of his neighbors – and St. Louis as a whole – that proves to him how much people in this city care about small businesses. It makes him want to do his part to keep that momentum going.
“You cannot go wrong with St. Louis,” Clapp says. “As a business owner, we feel that we should leave our neighborhood better than we found it. That’s our goal for our immediate community, and St. Louis in general – to help it as much as possible. We’re small, so maybe we don’t have a huge impact, but maybe we can put a good example out there for other businesses – even big businesses – to do their part, too.”