“Our motto is people first, then great coffee – that’s our priority,” said Jake Shupe, co-owner of Barracuda Coffee Company.
“Coffee opens doors to just feel comfortable and it breaks down social walls,” he added.
Jake (pictured in the photo on the right) and his wife Michelle (in the photo on the left) have owned Barracudas for 8 years.
How they got to where they are today is a great story!
Before owning Barracuda’s, the two were working as youth ministers – that’s how they met.
Soon, they got married and had their son, Hudson. While they loved being youth ministers, they felt they didn’t have enough time to spend as a family and that they needed to make a change – so they prayed about it.
“Out of the blue, this person calls us and said, ‘I heard you’re having a hard time on staff at the church and I wanted to let you know if you wanted to purchase Barracuda’s I’d help you with the down payment,'” Jake said.
At the time in 2008, Jake was working part-time at Barracuda’s. (Full disclosure: I also worked at Barracuda’s). For him, especially during the economic recession, the idea of owning the company was just a dream.
“We’d just moved, bought a house, and got married,” Jake said. But he decided to bring up the subject with Bill Pogue – who established Barracuda’s in 2003 and wasn’t even thinking about selling the place.
Eventually, Pogue said if Jake could put a third of the price down, he’d consider selling. To Jake and Michelle’s surprise – the investor said no problem!
While the deal was taking shape, Michelle was in Hawaii visiting family.
“Jake was telling me about this over the phone,” Michelle said. “And I’m like what??”
Pogue and the investor agreed to the deal, and Jake and Michelle bought the place and took over as owners in February of 2009. They just celebrated their 8th anniversary!
(You can now find Pogue climbing Badger Mt., hanging out at Barracudas, or skiing at Bluewood – I’d say he’s enjoying retirement!)
Jake and Michelle say they are still ministers at heart and try to bring that spirit to their interactions with customers. They make sure to be kind or even just be a listening ear when needed.
One time, back when Pogue owned the store and Jake was working alone on a quiet Saturday afternoon, a customer came in just as he was sitting down to eat lunch.
“I hopped up to help her and make her drink and then she’s telling me her life story,” Jake said. “She had just moved up from Oregon to be with her boyfriend, but he dumped her and she had nowhere to go and didn’t know anyone.”
She talked for 45 minutes as Jake smiled, nodded, and asked a question or two. When she left, she said ‘thanks so much for talking to me I just needed that so much.’
“I just chuckled and said I didn’t say anything. It was a real learning experience – you never know what’s going on in the lives of your customers. My food sat there and got cold but it didn’t matter,” Jake said.
That’s how Jake and Michelle want their employees interact with customers as well. While they are no longer youth ministers, they do their best to minister through coffee now.
“We had this guy come in every day and he would get a coffee for his wife,” Michelle said. “We never met his wife, but he’d be there at 3:30 pm every day.”
Tragically, the man was killed in a motorcycle accident about 5 years ago just a couple blocks from the shop.
“We went to his funeral and met his wife,” Michelle said. They wanted to do something to comfort her and show that they had cared about him.
“We offered her to get coffee on us for as long as she needed it,” Michelle said. “And every day at 3:30 pm she’d come through – for almost three years.”
Barracudas has become part of the community in many ways, and they hope to expand even more on that through the new Kennewick store.
“It’s a little more open, has more seats … and is set up to be more conducive to meetings and after hours functions,” Jake said.
“We’ll do whatever we can to bring the community together in that space,” Jake said.
The space itself is special too. Michelle picked out all the finishings, tile work, and even made the tables and benches with her dad.
“My dad made the pastry case and built the condiment bar. Then he went on vacation and I had to try to make the tables by myself,” Michelle said, laughing.
Another homemade item is Barracuda’s new mobile cart – made from reclaimed Civil War-era barn wood from Oregon.
With the mobile cart, you’ll see Barracudas around town a lot more, Jake and Michelle said.
“We’ll be at the farmer’s market every Friday this year, a lot of corporate events, and a wedding or two,” Jake said.
In terms of expanding to more stores, Jake said he could see them having a couple more shops.
“I don’t envision us being this huge empire,” Jake said. “I think it’d be hard to maintain that community feel.”
Make sure to stop by their stores in Richland (2171 Van Giesen St, Richland) or Kennewick (320 N Kellogg St b, Kennewick)!
They make some of the best coffee in town – on top of the line La Marzocco espresso machines. That’s a legacy from Pogue, who named the company Barracuda Coffee Co. because he sold his classic Plymouth Barracuda to buy the espresso machine! They also serve pastries from Ethos Bakery and Cafe!