We had the good fortune of connecting with Tom Griffith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tom, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
A lot has been written about the success of Japanese manufacturing to create efficiency and quality. I came across the book Kaizen by Masaaki Imai a couple years ago and found it to be the source material for a lot of books to come after. Kaizen describes the idea of gradual, unending improvement by attending to the small details of every job. It describes systems that place the power to make positive change in the hands of the people closest to the work getting done.
Kaizen shifted my perspective on growth and change within my business and myself. Creating a system of continual improvement in small and easy to implement steps is approachable and sustainable. When change caught up to us in ways that required large scale planning and implementation it was rarely sustainable and often became a source of frustration for staff. The Kaizen philosophy also created a deeper sense of purpose for each team member, giving everyone the ability to drive positive change in the company, and often change that made their daily life a little better. Finally, it creates immediate value for new staff members as they are seeing our process and systems with fresh eyes.
Seems like a lot of dry stuff, I know, but I found that this small philosophical shift has created a deeper sense of purpose and ownership for the entire team at Bestslope Coffee Company and has driven us to create an incredible space for staff and customers alike.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Bestslope Coffee Company opened in June of 2016 in the Western Colorado town of Fruita. Along with bringing specialty coffee into the Grand Valley, we wanted to create a hub for locals and tourists alike to gather in the morning. It is always hard to identify what might set us apart from other coffee shops in our area. Practically, we are one of a few specialty coffee roasters in the Grand Valley. We set up in an old house on a side street in Fruita, which creates a unique environment for our customers. We also do our baking and food preparation in house from scratch. Most of this is not unique to us, so I imagine the defining element within Bestslope Coffee Company is the people.
Fruita is a town with a growing diverse population, with particularly diverse perspectives. What is special about the town can be seen in any number of its independently owned small businesses, where you will see 4th generation ranchers and new to town mountain biking remote workers eating, drinking and laughing together. Bestslope has always tried to embody that spirit of inclusivity and prioritized honoring individuals unique experience and world view. Along with this, the people who work the bar or the kitchen are among the very kindest and hardest working people I have ever worked with.
We have come a long way in five and a half years of business, but we learned this year that we have a lot of growth left in us. 2020 was a challenging year for so many reasons that were universal for pretty much any business. We were able to keep our staff intact and end on a pretty strong 3rd and 4th quarter. This year has been challenging in a completely different way as we have seen an impressive amount of growth in every quarter so far. We are outgrowing a number of our systems and having to learn how to operate at the next level of business.
The most important lesson from the last couple years in particular is to seize the stressful moments when it seems like things are breaking down. These are often the moments when the most growth occurs for individuals and for the business as a whole. Having systems for addressing weak points in your business and working as a team to improve them creates a sense of forward momentum.
What the world should know about Bestslope Coffee Company is that it has been and will continue to be a collaborative effort of current and past co workers. Of our current staff of 12, half of us have been here for more than two years. For a small coffee shop that low rate of turn over is pretty remarkable. The people who make Bestslope an incredible place for our customers have always been committed to making it a great place for each other as well.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am not sure if this was supposed to be Denver specific…but staying a week in Fruita is a great idea, too!
The best part of Fruita is that not only is there a ton to do in this area, but you are a day trip away from some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the world. Of course each day would start with coffee and breakfast at Bestslope Coffee Company. After that…here we go!
Monday: After breakfast do some mountain biking in the Loma area just west of Fruita. There is more than enough trail out there to fill your day with, so pack a lunch from provisions picked up at Skip’s Market in Downtown Fruita. For dinner come back into town and hit the world famous Hot Tomato for pizza and beer. You can enjoy the patio for hours chatting with locals and tourists alike.
Tuesday: Got the coffee…good to go. Today would be an awesome day to head to Utah for a day trip. Taking the back roads to Moab you have to make a pit stop along the Colorado River in Professor Valley to hike in the Fisher Tower’s area. A couple hours there and you are off to Moab. There are plenty of great lunch spots, but if you make it early enough you can hit the Love Muffin downtown for a quick refill on coffee and food. After that you can spend some time at either of the National Parks…climb, bike, hike, whatever. Heading back to Fruita that evening you can grab dinner at Karma Kitchen and pack it in early.
Wednesday: Probably a good idea to slow it down a bit for a day. After the coffee, take a drive over the Colorado National Monument. There are tons of incredible places to take pictures, take a seat and think about life, take a walk…take whatever. You will end up on the other end of the Valley in Grand Junction. There are some great options for lunch and shopping in downtown GJ. Stop over at Tacoparty or Bin Burger for an incredible culinary experience. After that you can get an afternoon coffee at Kiln Coffee Bar just a couple blocks away. Make your way back into Fruita and make sure that you spend some time in Lithic Bookstore and Gallery. Read, sit, relax a bit. For dinner, finish up at the Copper Club and get something awesome for Dango Burrito on the patio. You will stumble home and sleep off a great evening.
Thursday: Coffee. After a few days in the desert it is the perfect time to head into the mountains. Head south toward the San Juan mountains. Stop in Ridgway for lunch on your way into the old mining town of Ouray. There is lots of awesome hiking to do…so do it. Check out either Dallas Creek or the Amphitheater. After hiking, hit the Ouray Hot Springs to relax a bit for the drive home. When you get back into town, get some Mexican food at Fiesta Guadalajara and hit the sack.
Friday: Coffee, maybe two after the margaritas last night. Stretch out the legs hiking in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area which stretches from Fruita all the way into Utah. There keep it close and hike the Pollack Bench Loop. For lunch grab some food, and maybe a beer or two, at Sud’s Brothers Brewery. You certainly cannot come to Fruita without experiencing 18rd, so put the bikes on the truck and head North toward the Bookcliff mountains. Make it back for a final dinner at the Hot Tomato, because one will not be enough.
Head home and plan your next trip to Fruita.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I left my nearly decade long career as a teacher to open Bestslope Coffee Company and made that decision with the support of my wife, Kara (who at the time was pregnant with our son Arlo). I don’t think I realized then that her support at that time in our lives and her belief in me to be successful was an incredible act of courage and sacrifice. I am eternally grateful for her and Arlo.
I started Bestslope with the help of Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller, founders of the Hot Tomato Cafe in Fruita, CO. They are brilliant business women and taught me pretty much anything and everything that I know now about running a business.
The humans of Bestslope Coffee Company who, many of which have been a part of the growth of the business for years. They have each put their own mark on the business, and even though it is a small institution in a big world, it does make a difference.
Facebook: Bestslope Coffee Company
Anne Keller All other images – Tori Miner