Sun Diego Ironsmith Coffee Encinitas Shop

Ironsmith Coffee Chat

Newcomers to the Encinitas coffee scene, Ironsmith has found success through a humble and honest business model, committed love for their craft and undeniable coffee. Surfing and skateboarding laid the groundwork for their journey, Sun Diego meets Ironsmith Coffee Roasters. Sometime late in 2014, a buzz began at a small commercial space in the heart of Encinitas. Previously a carpenter’s work and storage room, a new craftsmen's operation would soon take over to create an entirely different product. An online countdown and name-change later, Ironsmith opened its doors to a heap of good fortune and forged its position as a contender in the seaside coffee scene and Encinitas community. Co-Founder Matt Delarosa explains the origins of Ironsmith, what’s most important to their business and where things are headed.   When did Ironsmith open its doors and how did you develop the name? Ironsmith opened to the public Feb 6th, 2015. The name is derived from the craftsman habits of the both of us (Co-Founders Matt Delarosa and Raul Macias). “Ironsmith” by definition means a skillful worker of iron and we both love working with our hands, to create something meaningful. Rock climbing is what brought us together initially, which requires a lot of hands-on skill. Through our mutual love of climbing, we bonded and started exploring ideas of creating a coffee shop that resonated the love we have of crafting something more creative. We found ourselves at coffee shops, initially to explore the idea of creativity and what it meant to us. It was literally in coffee shops and through rock climbing that we found our name. It also helped that Raul is a professional welder by trade. Before the idea of the shop, how large of a role did coffee play in your lives? Coffee has always been in both of our lives. From an early age, we both spoke of nostalgic moments of drinking coffee with our parents. Mostly heavily sweetened and with milk, but coffee then wasn’t what it is now. Through our early adulthood and even before we met, we both were always searching for the best cup of coffee we could find. It was one of the first things we both did when we got up, so it was always a highly valued item in our lives. Your journey to Ironsmith was forged on the west coast. What is the reason that you chose to set up in Encinitas? Being both natives of Southern California (Matt originally from Los Angeles and Raul from San Diego), we both knew creating the environment for our passion had to be here in Southern California. One of the most important things for us was to create an honest and inviting space; the only way we could communicate that truth was to be as natural as possible. For us, Encinitas was the perfect home-front to create this environment because of the unique downtown location and innate sense of community.  Encinitas has always been a town that loved the idea of local small business and more importantly, honest business. The Encinitas community loves supporting small and large business, especially if they gives back to the community. Lucky for us, our concept of a quality coffee shop was to always give back. Your About page pins you as process nerds, of sorts. Is coffee your first foray into an intensely complex and discerning industry? We have both been the type of people to dive into hobbies or careers that really spoke to us in a manner that made us passionate, or at the very least, interested in the inner workings of it all. If we decide that we are into something, we make it a point to learn everything there is to learn about it and execute to the best of our ability. So in a sense, we made everything that we were ever into seem more complex because we wanted to be the best. Coffee just so happens to be the first physical business we both started from the ground up, but the essence of our inner processing of intense complexity was always with us from every hobby or career we were ever involved with. Operating any business is naturally a labor of love. You have an ample supply of coffee to keep you awake, but what keeps you motivated when the mug runs dry? We believe operating any business is a labor of love, if and only if there is passion to back it up. There has to be an emotional belief that what we are doing is achieving something meaningful and better, not just for us as owners, but for every person we interact with through Ironsmith. The passionate and emotional belief of creating something worthwhile is what fuels us everyday (and espresso). We literally take it one cup at a time, to make each as perfect as possible. Each cup of coffee we create is given the highest level of attention to quality. Our passion is our motivation. You gave me a coffee cherry recently when I visited; that isn’t exactly an everyday coffee shop greeting. What else does Ironsmith do to go the distance connecting with customers? ­Remembering people’s names. Sounds simple right? Going the distance to us, other than making the best cup of coffee we possibly can, is to connect with each customer. To do that, we don’t look at them as just another patron, but rather as a friend.  It’s by connecting with each person walking into our shop that we are able to see them as a friend. It just so happens that we make good coffee also, which is almost just a plus. What we have realized throughout our journey so far, is that the most important aspect of our shop isn’t about the coffee, it’s about the connection and quality of engagement with each person. Treating each customer as the most important person goes a long way. Sometimes we are the first person someone sees when they get up in the morning, and when they walk into our shop, we have anywhere from one to five minutes to make or break their day. It’s a lot to live up to. So, to achieve the best customer experience, we start by remembering people’s names. Your site mentions that you abide by the philosophy of “Coffee Equals Community” You have held a handful of events at Ironsmith since opening, can you talk about the motivation to invite a crowd to your shop for large functions? We’re extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to run a shop here in Encinitas. Naturally, we felt that it was necessary to create an environment that facilitated the feeling of being grateful. We’re the type to want to share, because if we have something that we felt was worthwhile, we would give it away to share that feeling with everyone else.  We have an amazing shop and equally amazing neighbors Arnette Eyewear, who we have grown to know as friends. We realized the opportunity to share our spot with the community. So creating fun events that invited crowds from the community for the community was apparent to us.  We’re just glad people like coming over to hang. Ironsmith has also provided coffee for events outside of the shop. Can you tell us about the events and connections you have made through them? We’ve participated in many events since opening, and a handful even before opening.  Some of the few that stick out would be our grand opening party. It was an amazing time having Ray Barbee play some tunes for the crowd. The party also gave us a chance to connect with some local brands and like-minded people who share the idea of community. NorthEats, which is a culinary festival that showcased some of North County’s finest establishments.  We were grateful to be included in that event, so we created cold brew with orange zest infused into it. That as a fun event because it provided a great environment to mingle with like-minded restaurateurs. We did a local Spy Optic and Richer-Poorer private event in which the two collaborated on a product. We were invited to serve our cold brew to the party. It is a great connection and we have since kept in contact with both Spy and Richer-Poorer and hope to collaborate in the near future. Ray Barbee played at an event of yours, there are images of you both skating on Instagram and Ironsmith was a partner in BroAm this year. How big of a role do skateboarding and surfing play in your daily lives and those of your employees? Skateboarding and surfing are major players in both of our lives. They are two of the hobbies that both Raul and I shared to an extreme level and connected us, just like rock climbing. We both grew up skating and surfing, which of course shaped us to who we are today. We both still have skateboards and surfboards, which are usually in our shop, just in case we have the urge. To be honest, I think me and Raul are the only two who are into these hobbies within our shop! We’re working on getting our team into it though. What got the two of you into skateboarding and / or surfing? Growing up in southern California, it’s almost harder not to be influenced by the skate/surf culture. It’s everywhere, so at one point in both of our lives we gave them a shot.  What gave both myself and Raul the bug was the difficult nature of both sports, and the community both offered. I think we both like challenging ourselves, skateboarding and surfing are not easy. What was apparent in both sports, was the sense of extreme gratification when we were able to learn something new. Again, in every step of the process of learning something new, we both always felt successful, which was the fuel that motivated us to keep progressing. Can you connect the intuitive nature of coffee roasting to the act of surfing or skateboarding? Everything we do in life, and in this case, coffee roasting, surfing and skateboarding can be viewed and executed in a process. We can base every action as a step to proceed to the next. Raul and I instinctively and obsessively look to further our ability in all aspects of our life to achieve better results. Roasting coffee has been a huge learning experience for me as the head roaster here. I didn’t have any experience with roasting coffee previous to this endeavor, so I approached it with the same mindset as skating. I humbled myself and tried to soak up every bit of information out there and through repetition tried to perfect it. Although I use various technological tools that help me roast coffee (roasting software which I have connected to my roaster) most of my roasting comes from sensory perception and intuition, much like how we skate and surf. There’s a specific feeling you need to have in setting up for a trick, and when you don’t feel it, you either end up not popping or not landing it. With surfing, you need to have the intuition as to when to turn around and catch a wave, or else it’ll pass you by. It’s a battle the entire time, because you need to have enough energy to push up and then drop in with specific balance, feeling and reading the energy of water beneath you. All of which are found through having the intuition of knowing your body and having the mentality to make the right decision at the right time to achieve the best result. It’s very similar with roasting coffee. Can you share more about how you began working with and your connection to BroAm? BroAm happened organically.  Chad, Tim, and John from Switchfoot would get coffee from time to time and we got to know those guys in that way. Being locals and huge supporters of anything local, I think they really appreciated a small business like ours trying and doing our best to make it. Once BroAm was near, we were approached by their rep to join with other key local businesses in Encinitas to support BroAm Restaurant Week. We were extremely grateful to be involved, not just because it was with BroAm/Switchfoot, but because it meant giving back to our community in a creative way. Being around coffee constantly, you’re surely coming up with new takes on flavors and what goes into a perfect cup. What do the two of you drink? Our palate for flavor in the context of coffee is always evolving. Coffee is a varietal fruit, meaning it changes year after year, harvest after harvest. It is also heavily dependent on the climate in which it grows, which has a huge impact on flavor. A coffee from East Africa, from a specific farm, one year may taste amazing and then the very next year it may taste completely different. So, me and Raul are constantly chasing the flavor that really resonates with us. We can appreciate every type of beverage, whether it’s brewed coffee, or espresso with steamed milk like a Cappuccino. It’s a synergy of flavors. That being said, our go-to drink is just espresso. There’s a unique combination of flavors that happen when coffee is made using a pressurized machine. It’s extremely finicky and temperamental, and there tons of variables that go into the preparation of espresso. When it’s done right, it is really the most enjoyable drink for us. We really pride ourselves in the espresso we have right now, which like I mentioned, is varietal and will probably be completely different when we run out of the beans that we are currently using. Where are you enjoying coffee while away from your own shop? It depends where we are at. Here in San Diego, we’ll stop by DarkHorse Coffee Roasters, James Coffee, Birdrock Coffee Roasters, Bean Bar and Heartwork just to name a few. If we are headed north, outside of San Diego, BearCoast Coffee and HiddenHouse Coffee Roasters are some definite stops of ours. What can we look forward to coming soon from Ironsmith? We are constantly searching for the latest and greatest coffee we can get our hands on. We’re confident in our ability to keep chasing the best coffee possible, so rest assured, every coffee we will offer is absolutely worth trying. Each coffee we procure offers unique flavor characteristics that are brought out even more during the roasting process. So, always look forward to amazing coffee prepared either as brewed or espresso. Locally, we are working to hold more events at our shop this year that bring the community together, mainly for fun. We want to work with other businesses and collectively bring them together in a single space to provide a community of creativity for everyone in our community to enjoy. We are also working on expanding in a very unique way, but things are still in the brainstorming phase, so I won’t elaborate too much just yet. –   Thanks to Matt Delarosa and Raul Macias for taking time to fill us in on what's behind the steam and brewing. Ironsmith is located in the heart of Encinitas, at 458 S Coast Hwy 101 Grab a cup and follow @Ironsmithcoffee on Instagram to see what the buzz is about.   All Photos By: Maddie Lochte @