Modest Reno shop key to company’s worldwide vision |

Modest Reno shop key to company’s worldwide vision

John Seelmeyer

Fifth and Evans is about as far off the beaten track as a retailer could possibly stray in Reno and Sparks.

Fronted by a dirt parking lot on a dead-end street and bounded by one side by a railroad spur, Café Perla is an outpost of style in a neighborhood that’s anything but stylish.

But David M. Krisophari Madsen says customers are beginning to search out the shop, the final destination for coffee that Café Perla’s parent company has sourced with sustainable operations in Peru.

The coffee beans stored and roasted at the downtown Reno location have traveled a long way — more than 4,500 miles.

So has Madsen in his personal journey.

Trained as an architect and known for his performances as a singer-songwriter, Madsen traveled the world to learn about ways to foster sustainable economic development.

Ultimately, his travels led him to Peru, where he joined forces with a group of partners five years ago to create a 250-acre eco-reserve that’s intended to serve as a model for development of the headwaters of the Amazon.

Quickly, Madsen says, organizers of the eco-reserve learned that they needed to address coffee production, which is dominated by over-fertilized slash-and-burn production methods.

Apropos International, the organization that spearheads the eco-reserve project, began buying coffee directly from farmers, sometimes in quantities as small as a bag a time.

It pays growers prices that are above the market in exchange for assurances that the beans are organically grown and sustainably harvested, says Madsen, the company’s chief executive.

Last year, Apropos International purchased about 37,000 pounds of coffee beans from 100 growers.

That’s an infinitesimal portion of the 816 million pounds of coffee exported from Peru last year, but a couple hundred bags of coffee weighing 152 pounds each were about all that Apropos International’s team could handle.

Which brings us to Café Perla, which is at the other end of the pipeline.

The Reno shop represents the distribution end of the Apropos International vision.

Madsen says the company is working to sell green coffee beans to boutique coffee roasters around the country — including Light House Coffee in Sparks — and it’s selling roasted beans through retail outlets under its own Café Perla brand.

“Farm to cup — that’s what we are,” Madsen says. “We’re involved at every step.”

The company’s location at the eastern edge of downtown Reno provides a small warehouse for storage of bags of coffee. A neighboring building, a long-abandoned weigh house, was reclaimed into shiny retail space.

Madsen, whose day job includes work as a project architect at Cathexes in Reno, designed the work. He’s known about the property for years, because it’s right behind the office of Grove Madsen Industries, an electric distributor founded by his family.