Virginia City roaster rooted in passion
The Roasting House, like many start-ups, grew out of a pastime passion.
“We’re coffee lovers, and we were doing home roasting as a hobby,” says Melanie Troska, owner of the Virginia City coffee wholesaler and retailer.
In Troska’s case, the hobby went from leisure fun to serious business in record time.
In 2011, Troksa and her husband Eric bought a six-pound roaster and found small quantities of green beans for roasting through several online retailers.
“It’s sort of like home-brewing beer,” says Troska. “It may not be the best beer, but you learn how to brew.”
Her husband quickly got the idea to start a business.
“I thought it was crazy,” she says. “We both had jobs and two kids.”
Like many food-oriented start-ups, the pair started selling at farmers’ markets, including the Saturday morning California Avenue market in Reno, where they attracted their first wholesale customer, Reno’s House of Bread Bakery Café.
“We had the booth in front of them, and we had an amazing amount of people who wanted us to make coffee,” says Troska. “They were complaining about the House of Bread coffee and they overheard.”
Since then, The Roasting House has signed up other wholesale customers, including Burger Me! in Truckee and The Blue Bean in Reno.
More came knocking on the door when The Roasting House opened its retail store in August 2012. Now, the business’s coffee is served in Cobb Mansion Bed & Breakfast, Comstock Corner café and Silverland Inn & Suites, all in Virginia City, and the Gold Hill Hotel in nearby Gold Hill. The coffee is also sold at Double Diamond Athletic Club in Reno, where Troska worked as a personal trainer before launching her business.
“The cool thing is once we opened shop, all the Virginia City accounts were people approaching us,” says Troska. “We haven’t done any recruiting.”
Initially, Troska hoped to open retail space in Reno but couldn’t find anything that fit the bill. Then the couple, who live in Virginia City Highlands, drove by a rundown Virginia City building with a for sale sign out front.
“It was in horrible, horrible condition,” says Troska.
The pair didn’t let that deter them. They got financing and with the help of Troska’s father, a retired general contractor, spent the summer renovating the building built in 1876, refinishing the original wood floors and exposing brick walls.
Now, the 1,500 square-foot shop is open seven days week and employs four people. Customers can come in and watch green beans being roasted for their coffee and espresso.
“They’ve never seen coffee roasted before and they can see the whole experience from start to finish,” says Troska.
The shop also serves waffle sandwiches, which Troska makes at home, and she plans to add panini sandwiches to the menu.
Tourist season is the best time of year, and locals have picked up the slack in the off season. The store also sells some online, mostly to tourists who want to keep drinking its coffee when they get home. “We’ve shipped to Florida, New York, New Mexico,” says Troska. “It’s really fun.”
From a national standpoint, research shows the embrace of digital commerce is a whole decade ahead of schedule thanks to the pandemic. We spoke with the Retail Association of Nevada, Downtown Reno Partnership and the Reno+Sparks Chamber of Commerce to give local context to the growth of online retail.