San Francisco Coffee Roasting Company: Returning to its Roots
What began as an idea in pre-tech San Francisco, is now a proud Intown Atlanta institution.
When Tanya and Doug Bond opened San Francisco Coffee Roasting Company in Atlanta, most of their customers had never even heard of a latte, let alone seen someone roasting coffee beans on site. It was 1992, and the coffee craze that had begun in Seattle and San Francisco hadn’t made its way this far across the country.
People flocked to their corner for the fresh roasted coffee, but they stayed for the sense of community. Book clubs met at the coffeehouse. Authors wrote novels while sipping Doug’s signature roasts. Local artists held their art openings and sold their work. Middle school kids gathered to fortify themselves for a long day at school. Ideas were sparked and businesses were created. People met and fell in love.
For the Love of Coffee
Doug and Tanya fell in love with each other at about the same time they fell in love with coffee. The couple met in the late 1980s in Los Gatos, California where they became regulars at their neighborhood coffeehouse, the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company.
Doug admired their big Italian coffee roaster, and the couple enjoyed both the coffee and the community gathering space. Tanya and Doug soon began venturing up the coast to North Beach in San Francisco where they found more coffeehouses — real gathering places — and enjoyed more freshly roasted coffee.
In the early 1990s, the Bonds, now married, moved back to Atlanta, where Tanya grew up. When Doug went seeking coffee, he could only find a weak cup at Quik Trip. “There was no coffee in this town at all,” Doug said. “I was looking for good coffee and finding none.”
The idea grew that they should open a coffee roasting house in Atlanta similar to the community gathering spots on the West Coast. So, they leased a former Ben & Jerry’s in Vinings, painted over the cow on the wall and hung a large stained glass window depicting a coffee plant. They began roasting coffee in 1992, creating a space reminiscent of their Bay area experiences, complete with daily roasted coffee, bikes and dogs out front, and friends and neighbors gathered to chat, laugh and enjoy coffee together.
Committed to the Intown Atlanta Community
As Intown Atlanta began to attract more young professionals, the couple opened their iconic Virginia Highland spot in 1994 and have become a neighborhood touchstone over the years. The Bonds have created that same community feeling at their location in Candler Park, and plan to open two more locations on the Georgia Tech campus soon.
Community support and events have long been an essential part of their business.
To celebrate the book launch of “Images of America: Virginia-Highland,” for example, the Bonds opened the coffeehouse to welcome leaders of the civic association, descendants of some of the original settlers, and dozens of neighbors. “We were honored to be the place that people came to learn more about this community’s origins,” said Tanya.
SF Coffee also offers a training program for area high school students, providing teenagers with a crucial first work experience. And the couple has hosted numerous events and donates to local elementary and middle schools, serving innumerable cups of coffee and delighting teachers and parents in the process.
When celebrating the holiday season, the coffeehouse hosts an annual Santa event, inviting children and parents to gather for storytelling, decorating cookies, and a glimpse of St. Nick (Often this is Doug in costume, who arrives dramatically in a cloud of fog).
“People from Atlanta have a deep love for this place,” said Virginia Highland local and loyal customer Karri Hobson-Pape, whose kids used to participate in the coffeehouse’s open mic nights for children, Sundays at SanFran, along with the Bond’s daughter, Cali. For more than five years, Jenna Mobley led the program to create a platform for young artists to express themselves.
For a brief period in 2020 and 2021, the Bonds explored a new business venture and changed the name of the coffeehouse. Many lessons were learned during that COVID time, and they listened closely to the people they care about most: their customers. The Bonds decided to return the business to its original name, a decision driven by their desire to remain true to their hearts.
Today, Doug is a coffee roaster of 30 years and has trained several others across the Southeast in the industry, including teaching many classes at Emory on the distinct characteristics of coffees around the world.
“Everyone in the neighborhood knows this place. It’s where people come together to have a conversation,” said longtime employee Leo Hollen. “It’s another character in the city of Atlanta.”
And that is what the Bonds dreamed would happen. As they fire up the roaster and the aroma of expertly crafted coffee blankets our intown communities, Doug and Tanya hope you will follow them back home to San Francisco.