Valor Coffee of Atlanta has one of those small business coffee stories that just puts a smile on your face—from Kickstarted beginnings to two thriving cafes, run by a small group of coffee lovers with an innovative approach to cafe culture and a selective eye for gear. On this latest Sprudge Map Spotlight we’re taking a closer look at Valor’s second location, in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody.
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As told to Sprudge by Riley Westbrook.
Introduce yourself to our readers—tell us about your cafe!
Valor was started back in 2016 by myself (Riley Westbrook), Ethan Rivers, and Ross Walters. We were all 19 at the time so we didn’t have a dollar to our name, so we ran a Kickstarter for $10,000 and built out a mobile espresso bar, which we used to cater weddings, film sets, and business events. We were desperate to get our business going because we saw such a hole in the market for a service-driven, truly hospitable third wave cafe. We set our mission to “Uplift People Through Coffee” and did whatever we could to make something happen.
In January 2018, we landed in a semi-permanent pop-up in Downtown Alpharetta (a historic city in Metro Atlanta). By August 2019, we’d opened our own brick-and-mortar store in the space directly next to where we’d been popping up for the past year and some change. Our Alpharetta cafe was the first true expression of our brand (i.e. we had our own space), and we haven’t looked back.
That brings us to April of 2023 and the opening of our new Dunwoody cafe. This cafe is about three times the size of our first, allowing some breathing room, plus a service format we’ve always wanted to have—a central bar, made up of three islands, allowing our Pit Crew (what we call our baristas) to be the thermostats of the space, setting an energetic and welcoming environment for our guests. We love the culture of a busy, up-beat bar, and we consider Valor to be much more along those lines than a sleepy coffee house.
What equipment do you use in your shop?
Our new cafe features a Modbar AV. We went with the Modbar because it allowed us to completely separate espresso and steaming stations, as we typically have one Crew Member pulling shots and brewing matches/teas, while another finishes drinks (steams or builds an iced beverage). This has really revolutionized our flow, and we’re already planning to retrofit our first cafe with the same system.
Other equipment includes Anfim SCODY II espresso grinders, Mahlkönig EK43 for batch, pour-over, and single origin espresso grinding, Curtis G4 brewer for batch brew, and Curtis Seraphim for pour-overs.
Which roaster or roasters do you serve?
We roast all of our own coffee at our Roasting Headquarters in Roswell, GA. We started roasting in July 2018 and opened our HQ in December 2020 after renting other roasters’ spaces up to that point. We roast on a Loring S15 Falcon.
What is the neighborhood like where you’re located? What’s some other cool stuff nearby?
Dunwoody, like many of the cities in Metro ATL, is definitely up-and-coming. Obviously Atlanta is just down the road, but in the area you can find great food, such as Rocket Farms/Ford Fry’s Tex-Mex spot Superica and our favorite burger joint Village Burger. We think we’re in a really great part of the world because you’re just a short highway drive away from amazing hikes and views of the Appalachian Mountains, a world class sports venue, or the incredible food sprinkled all throughout the Atlanta and metro area.
What’s something cool or unique about your cafe you want folks to know?
Maybe not specifically in regards to our cafe, but our business model:
When we started our business, we expected to open a cafe in the city of Atlanta where specialty coffee was already much more understood, but, mostly due to where opportunity led us, our first cafe landed in a suburban city with a much different demographic than we were originally expecting. But this made us press into one of our values of Excellence and Empathy, along with our vision of matching the top 1% of coffee with the top 1% of service. We’re dealing with a ton of people who aren’t really interested in the Gesha variety we might be offering on pour-over, and would rather just have a really amazing latte with a house made syrup. So we offer both. We really try to tailor to the crowd who we can expect will walk through our doors, given the area, while still serving up some amazing coffee offerings that you’d expect from a cool cafe in a cool city.
Is there a community organization or charity you’d like to shout-out as part of this feature?
We release five seasonal blends throughout the year, of which $1 from each box sold goes to a specific charity dependent on the season. One of our favorites is Beloved Atlanta, an organization that supports and helps free women from forced prostitution.
Photos by Valor Coffee, used with permission