by Marty Demarest & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hirty years ago, finding a decent cup of coffee in Spokane was a matter of knowing which diner or restaurant served it. Specialty coffee roasted in various deep shades of brown? Unheard of.
But Leslie Hutchinson and her husband Tom foresaw at least a small part of the coming caffeination revolution, and opened a small coffee shop downtown, naming it 4 Seasons. "My husband's biggest avocation was weather," Hutchinson explains, "and we wanted to move where there were four seasons."
By roasting coffee -- its own coffee -- and serving it to patrons in the same shop (located at the time on Wall Street), 4 Seasons immediately distinguished itself. "We originally stylized our business philosophy around the old North Beach [San Francisco] places we grew up around, not really understanding that so much education needed to take place before espresso could be introduced to the area," says Hutchinson, laughing. "It was a unique experience -- to learn that people didn't know that you had to roast coffee, that we were transforming a raw product to something consumable."
But a few years after founding 4 Seasons, consumer demand pushed the shop into a new location -- Howard and Spokane Falls Boulevard, where it is still located. They've also made the jump from local success to regional success, helped largely by the proliferation of gourmet coffee shops and drive-thru espresso stands, many of which serve 4 Seasons' coffee. The company now employs two roasters and has had to move its roasting facility away from the downtown store. "The wholesale portion of the business just mandated that we locate [the roasters] elsewhere," Hutchinson explains. "But there were a lot of people who had grown up with those aromas downtown, and were mad that we had taken them away."
The latest outlet for 4 Seasons is ironic, considering that the only coffees available in grocery stores 30 years ago came in a can. But after a successful period of partnering with Rosauers' Huckleberry's Market for bulk coffee sales, 4 Seasons has gone supermarket with a release of their signature blends in select Rosauers and SuperOne stores. "We dragged our feet for a long time about getting the coffee in grocery stores," Hutchinson says, "because we felt it took the specialty feel out of it. In a coffee aisle, there are linear feet of coffee. But because of our relationship to Rosauers, we decided to go into it to a certain degree. Just like coffee -- you need to stay fresh." -- Marty Demarest