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11 October, 2022

Excellence, Education & Community with Logan Torrance

Opening Luma Coffee Roasters & Social Club was a long time coming. It started as a dream, that turned into a home business, that grew into a welcoming coffee shop in downtown Hammond, LA. On this week's episode, we talk with co-owner Logan Torrance about opening Luma Coffee. 


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The Origin Story of Luma Coffee Roastery & Social Club

How did Luma Coffee start, and what were you doing before Luma?

Luma started as a dream. Me and my wife, and two of our best friends, we grew up in this area in southern Louisiana. Our co-owner, Devin and his wife were actually on vacation for their honeymoon, and they were visiting Nashville and went to a specialty coffee shop. And they were just amazed and thought "Man, I wish Hammond"—that's where we're located—"I wish Hammond had something like this!"

My wife and I kind of had the same experience. We started visiting bigger cities, kind of visiting the world, seeing the world and had that same thought, "Man, I really wish Hammond had something like this. So Catherine, one of the owners, ended up buying her husband, Devin, a little whirley-pop popcorn maker to roast coffee in.

So they started roasting in their little apartment, my wife went over and then just kind of that dream evolved. We just started dreaming of what this could look like. We started roasting coffee out of my garage and built a customer base, a brand, and yeah. There are a lot of crazy parts of the story, but that's kind of it in a nutshell.


So when was that? 2017?

Yep. 2017 is when we started having those original conversations. And it was so funny because we met at a farmer's market—we had been friends for years, and so Devin and Catherine pitched this idea to us. "What if we opened up a...what if we started a coffee business?"

So we're like "Heck, yeah!" None of us knew anything about the business of coffee at that point. So we were just zealous. We started walking around, looking at buildings and looking at available properties in Hammond that we had no business looking at. One of the locations we actually saw on that first day is actually the location we're in now, so it was crazy.

But yeah, 2017 is when we started talking. I think within a few months we had got our little tiny roaster that roasted like 200g at a time. We kind of launched our Instagram, and said "Hey, we're Luma Coffee."


Who were your first customers?

So the first—he always says it, I don't know if he'll end up listening to this episode, but his name is Garrett. He kind of dubbed himself our first customer. But mostly, friends and family.

The funny thing is though, once we made that Instagram, people started putting in orders for bags. We realized it took multiple roasts on that tiny roaster just to roast one bag. 

So we were like "Oh, this isn't going to work."

We quickly started thinking about: how do we scale this. Let's start saving money, and a little bit down the road we ended up getting a 2lbs roaster, which we thought we had made it at that point. We were like "We're roasting so much coffee!" And now, we go through a hundred pounds a week in the shop.

Yeah, our first customers were friends, family, and then people just randomly hearing about us and following us on Instagram.


Where were you before you opened the shop? How were you selling your coffee?

It's a big part of our story. We, me and Devin and our wives—we attended a local church here in Hammond. They had a young and old ministry in which we were involved. So we pitched the idea to our paster, "Hey, what if we set up on here on Thursday nights and did coffee?" 

It was very rudimentary. We had a table with no tablecloth and a bucket of ice. We would do pour-overs, we would do 24-hour cold brew and stuff like that. So it just kind of helped us learn.

I should mention as well, before, my job through college, I worked for 5 years for Starbucks. I had some rudimentary experience with espresso machines, but not very much, not to the level of specialty coffee. I had experience, so we realized that wasn't sustainable. The table, what we were doing. 

So, Devin, he's extremely handy, he can just build anything. He can fix anything. He's good with cars, and he's good with equipment. So he actually built a mobile express cart with a water tank pitcher, and this was before we even really knew that carts were getting trendy. Now you see them a lot on social media, but this was before then.

So he built one, and we started using that cart. We used it as an event at our Church. Then our Church basically came to us and said "Hey, can you keep it here permanently?" You can sell coffee." So we started selling coffee from the cart. People started to learn our name and taste our product. We were able to experiment and try different things. But the cart was phase one of the actual making of beverages.


Did you take the cart to events?

We don't advertise it very much. Kind of organically, people have asked "Hey we'd love to have you at our wedding." So we have done events within the past two or three months.

I know we've had a handful of events. We'll transport the cart on a trailer or bring it to breweries. We brought it to a farmer's market. Different things like that. In the hopes to have it be a little bit more accessible, and out there. Right now, it kind of lives here at the church, where I'm recording from. But we hope to be able to do more events.

We have somebody that's kind of interested, one of our team members that would love to be somebody that helps with all this. So that's kind of one of the parts of the business. 


What made you ready to take the leap and open your brick-and-mortar location?

So another crazy part of our story is at the very beginning of 2020 we were in negotiation—ok so let me back up a little bit.

The building that we wanted is, it's a historic building in the old central Rexal Drugs. It's an old drug store, it's one of the oldest buildings in Hammond. We just remember, as I mentioned in that first original meeting we walked down through Downtown Hammond, we saw this building and we immediately knew "Man this just feels right.

It was vacant for a little bit, and so we realized this is so far into the future. So fast forward a couple of years somebody ended up renting it out and being an antique store. We were bummed, we were sad, and like "Oh man, it's off the market now." But I just remember saying that we just hope they do so well that they end up having to go to a bigger store. We weren't like "We hope they shut down and go out of business." We were like "We hope they do so well that they need a bigger spot." And that's exactly what ended up happening.

It came back open again. At this point, it's 2020 so we've been functioning for about 3 years. We were kind of experiencing those growing pains. We felt like we need to take this next step in the business. We just didn't know how or what. Neither of us had opened a business before.

So we went up and got with our real estate agent, and go in to look at the building with the previous owner, not our current landlord. The previous owner we met with and we started negotiating but something just didn't feel right. It just didn't. It was our dream building but something just didn't feel right. So we ended up backing out, and the next week the pandemic happens.

We were like "Oh My Gosh!" We were just so thankful that we didn't go to the table and sign any papers. We all know what took place during the pandemic. 

So fast forward to November 2020, we're not out of the pandemic really but things are starting to open back up. In the middle of everything, the building had been purchased by a new owner, our current landlord. So we go and meet with him, and it was immediately, we were like "this feels right."

So we started going 100 miles an hour.

We got turned down for a loan from our big business bank and ended up going to a local bank and basically saying here's our dream, here's what we think it can be like. If you could trust us, we really believe in this. So a local bank here in Hammond ended up giving us our original business loan. We signed the papers—it's a funny thing.

We ended up, we're talking to our bank and they're like yeah it'll be finalized tomorrow but simultaneously we're talking to our landlord. We really needed to go, we needed to sign the papers today. So we didn't even have our loan finalized. Just hey, let's just do this. We just moved on faith.

So we ended up signing our paperwork for the building the day before our loan actually was finalized. So it was just a whole tornado whirlwind of events. Once we signed those papers thought it was 100 miles per hour. But then it was sourcing equipment, everything. It came together in the process. We thought it was going to take 3 months, but it ended up taking 7 or 8 months. I've come to know now that's kind of how it works when you're doing anything.  


Learning Coffee

How did you learn to roast?

So this is the first crazy part of the story. At first, all we had was Google, and YouTube and there are actually some really great resources out there. Mill City Roasters, we watched a lot of their videos. So we started roasting kind of from what we were watching in these videos. 

Through a coincidence, we had a mutual friend that was like "Hey, I know you all been roasting coffee. I have a buddy"—he was actually a missionary, he travelled— "but he's in town and I think he knows a little bit about coffee or roasting. I'm going to introduce you."

His name was Scotty Meads. So, Scotty, we ended up exchanging info. Scotty came to my house where we were roasting out of my garage, and come to find out Scotty was a trainer for the SCA, the Specialty Coffee Association. He tasted some of our coffee, and he was so kind I'm sure. Looking back, it was not good at all. But he was very kind, and was like "Oh, this isn't bad, for not having any idea what you're doing."

So that's when we made that connection. We started taking classes with Scotty. Devin, our co-owner, he now has his professional roasters certificate with SCA. I've done up to a certain level with the barista certification, but really, Scotty is who taught us what we know.

So that's when we made that connection. We started taking classes with Scotty. Devin, our co-owner, he now has his professional roasters certificate with SCA. I've done up to a certain level with the barista certification, but really, Scotty is who taught us what we know.

Since then, Devin who's our head roaster he's taken other classes. He's taking classes with Mark Michaelson. He's the head roaster for Onyx for years. This past year, at SCA, he went—I can't remember who it was, maybe Scott Row, but he did another class so he's just continued to learn the science of roasting. 

I was involved with it up until the launch of the shop. Once the shop opened, Devin now oversees the roasting production. I oversee the barista side and HR and stuff.


Core Values: Excellence, Education & Community

How do you educate customers about specialty coffee?

That's a great question. So we built it into our core values. Our core values are excellence, education, and community. When we train our team, and we talk about the value of education, our spirit, and our heart was never to come in and say "we're offering something that's better than anything you've ever had. What you've been drinking isn't coffee."

It's very much been introduced into this world of just great coffee. Not only the way it tastes but the way it is sourced, the way that you ethically source your coffee. So it was very much what we wanted to do. This is part of our business where when we're educating people, it's really from a place of humility. 

There were a lot of hurdles being in South Louisiana. People like their coffee strong and dark. It's been really awesome experience being able to educate people in a way that when they ask for a dark roast, being able to start talking to them about how we have some darker roasts but most of them are in that medium range, and here's why we do that roast range here. "Would you like to try some?" Most people when they taste it, they immediate thing is they realize this isn't as bitter as what they're used to drinking. 

So yeah, it's been cool to see people convert from being really set in their ways of what they think coffee is to really be able to enjoy it. That's some of the most satisfying interactions we have. Seeing people experience the same thing me and my co-owners did. 


How did you end up with those three core values?

Excellence really boiled down to wanting every area of our business to operate with—I know excellence is a word that sometimes it can be thrown around, but we knew that from down to the way we source our coffee to how we meticulously roast we didn't just want it to be somewhere where we're in this to make money. It's never been about making money. 

If you ever opened up a coffee shop you know that it's not about making a lot of money. But we at our core want it to enter people to specialty coffee and have this space. So down to how we roasted, how we treat our team at the shop, how we take care of our location—which is one of the oldest buildings in our city, it's hundreds of years old. It came down to—we want kind of—just embedded into Luma this culture of "we care."

We put value in every single thing. 

Education, I kind of spoke a little to that. We wanted to be able to—in a way with humility—communicate to people "Hey, this is what this is. This is who we are. This is what coffee is." Just really create those moments. When we talk to our team and training, we talk about how it's about creating those moments to educate people.

Then the community, we knew that we wanted our brick and mortar that we had dreamed about for years to be a place where people could come. They could feel safe, and the biggest thing that we get all the time is that people come into the shop "Man when I'm here I just feel peaceful." And it's just a part of it. I think it speaks to—that's how we speak about our business. We wanted to be a place that was peaceful. That's a place people feel safe and secure. That's community. That's centred around community.

Then community, we knew that we wanted our brick and mortar that we had dreamed about for years to be a place where people could come. They could feel safe, and the biggest thing that we get all the time is that people come into the shop "Man when I'm here I just feel peaceful.

One of our friends, he's like "This is like Hammond's version of Cheers. Where they meet at that bar." And that's one of the best things anybody's said to us.

Because it is awesome to see people gather there and meet. You have college students over here, you have people having important business meetings over there. But it's just a place in our community where people can come together and enjoy coffee, community and each other.


Creating A Space For Community

Your shop is really inviting. How did you create that feeling?

It was something that was difficult at first, because we have me, my wife, Devin and Catherine as co-owners, and so we have four different ideas of how the shop is going to look. We realized early on, ok, how are we going to navigate this?

So we ended up hiring an interior designer, her name is Marissa. We were actually her first non-residential clients. Her and her husband moved here from New York. She stepped into the project when we were designing the shop, and we immediately knew that it was a perfect fit.

She ended up taking all our ideas and putting them into reality. So she was such an integral piece in making the shop look and feel the way it does. We knew in our minds, and we could try to communicate it but she kind of took what we were saying and feeling, and she really made it happen. She was—we're just so indebted to her.

It was just like we had the perfect team. Our graphic designer, her name is Ale.   I can't even remember how we got connected to her, I believe it was Catherine, but we got on an original call and just the same.

We started talking to her and giving her this is what we want the logo to feel like. This is what we are and who we are. She in the same way took what we were saying, all four of us, and then was able to present something to us that we knew, "Ok this is who we are. This is what, you know."

It was again. She was such an integral piece of and still is. She still has projects for us, and helps us. But it was really just the perfect fit all around with the interior designer, and the graphic designer. And they have worked together since our project! The meeting and being introduced through us.

So yeah, it was the dream team. The shop has elements that there are parts that I'm like, I thought it was going to look like this, and it looks completely different. But it feels right.

She did such a good job of taking what all of us were feeling and crafting it.


Who are your customers? And what are they coming for?

We really wanted to be downtown because of the, not only historic, but I believe it was this year, 2022, Hammond Downtown ended up winning a national competition for one of the most beautiful downtowns in the nation. It's just so historic and beautiful. We have a committee, a historic committee that works at keeping our downtown area very true to its origins. So we knew we wanted to be downtown.

We knew we wanted to not only serve the people downtown, but we knew that was going to be a hub for all the businesses around us. The law offices, the restaurants. So we wanted to have a miz during the week. During the work week, we have a lot of business owners. We have a lot of people that really office out of our shop because in terms of coffee shops we have a rather large shop as far as seating goes. So we have people that work every day out of our shop and literally do their work out of our shop.

We have a lot of students that come from Southeastern, which is about 2 miles from our shop. It's the second or third biggest college in Louisiana.

So yeah. Locals, local business owners, students, and then during weekends we'll see people, a lot of out-of-town people, that will come and visit. Which, is one of the crazy things for us because we remember not having any specialty coffee in Hammond. So we would always—a day trip for us would be to go into New Orleans and go and visit specialty coffee shops. That was an awesome Saturday. And now, people are coming to visit us from New Orleans and Covington. A lot of these surrounding cities. 

A big mix. Younger people, older people. It's really beautiful to see all the dynamics of the shop. 




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Written By: 

Amin Yazdani is the CEO and Co-Founder of Craver, a fast-growing mobile platform for restaurants, helping them grow and retain a loyal customer base.

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