In a special series, please check out our feature on these wonderful local businesses, non-profits and artists who bring local loveliness to us all! Please enjoy meeting Lara Berenji co-owner of Rare Bird Coffee Roasters in Falls Church City.
What has it been like with the Covid19/Quarantine Scenario and how have you had to pivot your business?
The coffee shop has moved to online coffee bean and merch. orders for free local deliveries and shipping only. So we just cut out all services that causes folks to physically come to us in anyway, supporting the stay home order.
Have you always had the entrepreneurial spirit?
I suppose we have! Bryan and I both started out in photography, and through winding paths ended up with a hobby gone wild and decided to start roasting coffee and sharing our enthusiasm with others. So whether we want to admit it, it must be in our subconscious.
Do you have a morning routine?
Yes, we both have different routines; Bryan gets up and goes and starts his mornings at the shop, mine is getting up with enough time to have a moment to myself. While the house is quiet (and everyone in the house is still asleep) I love to read my book, and sip my coffee before I enter into my business mode. Then it’s off to Village Sweet to pick up baked goods on the way to the shop, followed by a whirlwind of tasks and seeing friends, regulars and new customers that come in everyday.
When did you decide being an entrepreneur was right for you?
I think the decision to be an entrepreneur was natural because it was a needed to accomplish what we thought this area needed. We are learning as we’re going and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, but we are so humbled by the tremendous team effort it takes to do what we’re doing and we cannot imagine trying to do this without support we have from our staff, friends and most of all family.
Downtown Falls Church is such a great area, and was a really big draw for us because it’s on this unique strip of Route 7 that feels like our neighborhood. The walkability and the parking lot were of great interest for us and the scale of the building just makes this place so cozy.
What made you choose Falls Church?
This area is our neighborhood. We live in Arlington near East Falls Church Metro so we felt that people have been so focused on DC as the place to be to offer specialty coffee, and being a neighbor, we knew that interest was here as well. Falls Church, while still being urban, has a small town vibe that meshes really well with the feeling of a welcoming kitchen table that we were looking for. So in short, it just felt right.
How do you think your company is different?
Many things, but as the most obvious distinction in the immediate area, is that we are the only Coffee Roasters. We are definitely focussed on quality coffee, an inclusive environment for our customers, and staff. We do our best to use other local vendors and the most environmentally responsible products as we can manage. All these components are crucial for our business and we like to recognize them for that on a regular basis, by posting their logo on our sign board, our rewards program for our customers, offering free wifi, listening to our staff for changes and suggestions, and thanking them for everyday for a job well done to let them know they are a part of Rare Bird, not just a position. This place is ever growing and evolving for the better, and we like feeling a part of something, not just a business that is located in the area.
What problem are you solving?
We are bringing a high quality coffee with an accessibility by all levels of coffee interest, and we are happy to share our knowledge with those who have interest, but hold no judgement for those that don’t.
Where is your favorite place to go in Northern Virginia for a secret escape?
Escape? you can escape? Ha ha! Since we have opened our doors in Falls Church (October 3rd, 2016), we have only just recently taken time off for a family (Bryan’s Family) vacation in Bethany Beach, Delaware, and we are about to take our kids to Disney World for a few days, but we typically are dedicating all our time to the shop right now (as most new business owners do I would assume).
Is there something you want people to know about your business that no one knows?
We would like our folks to know that we source all of our coffee responsibly. This means that the coffee importers we work with make sure that the coffee is environmentally conscious and that the farmers are being fairly compensated for their hard work.
Another thing that some people may not know is that most all of the people that work with us at the shop are artists, or have artist backgrounds, including Bryan and I, and that is why we feel a great connection with hosting a rotating art show at the shop.
Tell us a secret about your company.
It may not be a secret to some, but we don’t have a kitchen and we have a limited space for storage. So even though we have made our space feel very open and ‘big’ we secretly have a very small shop 1250sq ft.
What word best describes your company?
If you weren’t running your business what would you be doing?
I have no idea, but I know it would involve people.
What is your life motto?
Just try and see what happens.
When you started your company, did you have an idea about what would go into the day to day?
We did have a long time to think about that during our buildout, and even though we thought we had it all basically figured out, we understood that we would have to adapt as new understanding and realities took affect, and we had to be versatile.
What is playing right now in your playlist?
Do you have a favorite Instagram account?
Not really, there are a lot we like.
Do you have a favorite hike and bike trail?
Any of them at Great Falls for hiking!
Do you follow any fitness regiments? If so, what are they?
I recently started a short crunches and push-ups routine followed by Thai Chi practice every night.
What trends do you think we should be looking at now?
Not sure for other industries, but I think that coffee, like micro beer breweries, is becoming specialized and focusing on quality and environmental impact as well as fair trade type concepts.
What is your style?
We have a pretty easy going comfortable simple kinda style.
What is your favorite food? Do you have a favorite local restaurant?
Another favorite question! It’s so hard to pick just one! We do often go to Space Bar (Falls Church), for beer, grilled cheese sandwiches and tots. Yama sushi (Vienna) has really great sushi among other delights, and we frequent El Paso cafe (Arlington) for some great Tex Mex, while Haandi (Falls Church) is our favorite Indian restaurant. We also love Daikaya (DC) for Ramen, and Panda Gourmet (DC) has the best Sichuan in the area. I honestly can go on, we love food!