WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Tucked away in the basement, Christopher James operates like a scientist.
“Coffee is a science,” he said. “Trial, error, research as much as you can do.”
From the timing, temperature, to the beans, he’s had about 10 years to really perfect his coffee roasting skills and turn it into Coffalo Coffee Company.
Now in multiple local Hy-Vee and Fareway stores, you can say James is well on his way to making it.
“It was a struggle," James said. "It was difficult but here I am, again, back… I feel like I’m back on top and where I need to be."
He started Buffalo Brew Coffee in 2020 after he lost his restaurant management job during the pandemic, a small experiment to do something.
Not long after, it took off and he later rebranded to Coffalo Coffee Company in 2022 due to trademark issues. It forced him to put a pause on the operation for a few months and pull his inventory off store shelves while he rebranded.
Despite the new branding, he remained true to the core of the brand and still delivers beans by bicycle and with Bugsy the pug riding along.
“She just turned one, so she’s like an infant,” he said.
Bugsy’s delivering days have been short so far, but she’s already a hit with customers.
“It’s still a training," James said. "We’re still in training."
Bugsy’s role with Coffalo Coffee Company isn’t a gimmick or by accident.
She’s actually taking the baton from Sooshie, James’ older pug who died not long after he started the company.
She was a friend and partner when James needed it most, and a fixture of the company.
“I give her credit for lifting the company to a certain point and then kind of passing it off to me, saying ‘I’ve gotten you this far. Now, the rest is going to be up to you,’” James said.
The two became a sight to see for drivers, especially around West Des Moines, and now the mission’s been passed off to Bugsy to not only be Christopher’s delivery partner but to also motivate him to keep it going because he does it all himself: the roasting, the packaging, to deliveries and in-store inventory checks.
“In then next couple years, I see myself taking over the Iowa market and being the best coffee business out there,” he said.
Pairing three things he loves most --- coffee, biking, and Bugsy --- has turned out well for James. He said his family is proud of how he’s grown his business.
He said he’s also a top three finalist for Cityview Magazine’s “Best Coffee of 2023” in Des Moines.
For James and Bugsy, the Coffalo Coffee Company ride together is just getting started.