Something new is brewing in an empty building in a corner of downtown: Lanna Coffee Co.’s new home.
The Fresno-based coffee company with a mission moved into 617 Broadway earlier this month.
The building is far from attention-getting downtown redevelopment like the construction of The Lede apartments and Iron Bird Lofts that have sprung up in the mural district.
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The building Lanna took over was a former automotive machine shop and auto parts warehouse. It is now Lanna’s roastery and packing and shipping headquarters.
Lanna is renting about 3,000 square feet of the 5,500-square-foot building and Central Valley IT Solutions is subleasing the rest of the space.
The building has loads of character: high exposed rafters, skylights, an unfinished wooden floor, light fixtures that harken back to a different era.
I just have a heart for downtown. I just love these old buildings.
Bryan Feil, Lanna Coffee
“It just feels like home for a coffee roasting spot,” says CEO Bryan Feil.
The building dates back to 1942, when it was rebuilt after a fire, says building owner Scott Oliver. That section of Broadway was called “auto row” because of all the auto-related businesses there, he said.
For Lanna, a coffee company with a mission to lift Thai farmers out of poverty, taking over a building downtown was a natural move.
“It’s like we’re bringing life to a new building but bringing sustainability to farmers,” he said.
Lanna gets its coffee beans from “hill tribes” – people who have fled civil unrest in various countries and are living in northern Thailand.
Buying beans from the villager-owned farms helps lift them out of poverty and brings clean water wells, education and health care to the villages.
I want to push millions of dollars back to Thailand.
Bryan Feil, Lanna Coffee
Lanna was previously located near Ventura Street and Cedar Avenue in southeast Fresno before selling its building and moving temporarily to an old warehouse on Parallel Avenue.
After putting out a call for volunteers, more than 20 people showed up Jan. 2 to help Lanna move. They were done in two hours.
Although the neighborhood may not be familiar to some Fresnans, it’s in an area that is growing, says Aaron Blair, president and chief executive officer of the Downtown Fresno Partnership. It’s dubbed the South Stadium District because it’s south of Chukchansi Park.
“It’s a great addition to the South Stadium District … which is becoming quite popular because of the old historic warehouses,” Blair said.
In recent years, Blair notes, Tioga-Sequoia Brewing has moved to the neighborhood and Team AMVETS renovated and reopened a thrift store nearby on Broadway. Just a few blocks away, Bitwise Industries spent $7 million renovating a 100-year-old building that is home to several technology companies.
Lanna already has started renovating its space: It added a “clean room” where coffee is packaged. A wall display tells the story of Lanna from farm to cup.
That area is becoming quite popular.
Aaron Blair, Downtown Fresno Partnership
A tasting room is in works for wholesale customers – and the occasional Art Hop or other public event – to taste coffee and buy T-shirts or mugs. Its next public event is an open house and tasting from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 20.
But there’s more than just coffee in the building. Central Valley IT Solutions is moving from its current office on the Fig Garden Loop into 2,500 square feet of the building. The 2-year-old company manages computer networks for businesses and installs security camera systems.
But it’s moving its six employees into the warehouse with Lanna to open an “innovation lab.” The lab will have workbenches where the company – and eventually others – can experiment with electronic equipment.
Founder Daniel Daccarett said he wanted to move downtown to be closer to other technology companies. His space will be as open as possible to Lanna’s side of the business (hence the clean room so the coffee doesn’t mingle with electronics).
Both companies are renting space from the landlord.
“I wanted to secure as long a lease as possible knowing this area was going to grow,” Feil said.