Blends & Brews
Six Depot Café takes coffee to new heights
Six Depot co-owners Lisa Landry and Flavio Lichtenthal have declined offers to open other locations, franchise, and work with wholesale brokers. They are content with how their business is going.
Photo Megan Haley
Six Depot co-owners Flavio Lichtenthal and Lisa Landry were inspired by the title of Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” five years ago, as they designed their West Stockbridge café, coffee roastery, and gallery. “It’s all about dignity and providing a place for people to gather, be inspired, feel part of the world,” says Landry.
Housed in what was one of the oldest train stations in the Berkshires, the rustic-chic café serves fresh, healthy fare (along with decadent pastries), and there’s a small shop offering goods made both at Six Depot and in the community. The airy gallery showcases local and international artists and serves as a venue for theater, music, poetry slams, lectures, film screenings, book launches, classes, tastings, pop-up shops, trivia nights, and dance parties.
Underpinning all of this community goodness is a now-thriving wholesale operation selling Six Depot–branded specialty-food items to customers near and far. Each week, the company roasts some 2,000 pounds of coffee and packages 30 pounds of whole-leaf tea and 20 pounds of sea salt.
“It’s been very rewarding to be part of creating a space where people feel welcome and come seeking connection,” says Lichtenthal. “And to be able to turn people on to—and become familiar with—exotic coffees, salts, and teas from all around the world and, in a sense, travel through their palates and become part of something bigger. We are a depot after all, right?”
The couple, who have been married 23 years, waited until their two sons hit their teen years and were semi-independent before launching the business because they knew it would be an all-consuming endeavor. Lichtenthal is in charge of coffee roasting, developing wholesale accounts, and overseeing the café.
His background is as a singer-songwriter and chef, and his love of coffee began at age 13 in the pool halls of his native city, Buenos Aires. Coffee roasting was a natural extension of his passions for cooking and music—he approaches coffee roasting like cooking, using all his senses; and he approaches blending beans like mixing music, experimenting until it has just the right amount of bass and treble.
For over 20 years, Landry worked with New York City creative agencies as an art director, writer, and brand strategist for corporate clients. She brings that crackerjack marketing savvy to Six Depot, where she handles graphics, PR, marketing, social media, and accounting. She also manages the gallery and selects the teas and salts to be sold under the No. 6 Depot label.
Six Depot has a year-round staff of ten that doubles during high season. The company weathers slower times by shifting some team members from retail to wholesale operations. They have about 100 wholesale accounts, ranging from restaurants like Prairie Whale in Great Barrington and City Bakery in New York City, to small boutique stores, such as Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe in Boston, to specialty grocers, including Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in the Berkshires, Whole Foods’ northeast region, and Dean & DeLuca gourmet shops across the country.
Rather than marketing at trade events or working with wholesale agents, Landry says, “we don’t use anything and it’s really been mostly Flavio and word of mouth.”
For example, the head buyer for Dean & DeLuca was on vacation in the Berkshires and visited the former Meat Market, where she was drawn to the design of the No. 6 Depot coffee bags. She raved to the butcher that her office receives ten submissions from coffee purveyors each week, but this was the most beautiful packaging, and he told her where to find Six Depot in West Stockbridge. The buyer ate at the café several times that weekend and, after she returned to the city, contacted them to see if they would be interested in selling to Dean & DeLuca.
“That was one of those crazy, lucky, and fortunate experiences, but strangely enough a lot comes through from people who meet us at the farmers market or a festival or who have come to our café and have a brother or a somebody who is starting something,” says Landry.
Locally, Six Depot has partnered with several companies to produce coffee-flavored products.
Shire Breu-Hous in Dalton makes its Policemen’s Porter with No. 6 Depot “Notes from the Underground” espresso. “They are every bit as passionate about coffee as we are about beer,” says co-owner Andrew Crane. “That, coupled with the fact that they roast their beans on site in the Berkshires, made it a wonderful match.” The brewers plan to work with coffee varieties on the fruitier end of the spectrum to make some lighter beers.
Lisa Newmann, founder of Coffee Snacks, chose to work with Six Depot for her Java Me Up® Coffee Bars because it’s Berkshire based and she thinks the coffee tastes great, plus she wanted to support organic, shade-grown coffee.
In 2015, SoCo Creamery teamed with Six Depot to develop a single-origin coffee ice cream using ground beans rather than typical freeze-dried coffee powder. SoCo CEO Erik Bruun says, “It is a much, much more complicated and very rare way of making coffee ice cream, resulting in a much, much deeper coffee flavor. The ice cream tastes like real coffee with a lot of cream in it.” SoCo now make three different coffee ice creams: Bali Blue Moon (with tasting notes of milk chocolate and strawberry), Brazil (nutty cacao), and Sumatra (dark chocolate and lemon zest).
“The process is very labor intensive and expensive to make,” says Bruun. “For SoCo, the No. Six Depot coffee ice creams are a signature product because they represent innovation, a commitment to community, and a very distinctive ice cream.”