Urban City Origins – A Family Affair
URBAN ESPRESSO BLEND
We sat down for a chat with Errah Jurus, co-founder of Urban City Coffee and wife of Brian Jurus, Partner at Fulcrum Coffee, to learn the story behind the business.
A lot of teenagers around the PNW start off their working lives slinging coffee and cleaning espresso machines, but few turn that experience into a legacy. Barista was a natural job-match for Errah Jurus, whose mother owned a cafe in Marysville, but even she didn’t foresee just how far that first job would take her. Those were the early days of Seattle’s caffeine revolution, and long before you could find nearly identical coffee shops on every corner in the US. But Errah knew coffee and she knew people. When she and her husband, Brian Jurus, were planning their future and dreaming of financial independence, the knowledge gleaned from her first job would prove inspirational.
Their entrepreneurial life goal was deceptively simple. Errah says, “We were savers, every opportunity that we took, we were prepared for when it presented itself because we saved everything and never wanted to put our family at risk.”
But every investment is a risk, especially when you’re ahead of your time, and starting Urban City was a big leap of faith. In 1993, Errah and her husband, Brian Jurus bought a coffee stand near their hometown. “We had no idea what we were doing. No one had done what we were doing, there weren’t many other big players to look at for examples. But we never intended our company to turn into what it is today because no one we knew had really done it.” At the time, there were three main companies that provided beans for cafes in the PNW. Future monoliths, like Starbucks, were just beginning to take root in Seattle. Small batch-roasters, especially local roasters, were unheard of.
The Work of Fate
Fate can be funny, though. When the vendor producing their coffee fell ill, Brian stepped up to help. He would pick up his own coffee, plus coffee for other customers to deliver. Eventually, the vendor offered to sell Brian his business. Errah and Brian decided to take a chance, hold their breath, and dive right in. Ready or not, they knew they couldn’t pass up the opportunity. They learned by doing, teaching themselves how to roast and how to shop for all of their own products. With each new step came questions: How was the next step done? Why was it done that way? And, finally, was there a better way to do it? Their process kept improving and the business kept expanding. Other cafes took notice of their beans and products and wanted in on the goods. “Slowly, that’s what started our wholesale business. Throughout the first 10 years, we bought and sold around 10 different café and stand locations.”
Our Inspiration for the Southpaw Blend
They were bold enough to catch the early wave in a trend that would roll across the nation. Today, Errah and Brian still have two brick and mortar locations for Urban City, “the coffee stand in Lynnwood that we bought over 25 years ago, and our Urban City Coffee Café that I opened in 2009.” Plus, of course, Fulcrum, the roasting plant and wholesale company they formed in the merger with Silver Cup Coffee in 2012.
The Urban City Coffee café is a comfortable, vibey spot with an extensive menu of delicious drinks and eatables alike, but their customer service is what Errah truly believes makes her cafe stand apart. “We take a different approach to customer service, we know we are there to be making friends.” Errah’s strength lies in leading with her heart. She believes it is her duty as an employer to not only provide an exceptional and memorable first job experience, but also to help young people develop the hard-working, service-oriented values that will serve them well in their careers to come. It’s always a bittersweet moment for Errah when a barista moves on from the shops to their next adventure. She’s passionate about creating relationships with both the customers and the baristas she hires, to ensure the cafe always feels like coming home to family.
The Family Legacy
For the Jurus family, coffee and customer service run deep; Errah’s daughters, Jayden & Makenna are on the team as well these days, valuable members in a family legacy. Urban City Coffee is dedicated to family and community, “connecting with each other, working hard, and making friends.” Errah’s approach to business is all about positive relationships. “If we do our job right, we will see them tomorrow and possibly make their day. We don’t just serve coffee, we serve people.”