Blueprint Coffee was opened by a group of coffee professionals and advocates in 2013. These founders (literally "members" in legalese) have been at the core of Blueprint's vision and day-to-day operations. Instead of trying to create a homogenous "about us" story, we thought it would be better to introduce you to each one of them personally and provide some insight into how they shape Blueprint.
Kevin Reddy is the general manager and one of the members of Blueprint Coffee. He lives above the cafe with his two dogs Clif and Rodin (named after the French sculptor Auguste Rodin). On most days, you can find him running, biking, or walking his dogs in the area.
When asked more about his dogs, he said, “They are my other legs. When I'm out and about, they're at my side. What can I say? I love dogs. To me, a trail in front of me, a breeze, and a dog: that’s my therapy.”
Kevin rarely drives a car and describes himself as a pedestrian by nature, but at the end of the day, he is a people person.
“I spend time just socializing and engaging in the community that I live in,” he said, “I like culture, music and movies. I like a nice cocktail and a good meal. I try to see what people are doing around the city.”
This aspect of connecting with people, engaging in conversations, and uplifting his community carries directly into his work at Blueprint.
“I'd say I spend half my time working with my staff, making sure that the people who support us are being taken care of, and focussing on the hospitality side of the business. That's generally my strength,” he said.
Kevin spent a long time learning how to utilize food and drink to foster the people around him. While he was studying sculpture in college, he found himself frequenting cafes, and particularly gravitating “towards shops that took a little bit more care in what they were doing.”
Between college and Blueprint, Kevin worked for a wine shop and spent seven years working for Kaldi’s Coffee. He originally worked as a chef and manager at the wine shop, and was hired to rework the kitchen at Kaldi’s. Through these spaces, he found speciality coffee.
As Kevin worked more with coffee, he realized his goals were well-aligned with the industry.
“That's when I started to reach out to people,” he said, “I thought there were some real opportunities in this city based on what I saw outside of St. Louis. I could see where the industry was going and I could see the efforts of my colleagues and peers across the country paying off. I started telling the people I trusted what my goals were and what I wanted to do, and it became very clear and very quickly that there were other people I really respected who also had similar interests.”
The first year of conceptualizing Blueprint was not about business plans or
figuring out logistics, but was centered on talking through what excited the owners about coffee, and what they envisioned for the future of speciality coffee. Kevin also noted that his interest in opening a cafe had a long history.
“Honestly, if you were to ask my 14- or 15-year-old self what I wanted to do, it was to open a coffee shop. So I think in some sense I've been talking about Blueprint for a very long time,” he said.
In a similar sense, Kevin also had a previous connection to the physical space that Blueprint now inhabits on Delmar. The shop had been empty for eight years before Blueprint moved in, and Kevin had seen and fallen in love with the space a few years before before the cafe opened.
“I think I had an idea of what I wanted the space to be long before we ever even signed a lease for it, just looking through the windows,” he said.
So when the lease was signed and the cafe was ready to be designed, Kevin’s hand was ever-present.
“I would say that I certainly cared a lot about the design of the space,” he said, “What’s more, is that I had a lot of experience working in retail settings, so I was able to call on my experience and design a space that both worked well and was easy to maintain.”
Kevin called on the help of his brother, an architect, and father, a contractor, to transform his ideas for the space into realities.
“My brother and I always talked about designing a cafe. Creating the cafe was just an opportunity for us to branch out of building legos on the air hockey table. And then my dad: he was absolutely instrumental in getting the place built. Understanding the needs of what's gotta be in the walls and what needs to be done in what order was crucial,” Kevin said.
Kevin’s background in sculpture carried into the design principles of the space. He wanted the artist’s hand to be present, and for the cafe, this equated to a space that was beautiful, but functional. These ideas were discussed at Kevin’s brother’s kitchen table, where the first mockup of Blueprint was designed.
“I guess the overarching theme that I communicated to my brother was I wanted authenticity. In designing the space, we always kind of hearkened back to form follows function.
It's always been our impression that the beauty of the space is in its ability to perform the task at hand,” he said.
In the months that followed, Kevin’s father played a huge role in the actual building of the space. Kevin conveyed that his father, “wanted to execute
exactly what we had envisioned.”
The Blueprint team had a lot of support from the community as they worked towards opening the cafe, and Kevin’s family consistently showed up.
“To my family's credit, they supported me long before. They supported me when I made the choice to get a degree in sculpture, to give you an idea. They've always encouraged me to pursue my passions,” Kevin said, “They've also supported me with their own time and energy. So for me, I couldn't be more grateful. I'm just very appreciative of that commitment and sacrifice that they've made. As far as feeling their support, I can't tell you. Every single week, I meet somebody who knows my parents who told them to come in and they go on and on about how proud my parents are of me. That's huge. It's not necessary for somebody else to tell me that in order for me to feel it, but it means a lot.”
Before Blueprint, Kevin’s parents didn’t drink coffee and rarely spent time in the Loop. Now, they stop by the cafe two or three times a week. As Kevin phrased it, “they’ve really embraced the lifestyle.” In a lot of ways, Kevin’s parents mirror what he describes as his favorite customers.
“The customers that I appreciate the most are often the ones that don't fit the typical demographic: the ones who don't have a community of people who understand why they choose to come to Blueprint versus anywhere else. The ones that might not follow the Instagram community or the social media, or be as concerned with the aesthetic. The ones who aren't able to put their finger on what it is that makes us special, but they know we're different. And they're sort of seeing coffee through a lens that we've created,” he said.
Today, this group can be seen intermingling with the typical speciality coffee demographic, the “young, urban creative type,” as Kevin describes them.
“I don't think I would be comfortable in a space that didn't support both of those demographics,” Kevin explained, “For me, my interest and my strength is always just the customer on the other side of the counter.”
When the customers become regulars, when different demographics come together, and when someone new comes in and works to understand Blueprint’s coffee, Kevin feels like his hard work has paid off.
“The chairs are not the most comfortable. The music is definitely different than
what you'd normally find in a traditional cafe. All those things are true. But when people come in and they see that we're proud of what we're doing and that we appreciate them and want to share what we love with them, I think we are opening people's eyes to what coffee really is. So that's amazing. That's rewarding. And the community gives me that,” he said.
The support Kevin has felt from Blueprint’s customers seems to stem from the St. Louis community as a whole.
“You can really pursue your dreams here,” Kevin said, “What has amazed me is just how many people want to help, and how the community supports both what we're doing and what I've been passionate about. People want to help you here, so St. Louis is ultimately the reason we were able to do this,” he continued, “What I've learned more recently in the last five years is how supportive St. Louis is. And that, to me, is why I call St. Louis home.”
Kevin grew up in St. Louis County. His experiences in the city were destination-driven: his family would go to a baseball game, the Botanical Gardens, the Arch.
“I loved all those things, but you see them a few times and it's just a landmark and a touristy thing,” he explained.
When he moved away for college, he never anticipated coming back and living in St. Louis. Years later, he found himself back St. Louis and began to explore parts of the city he had never seen.
“When I moved back to St. Louis, I would make it a point to get lost on the way home every time I went anywhere. I'd take the side streets, I started to see how the city was connected, and just starting building a map in my head,” he said.
In this wandering and piecing-together, Kevin restructured his thoughts about St. Louis, and realized that he had found his home.
“When you visit other cities, having accessibility to parks, museums, cafes, and all those things within biking or riding distance with a minimum wage earning is an impossibility. So for me, just the livability and the likability of St. Louis is probably what kept me here more than anything,” he said.
Now, Kevin can use Blueprint to help support the people around him and the city at large. He anticipates that Blueprint will open additional cafes and most likely a roasting facility in the future. Beyond that, he wants to expand Blueprint’s educational efforts.
“I would certainly like to offer St. Louis more coffee experiences that extend
beyond retail setting,” he said, “Coffee is a relatively young product in the world of beverage. I want people to understand the process of coffee, and understand that there's a science as well as a craft. The decisions we're making as an industry are creating real results, and coffee is changing. So, to get as many people engaged in that conversation as possible is a goal of Blueprint.”
When asked about his future role at Blueprint, he brought up shifting from his position of general manager to an administrative role that would focus on brand development and growth.
He stated, “I think in turn, that means that we're creating opportunities for people and for ourselves to take on new risks and challenges, and find new ways to motivate our own personal growth.”
Kevin said that his initial hope for Blueprint was to build a company that he would want to work for. Now that he’s done that, it’s about making a space for his community.
“This, to me, it's my career. It's my retirement plan, it's my life. So I want to make sure that it's a good place for me, and especially a good place for my employees, colleagues, peers, and certainly for my customers.”