Meet out next #FREDAgirl, resident Bay Area unstoppable entrepreneur, Buffy Maguire. Buffy runs three cafes, two of which are on the same block, so it’s no surprise that she’s already killing it with her latest business venture, Lady Falcon Coffee Club. Buffy has always cared about high-quality coffee, but what makes Lady Falcon special is that it craft roasts with style. Founded in San Francisco’s Ocean Beach neighborhood, and ran out of the cutest revamped vintage 1948 truck you’ve ever seen, Lady Falcon is the coffee company for a badass girl-on-the-go. Buffy never stops, and her ambitious #FREDAGIRL drive has her wanting to pursue more.
You have three wildly successful cafes and newly launched vintage coffee truck. Tell us how you got to where you are now? How did the three cafes lead to the coffee truck?
The short answer to my success is showing up and being accountable consistently over many, many years through good and bad times. I started very young and the culture of our café was in some ways not so different than one of my classrooms in college or graduate school. At cafes, you talk about books, ideas, art, movements among many things and I became quite intoxicated by the new adventure awaiting me everyday. Let me assure you Ocean Beach never fails to deliver an adventure and I love that. But early on, I felt I needed a real job and the café was my hobby of sorts. My aha moment came when I decided to open the second café and embrace this life as my own instead of a side project. It was also around this time that I started roasting coffee. It all rushed in once I made that decision, but that aha moment and thought process took over 10 years.
How did the three cafes lead to the coffee truck?
In the fall of 2011, Ocean Beach and Wise Surfboards hosted the Rip Curl International surf contest which was an epic event and surely an important aha moment in Ocean Beach history. At that point, I had just opened my third café, Beachside Coffee Bar & Kitchen, which specialized in single-origin pour overs and the organizers of the event asked us to make a mobile coffee bar to serve the visitors, surfers and organizers. We were ambitious so we immediately said yes, but there were so many unknowns to this mobile process. First and foremost, generating power was an issue. RipCurl provided us with power, but they experienced a power shortage right when Kelly Slater was about to win his 11th world title and they pulled our power to air it internationally. We had lines and lines of people waiting to order our coffee and we had no way to serve them. Staring at their disappointed faces in line, I decided there and then we need our own sustainable mobile unit with our own power. I originally thought it would be a vintage VW camper that we would use and I looked at a lot of those over the years, but in the end, they were too small. When I stumbled upon the 1948 GMC bread van in late 2014 in a parking lot, I had been contemplating it for a long time and I knew immediately it was the right fit for what would become Lady Falcon Coffee Club.
What’s in a name? Tell us about the name, Lady Falcon Coffee Club and what does it means to you and your brand.
Being named Buffy, I can tell you there is a lot in a name! A name conjures up an image, an idea and a feeling and if it fits, it is a perfect marriage. I can tell you very few people ever forget my name. A name makes an impression.
With this in mind, I really thought about the name of what would become my most personal venture: Lady Falcon Coffee Club. I knew I wanted to pay respect to the legends in Ocean Beach before me. I enjoy studying history and the Ocean Beach neighborhood has fascinated me for the wild and eclectic types that it consistently attracts. We are all very diverse, but unified in our love of the ocean. It is our great connection.
Our name refers to an era in San Francisco Ocean Beach history during the 1880’s when an impromptu neighborhood of abandoned streetcars on Judah Street became “Carville-by-the-Sea.” The Falcon Ladies Bicycling Club was one of the first cars in the bunch and helped shape the freethinker legend of Carville.
Now, why would ladies need a bicycling club? These women were rebels in their own way, in their own day. Ladies straddling bicycles in the late 1800’s… women couldn’t even legally vote then and were restricted by corsets and petticoats! With bicycling, a freedom of movement liberated them. They must have felt like they had wings.
When christening Lady Falcon Coffee Club name, I kept the idea of a club from the bicycling inspiration because I thought that was so much less pretentious than “Coffee Roasters.” It is a club that anyone can belong to and we all just enjoy good coffee and good company. In putting Lady first, I consciously decided to appoint ourselves nobility in the same way that jazz legends like Duke Ellington era did in their time and in the same way that hip hop artists do today. Street credibility becomes royalty when you are shifting the paradigm of givens and opening up a new definition of what is regal. And why not have a little fun with a name?
This was all especially true since I was looking at this coffee company as intensely personal. To be honest, I was not sure I would even launch it for a long while and this hesitation allowed me the freedom to dream up my complete wish list for the company without commitment or self-censorship.
My wish list for a personal coffee company was long because I had been in the coffee industry for years and, yet, I did not feel at home in coffee circles. It felt stifling and prescriptive and it didn’t fit me. Specialty coffee, which I love, had become so rigid and pretentious. This was so counter to my daily life at Ocean Beach, which was down home and welcoming of all different eclectic perspectives. I thought what if we could turn the whole paradigm upside down, what if I liberated myself from all the constraints and just did what I love about coffee?
We love the aesthetics of your brand. What do you want your art and graphics to communicate? In what ways do you hope Lady Falcon is different compared to other SF coffee roasters?
Our brand concept and our logo is something I worked off and on for over 18 months. I wanted it to be historically beautiful and a piece of artwork in its own right as well as a brand statement about being our quirky, complicated, liberated selves in coffee, and, in the world. To envision this, I imagined what the Falcons must have felt like bicycling through the sand dunes in the late 1800’s and it is what I felt like once I embraced the idea of this personal coffee company. Our brand aesthetics serve as a vehicle to showcase our femininity and sensual approach to being ourselves in coffee.
Lady Falcon Coffee Club is a taste-forward coffee company.
I wanted to focus on coffee as a sensual experience of enjoyment and pleasure. I love the cerebral aspect and love, love the origin story, but that needs to come second to the most important factor: how does it taste?
Many SF coffee roasters concentrate on the cerebral qualities of the coffee and its origin and I understand why, but I think something has gotten lost along the way and it created an elitist coffee climate.
The prism to “good” coffee was narrow and stifling—the antithesis of coffee culture of acceptance and inspiration. The coffee aisle was a longgg brown-bag bummer of the same bags with the same beans differentiated only with a different rubber stamp. I can be rebellious so I thought to myself “Let’s turn that on its head and embrace the femininity.” Pink bags, why not? Who says we can’t? And aren’t they pretty?
What has been the most unexpected challenge? Career highlight?
Professionally, my most unexpected challenge is my impatience with the lag time between developing an idea and executing an idea. This process can take much longer than I realize and this can be challenging for me. A career highlight was being named a Trailblazing Woman in Business by the City of San Francisco. I didn’t really think of it as much until I was in the middle of receiving the award and I decided to embrace the moment as a milestone and victory. And, then, it was very moving.
How do you define success?
Defining success for me is like a collage over time and my definition is ever unfolding but with some constants. I know that my personal success includes being a good mother, wife, daughter, aunt, friend, leader, and community member. I want to give more than I receive. As an entrepreneur, being autonomous and sustainable is really important to me. As a supervisor to my great team, I aim to give them opportunities that nourish them as a whole person. As a parent, I seek to provide my sons with new and different experiences that shape them as compassionate and giving individuals who practice kindness. As partner with my husband, I aim to be an ally and a friend who is unwavering with love and support. The definition of success has consistently included adding value to other people’s lives in some way and sharing my experiences so that they may be of value to someone else.
What’s your mantra?
“Leave this world a little better than you found it.”