| Beaver County Times
MCKEES ROCKS – From the Grand Canyon to Cleveland and California to McKees Rocks, the Black Forge Coffee House is doing everything possible to help devastated concert venues.
Black Forge Coffee created their own Save Our Stages blend from Java, which retails for $ 25 per bag. The proceeds will go to independent concert venues whose employees are unemployed due to the pandemic.
Ashley Corts, owner of Black Forge, believed the mission needed to be spread from coast to coast, so bought a van and headed out. She sold Save Our Stages (SOS) coffee in a pop-up fashion outside of concert halls, tattoo shops, or other small business businesses that welcomed her.
“All I need is two sockets and space on the sidewalk,” said Corts.
A former concert tour lighting technician, Corts reached out to music industry friends including Pittsburgh’s Grammy-nominated industrial metal band Code Orange, Warped Tour veterans Bayside and Metalcores Zao to get their members to sign bags of bespoke SOS coffee are raffled to raise money for the campaign. It costs $ 5 per ticket, with the money raised being donated to the band’s venue.
“I don’t say ‘cute’ very often, but some of these bands say they haven’t seen each other in a while, and now they can get together to sign these bags … it’s kind of cute,” said Corts. “I mean, it’s a small gesture, but for a good cause. Growing up I was taught that every little thing helps.”
As someone who runs two small venues, the 95-seat Black Forge Coffee House in McKees Rocks and the original 49-seat Black Forge Cafe in Pittsburgh’s Allentown neighborhood, Corts knew she had to do something to strengthen the music community.
“But first I wondered what to do.” The more I sat around trying to think, the more I realized, “OK, I’m a business owner and I’ve been in a lot of bad situations.” Then my fight or my flight began. “
She recalled that Pittsburgh’s Urban Development Agency, an economic development agency, could provide grants to help. The URA referred her to a women-owned small business grant. She applied and successfully received a scholarship for a van that became her mobile popup.
“I’d done coffee pop-ups with Black Forge before where I’d just show up at a venue and do my thing.”
Now she had the wheels to take her coffee across the country. For every bag of SOS coffee sold on the go, she gives 20 percent to the venue of the day, relying on the rest of the profits to help her two struggling coffeeshops.
Last Tuesday, Black Forges McKee’s Rocks store saw five customers, far from the 200 attendees they would see on a concert night.
Black Forge SOS Coffee purchases online include a promo code posted by the venues that allows customers to indicate where their donation will be spent, with options like Spirit, a small club in Lawrenceville; Jergels Rhythm Grille at Warrendale and Drusky Entertainment, Pittsburgh’s most prolific concert promoters booking for Jergels; The Crafthouse in Baldwin, Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead, and other locations.
Corts got her first break in the music industry when she was 19 years old and ran concert lights for Drusky shows.
Last week the Black Forge Van showed up in Cleveland and Youngstown. Corts has been selling coffee in LA and the Grand Canyon. This weekend she planned to get back on the road and head to Knoxville, Tennessee, and North Carolina before heading west to New Mexico.
Since January 1, the van has sold more than 500 bags of SOS, a medium roast mix with dark chocolate notes, available in whole beans, coarse, medium or fine.
It’s not like selling ground coffee brings large amounts of cash. It could make $ 80 for a venue one night; $ 400 for a venue the next night.
But here too, every little bit helps, and the mission also includes simply spreading the problems concert venues are facing in an era of COVID-19.
“Most of that is awareness,” she said.
Your trip has resulted in interviews with radio stations and newspapers.
“People will come up to the van and say, ‘Oh, I heard about this on the radio’ or ‘I follow this little business and saw it on their Instagram,’ said Corts. which contains my mission statement. “
She’s surprised at the number of pop-up customers – “I’d say it’s 50-50” – who told her they haven’t stopped thinking about how the pandemic is pushing music venues to the brink of bankruptcy.
“They say, ‘Well what do you mean?’ and I tell them that a lot of places have closed because they have no way of making money, “she said.
The long-popular Pittsburgh music venues The Rex Theater and the Brillobox both closed in 2020, referring to the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic.
“Coffee doesn’t make a lot of money, but I can do a lot to help educate people who don’t know these venues hurt.”
To support Black Forge Coffee’s SOS campaign, visit https://blackforgecoffee.com/
Scott Tady is the local entertainment reporter for The Beaver County Times and Ellwood City Ledger. He can be easily reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @scotttady