Gary “Tom” Sawyer and his wife, Sandy, have taken Spokane by storm. After moving to the area in 2009 from Anacortes, they began Tom Sawyer’s Country Coffee. They only intended to bring a bit of Tom’s 59 years of coffee industry knowledge to the area by roasting his own coffee that he acquires from farmers all over the world. However, as he introduced his coffee to his friends and neighbors, they quickly started spreading the word to their friends and family and soon that part time ambition exploded into filling orders coming in from all over the United States., and even China and the Caribbean. Sawyer quickly outgrew the building he was using to house his small batch roaster and coffee beans sourced from his 3rd generation suppliers on their 16 acre property in south Spokane. His little shop soon turned into a much larger operation when he converted a warehouse in Kendall Yards in 2015 to include a roaster and coffee shop.
Sawyer is as friendly as they come- he loves to see his customers coming in and enjoying his coffee. He invites everyone he meets to come in and see the roasting process and experience the coffee and blends that he has developed over many years. He receives coffee from all over the world and has maintained relationships with them for many of the 59 years he has been in the coffee industry. He has used the same coffee broker all these years, a Direct trade model, to encourage farmers in growth and quality. This way, they can pay farmers a higher price for best quality coffee. He is often heard saying “I have never worked a day in my life. Just some days I come home more tired than others.” He gets up every morning and comes in because, “Every day is something new and exciting- our years have continued to build and build we have never once gone backwards.”
Alongside Tom in all his endeavors is Chris Pitotti. Chris doesn’t have a company “title” in the formal sense- they see Tom as Founder of Tom Sawyer Country Coffee and Chris as the continuation where Tom will leave off. In a much less formal sense, they often joke that they are Sr. Bean and Jr. Bean! Sawyer and Pitotti met in 2008 when Pitotti was working as branch manager at US Bank when he began coming to Spokane from Anacortes a few times a month and a friendship developed over the years which eventually evolved into a continuation plan that Tom presented to Chris and his wife.
A big part of Tom Sawyer’s Country Coffee is giving back to the community. Their mantra is “When you can learn to do something good for somebody else, it will always come back.” This is evident in everything that Tom Sawyer County Coffee does. Tom makes specialty blends for schools, churches, youth organizations, community, and choir groups to assist them in fundraising. He uses the same model that he became familiar with while running his former business in Anacortes, and reintroduced that same model here in Spokane. He sells these special blends created for the groups at a steep discount, which allows them to resell the coffee at market value. One choir group got creative and served coffee at an event for a “donation” and patrons offered up to $20 and $30 for their donations. This club was able to raise thousands of dollars to take a trip to Spain.
Another important aspect of Tom’s work is mentorship for those who wish to begin a business in the coffee industry. Their business model equips entrepreneurs with complete set ups for espresso stands for a business to build on from the ground up. He and Pitotti are happy to see that folks with a dream and a shoestring get up and running and become a full-fledged business. Using a network of other businesses, business clubs, and services and finance companies, Tom Sawyer Country Coffee also helps to provide most of the equipment needed in a coffee shop, training programs, business plans, and even financing for those building on their dreams. The biggest piece of the puzzle, the coffee itself, is where business owners really see the biggest difference: most shops see a 25% increase in profit just offering the coffee itself. Pitotti says “We call ourselves the 3 C’s for new businesses – Consultant, Coach, and Cheerleader for those wanting to be in the coffee industry and tap into Tom’s half century of experience and passion for customer service.” Tom adds, “Someone else’s success is our success – we share all the background and knowledge that we can, and we are available 7 days a week to talk to. We really try to live by the Golden Rule and Help Thy Neighbor.” This really is a testament to their growth and development as they continue to build accounts not only on a local and regional level, but a national level as well.
Folks all over the country are enjoying Tom Sawyer Country Coffee, and Huckleberry Press readers can enjoy $3 off a pound of Tom’s specially blended coffee when they bring this article into their shop at 608 N. Maple St, Spokane. Find them on Facebook and at their website: