Even if you’ve never tried Rad Coffee’s bone-shakingly intense drinks, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten a glimpse of their eye-catching skull logo or seen the viral video that introduced millions of people to their extravagant caffeinated concoctions often topped with colored whipped cream and bits of cereal like Lucky Charms and Cookie Crunch.
The punk-rock-themed and horror-inspired coffee shop has been around since 2015 and an online sensation since 2016, but later this month, the husband-and-wife duo behind it will bring the chain to Bixby Knolls, taking over the Atlantic Avenue storefront that used to house Derricks on Atlantic.
The new location—their third in addition to Upland and Covina—was a no-brainer for Rad Coffee and its unique style that clicks so well with the city, said co-owner Jade Valore.
“Long Beach has so much culture and art to it,” she said.
The shop will feature a similar ambiance to Rad’s other locations: lots of horror movie posters, concert flyer memorabilia and skateboard decks on the wall. Jade said this location will feel more retro thanks to the checkered flooring and neon-green walls. It will also feature a gaming area dubbed the “horrorcade,” a collection of horror-themed pinball machines that is a popular feature in the Covina store.
And then there’s the coffee. Bright, sweet, and powerfully caffeinated. “The Great White,” for instance, is a four-shot espresso concoction with cold brew concentrate, white mocha, and organic almond and caramel sauces. Patrons can also opt to pour that drink over ice and top it with “Bones Brew,” which adds another two shots of espresso and more cold brew concentrate with vanilla and cream.
For the purists out there, Rad Coffee offers staples such as straight espresso, Americano, cappuccino and lattes. It also has pour-overs and drip coffees, the beans for which are all roasted at the couple’s facility in Upland. Rusty, Jade’s husband, helms that department.
The pair had the idea for Rad Coffee in 2014 after Jade learned she was pregnant with their first daughter. At the time, Rusty was working two jobs, one of them at Starbucks where the couple first met and fell in love in their early twenties, while Jade, now 31, was a full-time student studying film.
The couple wanted a way to spend more time together, raise their daughter and do what they loved, Jade said. “So, I thought of a concept. We could start a coffee truck.”
That plan was too expensive, so they opted for a pop-up that would stand out against the landscape of corporatized coffee shops like Starbucks and Coffee Bean that dominated Upland at the time.
Drawing from their own personalities, they came up with the name “Rad” an adjective that was ubiquitous in Rusty’s beloved skate culture.
“He used to say the word all the time, and now when I tell people that he gives me the side-eye like, oh here she goes again,” Jade explained. “Now he literally never says it. I ruined it for him.”
But where Jade believes she struck marketing gold was with her idea to create an eye-catching skull logo. A horror fanatic who dreamed of directing movies herself, the morbid theme fit perfectly for Jade, but it was unheard of in the world of coffee.
“Nobody had a skeleton logo. Nobody did. That was a really big deal for us,” Jade said. “In 2015 when we developed all this, our daughter was literally two weeks old. I have to blame the hormones for all the creativity that was going through my veins.”
With a vision in place and a $6,000 espresso machine Jade’s grandfather gifted them, the pair set about trying to get their name out. They would pass out free cold brew at skateboarding events and Jade would spend hours on social media. Today, their following on Instagram clocks in at 117,000 followers.
Eventually, they landed a permanent pop-up location at a juice bar in Upland that would later become their first brick-and-mortar.
“The landlord gave us the spot,” Jade said. “We had enough money put together to decorate inside. We still have that same espresso machine, and we already had a customer base, which was really cool. Then we opened the actual shop in September 2015.”
But it’s Rad Coffee’s creative take on blended drinks that, arguably, propelled the independent coffee shop to the heights of its popularity. In 2016, Rad Coffee caught the attention of Business Insider for its uniquely topped and colorful blended drinks.
The video Business Insider published was short, only 51 seconds, but it catapulted the business into the spotlight.
“It got over 20 million views and the rest was history,” Jade recalled. “I mean, we had lines down the street. That was a pivotal point in Rad Coffee.”
In 2018 the couple started up their roastery in Upland, a necessary move due to high demand, and just last year they opened their downtown Covina location. They also were finally able to achieve their initial idea of a coffee truck, which travels to various cities around Southern California—including Lakewood and Whittier, where the couple was able to test the demand in the Long Beach area before committing to the Bixby Knolls shop.
Last year Jade made the 2021 Forbes 30 under 30 list for Rad Coffee. The company, Jade said, made almost $5 million in 2020.
“I always wanted people to know that we did not come from money, nobody gave us a ticket, we worked our butts off,” Jade said. “It’s really important (to us) for people to know that there are two young people out there making a difference in the coffee world.”
Rad Coffee in Bixby Knolls will open Wednesday, April 27 under limited hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until May 8 when hours of operation will be from 6 a.m. to midnight every day.
Rad Coffee is at 3502 Atlantic Ave.
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