We’re suckers for a good cup of coffee. And a tasty breakfast sammie. And friendly service. And convenience. Which is to say, we’re suckers for Rainier Valley Coffee. This boutique coffee stand chain has four locations in the greater South Seattle and Enumclaw Plateau areas — the newest of which is located just steps from our front door where Cole St. intersects Highway 410.
Founded by Amanda Faille in 2016, it began as a single stand in Bonney Lake, Washington. Today, these Rainier Valley Coffee is well-known for its high-quality ingredients and attention to detail. Good coffee doesn’t happen by accident. It’s brewed with the best beans, pulled at just the right moment, and mixed with good ingredients (if you like that sort of thing).
To get to know Rainier Valley Coffee (aka RVC) better, we went right to the source — Amanda. Learn more about her coffee background, her philosophy on coffee, and how she’s supporting the community in this Q&A.
Q&A with Amanda Faille, Owner of Rainier Valley Coffee
Q: How did you first get into coffee?
Amanda: I worked in a gym that had an automatic coffee machine. When a position opened up at Crystal Mountain’s cafe, I applied. They said the position didn’t require a lot of experience, so they took me in and trained me. That was my first job as a barista. That was back in 2006.
Q: Have you worked in the coffee world ever since?
Amanda: No. I always dreamed of owning my own business, but it took a long time. I was actually working a corporate job as a vendor for Microsoft right before I purchased (Rainier Valley Coffee). The job was based in Virginia. I was two weeks on and then one week off. The schedule was crazy and hard to navigate.
Q: How did you find your way to opening Rainier Valley Coffee?
Amanda: A friend called me and said, “I have to sell my coffee stand. Do you want to buy it?”
I didn’t have any money saved, but she offered to give me a personal loan. So I booked a flight a week later and came home. It took about two years to pay off the purchase and it was a struggle. I worked open to close nearly every single day for the first year and a half. But I did it.
Q: What has allowed you to set yourself apart and be successful?
Amanda: High-quality products and consistency. I work hard to buy the best quality products I can, whether that’s milk chocolate or milk. Plus, I never dilute my products, like some coffee stands do. I think that downgrades what you’re getting.
Q: What kind of measures do you have in place to maintain consistency?
Amanda: Great staff and regular check-ins are key. I’m really lucky to have a fabulous team. And, I’m at each stand at least once a week, if not more. I guess you could say I’m a little obsessive.
I have also hired a really good general manager who is taking on some of those in-person quality visits. That means if I’m not there, someone else is making sure that the quality of coffee is correct.
Q: Your coffee is obviously wonderful, but you get some rave reviews on your food too. Do you have any menu favorites?
Amanda (chuckling): I live off the stand food. I have to say our burritos are delicious. I like the chorizo burrito a lot. And we also have a croissant with turkey, bacon, and aioli that’s amazing.
Q: You started in Bonney Lake. How did you choose where you were expanding?
The coffee business is pretty saturated. There are a lot of people out there with probably more money than I have who can pick up stands a lot faster. So I’ve always tried to be really choosy about the stands I’ve purchased. There have been several locations in different areas that just didn’t feel like my demographic of customers.
My south Renton RVC and Maple Valley RVC locations were on Craigslist. I knew they were kind of problem stands, which is sort of my specialty. I can come into someone else’s location and turn it into something great.
This (Enumclaw) stand is particularly unique. For the last three years, I have wanted this location. I love the community here. I love the mountains and the outdoors. This was my dream stand.
Q: How have you gotten to know the community in each of your four locations?
I’ve never wanted Rainier Valley Coffee to be just a business. I have always wanted it to be part of the community and help it grow. So we work really hard to get involved where we can.
It’s hard to do all the things, but we do as much as we can. We’ve done several sports sponsorships over the years. Here in Enumclaw, one of our employees is part of a Feed the Seniors program, so we have done a gift card drive to support that, which is really special.
Dealing with Coffee Stand Break-Ins
Q: You’ve had to deal with break-ins over the years. What kind of precautions do you take to reduce theft?
Yeah. The break-ins are really tough. Some locations get broken into more often than others. We actually had a break-in at our Enumclaw location, which is particularly surprising because that’s not something you would expect in this community.
And the truth is, there’s nothing really to steal. We never leave money inside our locations. We try and always leave the till open so people can see there’s no money.
We have really great safes to put our money into that fits in the coffee stand. We have a security system that triggers so we know if something is on. And, we have a lot of cameras.
Q: How does the aftermath of a break-in affect work?
Break-ins make the girls nervous, and rightfully so. After the most recent round of break-ins, we put in more security cameras. Have reiterated to the girls to make sure there’s nothing left sitting out. And we always tell our girls that if someone tries to rob them during the day, to just give them the money and call the cops after. Our staff’s safety is the most important thing.