An Interview with Jacob Fox and Isaac Fox, Owners
Local Hero: Best Beverage Artisan, non-alcoholic
Photos by Stacey M. Adams
Proprietors Jacob Fox and Isaac Fox of Little Bear Coffee Co.
Little Bear Coffee Co. is owned by brothers Jacob and Isaac Fox, along with their colleagues at New Mexico Capital Partners, Tim Fox and Tyler Gerard. The brothers grew up in the East Mountains, where they spent most of their childhood running around in the woods. After graduating from UNM, they began successful careers in real estate and in the food and beverage industry. Little Bear’s first café opened in Uptown in late 2017, and a new location debuted in Nob Hill last November. The coffee shop isn’t their only new endeavor in Nob Hill, however, as they recently partnered with Nob Hill Bar and Grill to open the Daydream Rum Bar, directly across from Little Bear on Central Avenue.
Why did you want to enter the coffee business? What do you love about it?
I don’t know that we had a super specific reason for entering the coffee business, [except that] we just love coffee and we love people! Coffee is a connector, and part of what we love so much about coffee culture is how it inherently reflects the community of whatever location it is in. During our years of traveling together, we realized that our opinion of whether or not we liked a place was largely influenced by a handful of small experiences. The coffee shops or bars we got to visit seem to reflect the nature of a community in a way that far exceeds the space’s [physical] footprint. We wanted to build a place in Albuquerque that we felt really reflected what was special about our home, and we continue to do that as we change and grow.
What is Little Bear’s philosophy?
Little Bear’s mission statement is to “love people, use coffee.” In everything we do, we want to put people first. We still absolutely strive to make the best coffee our customers have ever had on a daily basis, but we always want to make sure that people are prioritized over our product. We strive to be a leader in the world of craft beverage, and be a leader in how companies should play a part in building community. We also want to have a lot of fun, so that’s a priority too!
Last year, Little Bear opened a second location in Nob Hill, which includes the retail collective And Stuff. Why did you select that location and collective business model? What has been the community reaction?
Nob Hill has always been one of our favorite parts of Albuquerque. We always hoped we could find a cool spot for another café in that neighborhood, and we were really excited when we finally did! Nob Hill has been a destination for local food, beverage, and shopping for a long time. We definitely wanted to contribute to what makes that area of town so great. Lease rates in Nob Hill can be prohibitive, so we decided to have everyone pitch in together to make the whole development more successful and cost effective. From Organ Mountain Outfitters to Prisma Hair Co. to all the awesome businesses collaborating at And Stuff, we made it a priority to find other local businesses who all have an abundance mindset and want each other to be successful.
So far, Nob Hill has been nothing but supportive of our efforts in their neighborhood. We were adamant that we wanted New Mexico companies, and that we wanted to preserve as much existing character of the property as possible. Those are both things that Nob Hill really values as a community, and that we value as well.
Can you tell us about Little Bear’s design and what inspired it?
Our work-life has been mostly centered around real estate with our pops, which led to a love for place-making and wanting to help make spaces that people wanted to be in. We want our Little Bear locations to always feel unique and purposeful to the style of the building and area. Our current cafés are very different from each other aesthetically, and we are really proud that they both feel like their own place.
In regard to our branding, we really want our designs to be fun, approachable, and once again rooted in a sense of place. We love our state, and we love Albuquerque, so all of our branding and interior design has undertones of New Mexico, without being too on the nose.
We also focus on making sure there are spaces that are naturally inviting for customer and barista interaction. Through seating and standing space where the baristas work, customers can organically talk with our staff and learn about coffee in a more relational way.
What can we look forward to at Little Bear locations in the future?
This year, we really want to focus on our wholesale business, so our coffee can be accessible to whoever wants it! We realize we can only reach a certain number of people with our two cafés at the moment, so taking our coffee to other establishments seems like a good way to meet other customers where they are. We are looking forward to partnering with other businesses in our community through the growth of our wholesale program, and we are also offering coffee training to whoever carries our products. We definitely have aspirations of opening more cafés in the future, but those opportunities are probably still a little way out.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?
We hope that everyone’s day is a little brighter because they spent some of their time at Little Bear, and we hope that we continue to create an environment and community where people feel like they matter. We couldn’t have dreamed this project to be as successful as it has been without the help of our first staff and café managers. They made Little Bear special since day one, because they all believed in the type of space and community we wanted to build. Everyone added their own unique voice and talents to collaborate on something bigger than themselves, and we are still striving to continue that effort as we grow.
Our love for building physical spaces led to us wanting to activate those spaces in a way that makes our city better. We are continuing to learn how to do that better and better, and collaborate with other people along the way. Working alongside family and friends to help create the home we all want to live in is what drives everything we do. We are looking forward to investing in our community for a long time to come!
3123 Central Ave NE and 2632 Pennsylvania NE, Albuquerque, littlebearcoffeeco.com