In 1993 at the age of 19, Jeremy Gursey seized an opportunity that no one else had when he launched Mocha Kiss, the first mobile espresso bar service on movie sets after experimenting with coffee in his parents’ home in Studio City, Calif.
“I ended up branding my coffee carts and bringing them to movie sets such as ‘Men in Black’ and ‘Jerry McGuire’ before I eventually got a contract with Sony and opened up a store on (its) lot,” said Gursey, nearing his 40th birthday. “When the Writer’s Guild went on strike in 2007, the entertainment industry stopped, and I knew that I could either go out of business or change my business.”
Gursey then began selling his coffee wholesale before the recession hit in 2008.
“After the recession everything went downhill,” he said. “But I saw the opportunity to come to Vegas and be a large scale, high-end, local coffee roaster.”
When Gursey approached longtime friend Richard Karno with his plans to move into the Las Vegas market, Karno was looking to move his business, Gourmet Coffee Warehouse, to Las Vegas as well.
Karno entered the coffee business when he opened the Novel Café, a bookstore and coffeehouse in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1990.
“My father was a book dealer, and he said I wouldn’t make enough money by owning a book store and he was right,” Karno said. “I decided to sell coffee and pastries in order to subsidize the bookstore, and I soon realized I was selling more coffee than I was books, so in 1991 I bought my first roaster and sold the bookstore to open Groundwork Coffee Co.”
Karno has been supplying coffee to coffeehouses, supermarkets and other retailers throughout Southern California and recently decided to change things up a bit by creating a line of iced coffee at a Las Vegas-based facility.
In May 2013, Karno found a home for his new business venture, Lucky Jack Iced Coffees, and Gursey’s company, J. Gursey Coffee Roasters. The pair’s 7,000 square-foot Judson Avenue roasterie has an on-site five-stage water softener, coffee grinder that grinds 1,000 pounds of coffee per hour and a roaster that produces up to 5,000 pounds of coffee per day. Their beans are grown in South and Central America.
“Coffee is a staple and it’s a year-round product for us,” Karno said.
Lucky Jack Iced Coffee flavor offerings include traditional, double black, which is infused with espresso, sweet thing, made with organic cane sugar, lean bean, sweetened with organic stevia, and brew 702, a Las Vegas exclusive, made from Arabica coffee, espresso and sweetened with cane sugar.
Bakers Brew Pure Coffee Concentrate and Java Juice Espresso Concentrate allow coffee connoisseurs to incorporate it into everything from cocktails to baked goods.
J. Gursey Coffee Roasters offers flavors such as Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Italian reserve and Vintage black diamond alongside a line of loose teas including sweet Georgia peach, white cherry blossom and black plum.
Gursey will be offering his coffee confections at SLS Las Vegas when it opens Aug. 23 at the former Sahara hotel-casino.
“I’ll have the Umami Burger Sports Book, Griddle Café, the in-room dining program and espresso on the casino floor,” Gursey said. “Having the SLS as a client allows me to be creative.”
Both Gursey and Karno are looking to expand their facility and hire more employees.
“I’ve been doing the move in baby steps because when I do things, I like to do them right,” Gursey said. “I’m slowly expanding and hoping to break into the local market.”
“Right now we’re looking for people on the Strip, locals and stores here in Las Vegas,” Karno added about his and Gursey’s companies.
“I just want to make the best product I can and I hope the world comes knocking at our door.”
Contact reporter Ann Friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588. Follow @AnnFriedmanRJ on Twitter.