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Red Leaf Organic Coffee

Ray and Melissa Vandervalk stand by the latest of their four Red Leaf Organic Coffee stores. This one is a drive-thru located at 15th Avenue and Florida Street in Longview.

Bill Wagner, The Daily News

The Northwest has no shortage of prominent coffee brands — Dutch Bros., Stumptown, Tully’s, Caffé Vita and, of course, Starbucks, just to name a few. After opening its fourth local location in less than 10 years, Red Leaf Organic Coffee might be on track to join the big boys.

The Woodland-based coffee chain’s latest location is on the corner of Florida Street and 15th Avenue in Longview, in the parking lot of Esty’s Auto Center.

According to General Manager Ann Lucas, the Oct. 10 opening was a success, as cars started lining up at 4:15 a.m., nearly two hours before opening time. Lucas said 748 cars total traveled through the drive-thru on the first day.

“There were a couple employees that went over and took orders at cars, passing out free t-shirts and bumper stickers, just to engage with those customers and make them not feel like it was such a long wait,” Lucas said of the grand opening. “It was definitely amazing to see the community come out and support the grand opening.”

Lucas and Ray Vandervalk, who owns the chain along with his wife, Melissa, said they’ve routinely served 200 to 300 orders a day since the new location opened.

“In three weeks’ time, we’ve been blown away with the level of support from the community in coming to that location,” Lucas said.

Vandervalk said they chose 15th Avenue due to it being a busy street with lots of exposure, and the drive-thru building already existed, saving costs. Vandervalk and Lucas declined to disclose how much Red Leaf spent remodeling and opening the new location.

Vandervalk said he believes Red Leaf’s rapid growth and success is partly due to its quality product and service.

“Our tagline is ‘We never settle,’ and we’re always looking to improve our customer service and improve our quality of what we offer,” Vandervalk said. “Our customers are loyal because we are very careful about what we put into everything that we serve. For example, we don’t have any nitrates in the meats we have in our breakfast sandwiches, and we don’t have too many dyes or corn syrup or things health-conscious people are concerned about.”

Lucas agreed with Vandervalk, adding that Red Leaf puts a premium on building relationships with their customers.

“We’re selling an experience, and because our baristas and everybody that works here are trained in customer service, it keeps those people coming back,” she said.

Although Red Leaf’s new location is just a block north of a Dutch Bros. outlet, Lucas and Vandervalk said they weren’t worried about the Oregon-based chain cutting into business.

“We serve a different clientele,” Lucas said. “I wouldn’t think (of Dutch Bros.) as a competitor, they’re a colleague.”

Although Red Leaf has no immediate plans to add a fifth location, Vandervalk said they’re “always looking” at expanding into another Cowlitz County city, such as Castle Rock or Kalama. He said opening stores in the Vancouver and Centralia areas might even be a possibility down the road.

The 15th Avenue drive-thru building has been used and discarded by other multiple coffee stands in the past, but Vandervalk said he felt confident Red Leaf is there to stay.

“We have proved over the past 10 years that we have a product that people like, and our customer service is great. We’ve been growing for 10 years, and I don’t see that stopping.”

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