The Archivist, the University of Miami’s latest addition to on-campus dining, has officially opened its doors this semester. The café is nestled next to the Richter Library on the Coral Gables campus, taking the place of Starbucks.
“The service was great… their coffee is definitely better,” said Sarah Ekola, a sophomore at UM. The newly-opened café offers a range of drip coffees, lattes and pastries.
Founders Christopher Nolte and Paul Massard first met at UM in 2001, and their friendship eventually led them back to UM as co-owners of Per’La, a Miami-based, coffee-roasting company. The pair later graduated from the Herbert Business School together in 2005.
“People come into your life, and you have no idea where they’ll end up, whether it’s a coffee partnership or the mother of your children,” Nolte said. “You look back and think ‘wow, that was a big deal. It’s a good full-circle story.”
Per’La is a local specialty roaster that supplies many hotels, restaurants and cafes with their wholesale beans. They purchase, roast and distribute beans all across South Florida.
Massard says one of the aspects that makes their business unique is that they know all the farmers they buy from personally, as part of what is known as a direct trade model in the coffee industry. This model focuses on personal relationships with the farmer and small suppliers in an industry increasingly dominated by big producers.
“If someone chooses a smaller company, they should get a hands-on quality,” Nolte said.
Massard first discovered his love for coffee as an intern at a coffee company during his sophomore year at UM. He later worked in multiple positions for and within the coffee industry. Massard holds a Q Grader certification from the Coffee Quality Institute, a distinction held only by roughly 350 people in the United States.
Nolte, took a less direct path toward his passion for coffee. Working in medical sales at the time, it was a birthday text message from Massard to Nolte that would initiate a back and forth between the two, culminating in the establishment of Per’La in 2015.
“I couldn’t see myself going back to work for corporate America,” says Nolte when explaining his decision to leave medical sales and begin his own business.
Nolte describes their decision to jump into the coffee industry as one of raw entrepreneurial drive and one with humble beginnings of a pitched tent at the Coral Gables farmers market.
“If you want to start a business, start it. As soon as possible… there’s always gonna be a reason not to do it,” Massard said.
The Per’La tent evolved into a thriving company that has now brought Massard and Nolte back to their alma mater as suppliers for The Archivist. Both co-owners are happy to be back on campus and sharing their passion for coffee with their fellow ‘Canes. They express gratitude for the grit, connections and entrepreneurial drive instilled in them during their time as undergraduates at UM.
While their journey may seem like one of a romantic come-up story, Nolte concedes that not every day was a good one.
“For every bad thing that happens to you, if you’re doing the right thing, continually building the brand and having big milestones, you’ll make it,” he said.
In light of Covid-19 concerns, The Archivist and Per’La have experienced setbacks, including financial hardships and delayed openings. The Archivist specifically faced difficulty opening on time and offering the full experience they’d hoped to provide their patrons.
As the coronavirus pandemic slowly subsides, they hope to soon reconstruct the interior of The Archivist itself to a more welcoming and warm establishment, to begin offering coffee tastings and to promote the overall diversity and enjoyment of their drinks.
To fellow aspiring entrepreneurs, Nolte says “Keep grinding…keep showing up and not quitting.”
With this philosophy in mind, Nolte and Mannard aim to change the typical college perception of coffee as a mere means to pull an all nighter.
“The best compliment we can get is ‘you’ve ruined my perception of coffee,’” Nolte said.