“Serial hobbyists” is how friends Matt and Jason, owners of Neptune’s Fury Coffee Co., would describe themselves. After meeting in high school in Virginia Beach and reconnecting after college, they started brewing craft beer together. But after becoming fathers, “we realized we needed caffeine more than alcohol,” says Matt. And that’s how they got into the coffee business.
Jason found a little roaster on eBay, and he and Matt drove up to Philly to get it. They started out roasting in Matt’s garage, one pound at a time, learning and playing around. Almost a year to the day later, Jason found another, larger roaster in DC. One day trip later, and it’s what they’re still roasting their coffee with today (until the new one in-store comes online, which can roast about four times as much).
Two years into hobby roasting, they found themselves with more coffee than they could reasonably drink or even give away to friends. On a whim, Matt contacted Old Beach Farmers Market in VB to see if they could get a booth, and they did! So they started selling wholesale coffee. “Old Beach was a game changer,” says Matt, “Without it, we probably would have just stayed in my garage, and it would still just be a hobby.” They met a lot of people that way, locals and tourists alike. “We ship all over the country, and people who found us at Old Beach will still place orders with us,” Jason recounts. “When I’m filling an order to ship to Nebraska, I get this feeling of ‘yes! We’ve made it!'” Their good experience at Old Beach inspired them to expand to the Ghent Farmer’s Market, where they are now in their second year as vendors, continuing to sell coffee wholesale and build relationships. Matt explains, “It’s like walking the dog; only the dog is actually walking us. We just keep exploring and seeing what’s behind the next door.”
I visited Neptune’s Fury on their eighth day open for business, and their enthusiasm was infectious – “It’s been a good week and a half. And we got our pastry case today!” Matt exclaimed. Jason nods in agreement. After a daring escape from Corporate America, he works at Neptune’s Fury full time as the Chief Roaster. Jason also came up with the name “Neptune’s Fury,” inspired by an old English sea shanty. Matt still has his day job but is also frequently at the cafe.
So what are nice VB boys doing in Norfolk? Well: “We started talks with [Dominion Tower] last July, signed the lease at the end of last year, and started construction in February. We were initially looking for light industrial or warehouse space for a roastery; we didn’t necessarily want to do a coffee shop. A friend of ours recommended a different space in this building, where Cafe Crema used to be. We were kinda ‘meh’ about it, but then they said, ‘oh but wait, check out the space across the hall!’ and it was great!”
So the coffee shop was born. Neptune’s Fury usually sources their coffee as directly as possible, with only one degree of separation between them and the growers. “We want to make sure the coffee is of the highest quality, and the workers are treated and compensated as fairly as possible. We source from El Salvador, Ethiopia, and other locales. Everything we buy is Q-graded,” which is coffee lingo for standardized quality. I ordered a drip coffee, black, and while I’m no Q-Grader, it sure was good.
Quality is evident throughout the space – the wood floors that evoke undulating sand, the counter sculpted like ocean waves, and the new roaster encased in glass so customers can see (but not hear) it in action. The vibe is light and airy, and the rear wall is entirely windows, allowing customers to watch the happenings on the ERT, the river, and the shipyards (I was blessed to witness a pod of dolphins swimming by). The roaster vents outside, wafting the smell of coffee along the waterfront while blurring the lines between industrial and hospitality uses.
Though they’re still putting on the finishing touches, it’s apparent that much thought was, and will be, put into the design. “Just like our business has evolved, I want the space to evolve in a similar way,” says Matt, “I don’t want to be prescriptive about decor or anything; I want to find stuff that speaks to us. That’s why the walls are pretty bare right now.” And evolve it will. In addition to a roastery and cafe, Neptune’s Fury serves pastries made by the Virginia Pie Company (who will soon move permanently into Neptune’s Fury’s commercial kitchen). They’ll eventually operate a market featuring specialty snacks from local 757 vendors, and merchandise alongside their wholesale coffee.
Catie was born in Norfolk and as an adult has lived here for two years and change. She has a master's in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. She likes hiking, playing trivia, being a flaneuse, pinball, memes, and growing vegetables.