ROCKFORD (WREX) — Having a place where everyone in the Forest City feels accepted and welcome is why Velvet Robot Coffee Lab owner, Justin Carner, opened the coffeehouse last year.
"The whole reason I'm in coffee is because of community," says Carner.
The brand started at a side-hustle for Carner while he was in college in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
He says it became well known for its cold brew and developed a following down south. He eventually decided to move back to his hometown of Rockford and brought the coffee business along with him.
"We did the City Market to kind of dip our toe in to see how it works, we sold out the first 11 weeks in a row," says Carner. "Then we're like, 'alright this is probably working.'"
"From there it was like lets grind and try to find a brick and mortar."
A spot ended up opening inside the food hall of the indoor market, so Carner saw a natural transition due to his connection to the outdoor market.
One year into the move, Velvet Robot is already seeing major success.
The coffee shop turned a profit within its first six months open and now a second location is opening inside Forest City Church.
"It's just insane because its hard to make it into restaurants, most of them fail within two years, throw in Covid and its like a miracle," says Carner.
Though the storefront has only been open for a short time, Carner says they've become a staple within the community.
"We've created the kind of place that we're proud of and that Rockford is proud to come to."
"Older people, 60+ are like, 'We love your shop,' and when you see all those different types of people engaging and loving your brand, that's the sweet spot for us; that we know we're doing something right," says Carner.
The new location is expected to open in June and which ever location you walk into, he says to expect exquisite coffee, a friendly smile and a space where everyone is invited in.
"Coffee is like a white washed industry and for us it was like, 'Hey that sucks, that's not who Rockford is,'" says Carner, "Rockford is one of the most diverse cities in America."
"Like we're going to serve our community and make drinks that people love and care about and if people don't like it, I don't really care."
Velvet Robot is located inside the indoor city market at 116 Madison Street in Rockford.
It is open six days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Monday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 P.M. on Tuesday - Friday, and 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.