scott miller

Tony Santoro | Enderly Coffee

scott miller
Tony Santoro | Enderly Coffee

Story: Shawn Bowers Buxton Photos: Uncle Jut

Over late night study dates in college, Tony and Becky Santoro talked about their dream to own a family friendly, community-focused coffee shop with a free library. Their desire to be authentic neighbors and their mission to live intentionally is what brought Enderly Coffee to life, along with a healthy dose of risk-taking.

After college, the young couple made the bold and intentional move to Charlotte to teach in high-poverty schools. In 2012, Tony founded Enderly Coffee, a Charlotte-based roasting company. The company moniker is tribute to Enderly Park, the low-income neighborhood in West Charlotte the Santoros made their home in 2007. And while the Santoros don’t own a coffee shop (yet), Enderly is a community-focused endeavor.

“We moved to Enderly Park to be a good neighbor, to meet people where they are,” Tony says.

Tony started simply, roasting beans in his backyard. Today, he’s in a facility off of Monroe Road, with hopes to move to Tuckaseegee Road not far from the famed Milestone Club. He also works very closely with QC Family Tree, a nonprofit in West Charlotte, and its economic initiative, Kinfolk Coffee, with a shared mission to strengthen community in their neighborhood.

But for Tony, it goes beyond these partnerships – it’s about pouring love into his neighborhood. It’s why he wants to bring his roasting operation back on the west side of town, and it’s why he cultivates employees from his own neighborhood. He’s not concerned with finding workers with an appropriate resume – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Just as he did during his teaching days, Tony trains and mentors young adults. One such relationship, with his employee Marquell, has proved rewarding. Marquell, who did not finish high school, now works with Tony and is close to earning his GED. He also has acquired a second part time job and is saving for a car. “Through the dignity of having a job, Marquell’s family tree is different now,” Tony says.

This type of intentional living, of coming alongside his neighbors and simply loving people is at the heart of Enderly Coffee. Of course, this all came about because Tony was willing to move towards a greater goal. This is where the lesson comes for all us wishing to do something bigger. While at first glance teaching and coffee roasting may not have anything in common, Tony didn’t just jump from one ship to another. It was a leap of faith, to be sure, but Tony was deliberate about making a safe transition between careers. The chapters before his roasting company include business plans for other coffee forays, like a coffee shop and monthly subscription club, but the margins on those plans didn’t look good enough to jump. So, he decided to back into his goal which led to roasting. And that’s how it began, from simple backyard beginnings. He also secured a part-time job, and as his own company grew, he slowly scaled back from his “day job” until he could make the complete transition to roasting.

“Yes, we were very intentional,” Tony explains, “but we didn’t plan too far ahead.” The majority of Tony’s risk came in the form of patience, waiting and cultivating and making the move with conviction.

While every step Tony has made has been thoughtful, he doesn’t look too far down the road. “It’s good to know where you want to go, but if you look too far ahead, you may miss things.” In other words, it’s important to savor the moment. Just like any good cup of coffee.