(Coffee mates: Wayne and Lisa Richmon partner only with roasters who lead the industry in social and environmental responsibility including Equator. Photo by Tyler Kahlil.)

By Marisa Marsey

Cha-ca-cha-ca-cha-ca. Is there any sound more titillating than your favorite drink being shaken vigorously in a shivery tumbler? I settle into Roast Rider’s inviting caramel-colored couch (aka the limo; it seemingly stretches on forever) and savor the maraca-like music as the barista makes my shakerato, a divine melding of espresso, cream and scratch-made syrup (I opt for a smidge of chocolate, though many prefer vanilla or nutella). You don’t find this strained, iced Italian beverage everywhere, and it’s just one of the distinctions that sets this un-run-of-the-mill Hilltop East coffee shop apart.

And, stop the presses…that James Bond-approved rattle now can herald cocktails!

But I’m jumping ahead (blame the java jolt). I try to concentrate on what co-proprietor Lisa Richmon is telling me: “We should have failed.”

Her words aren’t clicking, though, as I glance around the convivial café she and her husband Wayne launched over a decade ago. Teens are sipping smoothies in one corner of the long, svelte space, there’s a woman nose-deep in a book at the window-counter, another busy on her laptop. A nonagenarian retired orthopedic surgeon nurses his ritual afternoon black coffee and, at a table beneath the portico outside, a couple holds hands across the tabletop.

She helpfully elaborates: “We had no retail experience, no roastery, no kitchen.”

No matter. They carved out a fun, happening spot for macchiatos, mochas and matcha lattes that can’t be shoehorned into a traditional mold. It’s global in spirit yet locally grounded, comfortably suburban with an urban edge, intimate yet airy.

And obsessed with the best.

Take their roasters. Wayne scoured the country – tasting, analyzing, agonizing – in his quest for superior products before choosing Equator, an award-winning trailblazer in environmentally sustainable and socially responsible practices. Co-founder Helen Russell recognized his palate and passion and took him under her wing to help establish the Richmons’ fledgling coffeehouse.

Once George Howell began offering wholesale, the Richmons were on it. Wayne swore by the terroir-focused coffee at home, admiring how Howell revolutionized the industry’s storage and technology systems and pioneered paying farmers prices far exceeding Fair Trade. Roast Rider also partners with Southeastern U.S.-based Amavida and Onyx.

“Each has elevated the specialty coffee industry in their own way with tremendous positive impact on the entire supply chain,” gushes Lisa. “Amavida is all solar-powered!”

In essence, the Richmons don’t run a café; they curate ethically-good good taste.

And that’s something they had a lot of experience with. Wayne, a CPA raised in Portsmouth, and Florida-native Lisa, a journalist who has interviewed bold-faced names including Ruth Reichl, have always been the go-to advisers for clients and friends seeking the crème de la crème, be it restaurants, furniture, gadgets.

On their travels, Wayne has discovered unsung gems of the wine and coffee worlds and introduced them to Coastal Virginia connoisseurs. Lisa, a self-proclaimed “Jewish-mother-hostess,” always wants everyone to have a good time.

They fit together like two pieces of the jigsaw puzzles that decorate Roast Rider’s walls (and guests can pluck from the shelves to construct). Married 38 years, they met over the phone in the early 1980s when Lisa’s cousin and Wayne’s best friend, who were dating at the time, gave them each other’s numbers.

“We were the original hookup,” Lisa jokes.

Post-it notes plastering what they call RR’s “Visitor’s Booth” attest to the love the community – near and far – feels for them. First time here, definitely not the last, signed Wisconsin Gals…Thank u for caffeinating me on my wedding day…Chill place, happy space.

Lisa even made Navy SEALs respect the cold brew they make in-house via an eight-hour process. “People don’t really know how strong it is,” she says. “Then they start crying. It’s liquid crack.” Featuring Equator’s Mocha Java Blend it could, indeed, revivify a zombie.

They select locally-made food with the same attention-to-perfection: Prosperity Kitchen’s pizza, quiche and sweets; Azar’s mezes; The Green Cat’s protein balls; My Vegan Sweet Tooth’s vegan muffins and oatmeal cream pie cookies.

Those who poured their talents into creating the décor were intentionally chosen, too. Check out the music-legends banner by acclaimed Beach artist Igor.

Most iconic is the shop’s counter, anchored by whimsical, concrete coffee cups bearing RR’s coffee bean-cum-surfboard logo.

“That was Wayne’s idea,” beams Lisa. “He channeled his inner architect for that.”

She shakes her head, still amazed by what they’ve built at this stage in their lives. “We’re the age of our baristas’ grandparents. We’re Gen X.”

“We’re not Gen X, we’re Baby Boomers,” Wayne tenderly ribs her.

“Why can’t I wrap my head around that,” she snickers. “Oh, I know. We were in our 50s when we opened in 2013, Gen X’s age today.”

Preternaturally young, they’re still revving up RR. They’ve hosted Moth-style storytelling nights and RiddleCon, a spelling-bee-intense, team-oriented riddle-solving competition.

And the evolution continues, bringing us back to those cocktails. They’ve created a “lab” dispensing unique, coffee-inclined adult beverages like “Priceless” (espresso, coffee liqueur, vodka and simple syrup) and “Speechless” (coffee-infused Campari, sweet vermouth and gin) plus a judicious smattering of wine, pairing perfectly with new later hours Thursdays through Saturdays and live music and DJs on select dates.

“We’re not a bar, we’re not a restaurant,” says Lisa, stressing that coffee and tea are still their shtick, “But you can come any time of day, alone or with friends, and relax.”

As our conversation winds down, the evening’s entertainment, a rising star from The Governor’s School for the Arts, starts playing his electric guitar; the Simonelli Aurelia espresso machine hums and hisses; patrons laugh. All in harmony with that satisfying cocktail shaker rattle…the sweet sounds of success.

1554 Laskin Road, #116, Virginia Beach. 757-227-3454. Open daily. roastridercoffee.com