Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2014

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 61 of 87

someone who's been behind the bar every day for years would think of. We made a lot of design and construction decisions based solely on our experience as baristas." Will agrees: "With a barista background, you know how to work a shop and I definitely see that as an advantage. You don't need extensive training. Hopefully you've managed to develop a decent palate, and know how to talk about coffee. You know how to sell coffee. You know what works and what doesn't work. But knowing how to work a shop doesn't mean you know how to run it and make it successful, which is a definite and obvious disadvantage." While both Will and Max know coffee and cafés inside and out, there's a lot more to running a shop than simply keeping customers caffeinated. To help them make up for their lack of experience in certain business matters, they had a little help from their friends: Former baristas like Allison Koehler became their project manager, keeping the fellas on track; Dave Ulrich headed up design and woodworking; and other coffee-fiend friends chipped in with sanding, painting, and putting the finishing Ox Coffee stamp on stacks upon stacks of cups. In the end, it comes down to love, quality, and commitment. "We love what we do and we love coffee," says Will. "Coffee is definitely something we both want to build our lives around." Andrew Milstead, Milstead & Company; Seattle "For my first two years [in Minneapolis, after moving at age 17], I studied the guitar and slung coffee. My attention has always been captured by nuance," says longtime barista and, since September of 2011, owner of Seattle's Milstead & Company, Andrew Milstead. "A passion for music found its way to me with ease. Carefully constructed harmonies, catchy melodies, infectious rhythm, they continue to delight me. It was fairly early on that I began to see the incredible complexity and variable of coffee." If there's one thing about coffee we can all agree on, it's the stuff 's complexity. As for opening a successful café, the reality isn't that different from the nuances of music: The space needs to be carefully constructed and harmonious, the vibe needs to be catchy, the quality needs to be infectious and inspire regulars, and the coffee itself has to be delightful. Andrew carried these principles to his own shop, whether or not he even realized it at the time. "I place great emphasis with my staff on empathy," Andrew says, almost sounding like the conductor of a fine orchestra. "Focusing on their experiences not just as [baristas] but also as [guests] at other cafés, bars, restaurants, etc. They are encouraged to examine their own experiences and apply them to how they engage with our guests: 62 barista magazine How did you feel when your meal arrived incorrectly? How was the situation handled? Was the environment welcoming or cold? The layout of a space greatly impacts the experience a guest has as well. The goal with Milstead & Co. was to create a space that was in and of itself welcoming and comfortable, but that also enabled my staff to engage and serve our guests with ease. "Behind the bar, things are set up to give the barista the most efficient, easy workstation possible," Andrew continues. "There are plenty of cafés where space is tight or some detail forgotten, and it can make it difficult for a barista to do their job well. Having experienced plenty of that myself, I wanted a place where work was easy. This enables us to focus on the most important part of our job: serving our guests." Can perfect acoustics and great coffee alone make all the difference between success or failure? No way: Financial know-how and elbow grease are just as necessary, as is an ability to manage a staff. After all, the business of coffee is ultimately a people-driven business, on both sides of the counter. "My hope is that my years of barista experience make it easier for me to provide what my staff needs to thrive. With 10 years of barista work, I have seen and experienced quite a bit," Andrew says. "You learn to trust your teammates more and more as you understand that they've been exactly where you are. My goals as 'boss' are varied but ultimately simple: support my staff so they can serve our guests. The more support they have the easier it is for them to provide excellent service to our guest. My years of experience help me to empathize with, listen to, and work with the staff with greater precision." The Non-Baristas Rob and Jenee Ovitt, the Once Over Coffee Bar; Austin, Texas When Rob and Jenee Ovitt opened Izzy's Coffee Den in 2004 in Asheville, North Carolina, they didn't know thing one about coffee. "Opening a coffee shop was my way to own a bar, but with better hours and less drunk people," Rob says. "I could be a bartender but not feel conflicted about serving someone their fifth drink. How hard could it be?" "I hardly even drank coffee back then, mostly because I had only had bad coffee," Jenee admits. Now, as owners of the Once Over Coffee Bar in Austin, Texas, they reflect on those early days of cram-studying coffee before making that first paid-for cappuccino. "We spent many, many hours learning about coffee from books, and the Internet, too," Jenee continues. "We read copious amounts about

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