Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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working second jobs—in order to make their dream come true. " We did it on a shoestring budget by doing a lot of it ourselves out of necessity," Tucker says, explaining that entire build-out in 1999 cost less than $200,000. "It's pennies now, but at the time it seemed like $10 million. We weren't bringing a lot to the table, we had no money. We were working for minimum wage, and yet we were able to secure a bank loan." " Yeah, I thought, 'Eventually in my lifetime I can pay this back,'" Jennifer laughs. " We did all the demolition, which I don't think any contractor would let us do at this point. We did all the cleanup after the guys worked during the day." " We built all the counters, we made the tables," Tucker adds. Jennifer continues: "And we worked nights. We'd be at Diesel all day doing whatever we could do, and then go to our jobs in the evening." That nearly 24/7 schedule didn't stop for them when the doors opened, either. "Our hours were 7 a.m. to 1 a.m., to provide that alternative to bars as a hangout space," she says. "Tucker and I worked open to close for 93 days in a row—from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. And then we worked every day for two or three years, which was another way that we were able to pay back some of our debt." Being young was one of the unforeseen advantages on that point, too, Jennifer says. "Our living expenses were so low compared to what they are now with kids and everything, and we were practically all the labor. How many other employees did we with start with, two?" "No, I was going to say 10," Tucker disagrees. " Well, somewhere between two and 10," Jennifer laughs. " We had a pretty small staff, and we just worked all the time." "That helps from the learning standpoint as well as for creating culture," Tucker says, following up. " We were really able to shape exactly what we wanted at Diesel, and that was a big part of it— being there, leading by example." "Not wanting to work for someone else was a big impetus for us to open our own place and to create a work environment that wasn't what we had gotten accustomed to," Jennifer says. " We'd had great bosses, but we were committed to having a certain kind of culture at work—which has definitely changed over 20 years, but that's something that's always been super important to us." Tucker agrees that culture and fellowship have always been at least as significant a part of their business model as the coffee itself. "At the crux of it was the kind of community that we hoped to build. Not that the product is secondary, but for me that was the most important piece of it. Not only what was happening on our side of the counter, but also with the customers—creating a safe space and a place where people wanted to come and be together. That was the most important piece of the whole puzzle. A coffee shop's a perfect place to do that." Once Jennifer and Tucker felt that they had created and main- tained something special for the locals in Davis Square (as well as coffee nerds like me who made the trip out from Boston on the Red Line), it made sense that they would start to eye other opportu- nities. Or, at least, it made sense to Jennifer: "One of the things 74 barista magazine

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