Category Archives: News + Blog

Birthday Reflection #38

It’s that time of year again where I do my best to set aside time to reflect on my existence since my last check-in. It really seems like it’s been an eternity since June 2020, and yet it also seems like a total blur. Pandemic living, am I right? These have been trying times for those of us that have largely lived our lives constantly on the move; hustlers, go-getters, entrepreneurs, and the like. There’s nothing like having an entire year basically void of social interaction to prompt a re-evaluation of ideals and priorities. That’s sort of been the theme of 2020 with 2021 being the implementation phase. At 37, I spent a lot of time assessing, planning, and waiting. Re-evaluating what’s really important.

I’ve learned so much in the past year and have grown in a lot of different areas. Moving into my 38th trip around the sun, I’m implementing the plans and schemes that have been sitting… incubating until the conditions were ideal for hatching. The world isn’t any less complicated and scary this year, but I can’t change that. The only thing that I’m able to control is how I react and move forward. All I can change is my own perspective and priorities. All too often I live life like it’s a sprint when it’s actually a marathon. No one can maintain a sprint indefinitely without some sort of injury. It’s unrealistic to expect to maintain such a pace without repercussions.

This is easier said than done; especially if you own a hospitality/retail-based company. I’ve always tended to throw my entire self into my work because I’ve convinced myself that it’s the only way to get ahead. I’ve been doing this for the last 7-years and despite countless accomplishments, I always feel like I could have done more. No matter how much I give, it will never be enough. This is especially true if the goal is overly broad. If you’re chasing success, money, or popularity there will never be enough of you to give. Again, this goes back to the sprint versus the marathon mentality. Lauren and I have worked so hard to cover so much ground for the past 7-years and we’ve hardly taken any time for ourselves. We’ve constantly pushed ourselves to try and keep up with demand and expectations at the cost of our mental health, physical health, and social/spiritual health… and yet what we always got in return was exhaustion and feeling like we could have done more. Mind you, this is all going on while we’re neglecting other aspects of our lives and feeling like we aren’t being the best friends, family, and neighbors.

The pandemic has been horrible in a lot of ways, but it did provide an opportunity to experience a relatively quiet/still time to evaluate said priorities. At 38, I’m no longer wanting to work 80-hour weeks. I no longer want to try and maintain a constant sprint. I’d much rather walk at a brisk pace with the occasional sprint (should I feel like it). We’re taking more days off. Instead of blindly jumping into a mentality of “what can we do for customers” and then sacrificing everything to deliver… I’m going to contextualize it with “what am I willing to do.” After all, we do our best work when we’re not exhausted and burnt out. We’re also going to close for more holidays and prioritize time away from work for not only ourselves, but our employees as well.

TLDR… We’re going to factor our own satisfaction into this equation. We’ve spent too long focusing on the happiness of everyone else without any consideration for ourselves. From here on out there’s going to be a balance. More time for friends, family, and ourselves. So, here’s to accountability. Thanks for reading!

Millennial Manifest

Change is on the horizon. We were still ordering off of the kids menu in the midst of a global dine-n-dash scheme that left us holding the bill whilst too young to comprehend what was happening.

Pockets were lined to ensure their supremacy into the foreseeable future. The fattest pigs have been guaranteed their meals. Meanwhile, the working class will continue to incur the debt and interest. The luxuries of the well-to-do are still made possible by cash advances on the forgotten millennial generation’s aspirations. It used to be that imperialists would utilize conquest to cover their asses. However, as conquest becomes more difficult with the world watching online… They’ve resorted to squeezing domestically.

It appears that all parties are complicit in these actions and yet they polarize us as if it’s a simple ‘us vs them’ fix…. and while we continue to pick at each other over a few differences, they continue to make backroom deals and it’s business as usual. The real change will come when we realize that we all have far more in common than these differences that are being shoved down our throats. Only when we reach this point, will we be an overwhelming voice to be heard. We will always have our differences and those should be celebrated. However, if we look past what makes us different and focus more on creating a governing body that puts what we all have in common first… It will improve the lives of everyone. That sounds ideal, right? It does, but nothing simple can just be simple.

Term Limits. Break up huge monopolies. Get the money out of politics. Focus on the work being done and not the people doing it. Focus on content instead of a talking head looking to climb the media ladder.  We need a selfless generation that’s not concerned with popularity. We need a generation willing to plant a tree so that the future generations will have shade. We need long-term guidance and multi-generational planning. It can all be fixed. That being said, it can also fall apart. 

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are great… There’s no fucking around there. However, I also think that the majority of people are looking for a sense of purpose and I believe that’s been eroded. It used to be that if you worked hard, you could get somewhere and when you were no longer able to work hard… You were taken care of. We don’t have any of that now. There’s no guarantees and no one looking out for anyone. I was taught when I was young to not even worry about social security because it wouldn’t be there. They were right. The funds were misappropriated and the people that did the misappropriating have told us it’s our faults. Bullshit.

State of the Shop #003

Out with June and in with July. We’re officially passing the halfway point into 2020. It’s hard to believe that all of this has been going on since March. Tomorrow, the United States of America celebrates Independence Day while a growing swath of the country is experiencing significant upticks in COVID-19 cases; particularly among the younger people that were previously not thought to be an issue… or so it’s being reported at this time. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to know what to think and how to act. I like to think of myself as someone that’s good at taking in a vast amount of information from which I am able to process and navigate a path forward that makes an ideal win/win/win situation possible. Right now, it’s really difficult to do.

Again, I want to emphasize that Lauren and I are fine. We’re wearing our stylish masks and coordinating them with our different outfits. We’re healthy and getting by. After months of quarantine, our mental states have definitely had their ups and downs… But that pretty much goes for everyone. Lauren and I are avid accomplishers and slayers of to-do lists. As it turns out, Pandemics aren’t very hospitable to this lifestyle. It’s kind of hard to plan, forecast, and execute projects when you have no idea what the next week will bring. It’s times like these that we’re extremely thankful that we have the roastery. If we had not diversified our business, the situation would be much more dire. Regardless, the whole hurry up and wait feeling is for the birds.

We had originally set a tentative re-opening date for mid to late July, but it’s subject to change in response to a vast landscape of uncertain variables. Even as I write this update, there are states that are enacting indefinite quarantine measures for the service industry (specifically bars, restaurants, and cafes). It’s pretty much a nation-wide shit show and we’re all living in a wild west in terms of figuring out what to do. I’m still keeping up with all the news and updates, but by and large… the 24/hour news cycles are bored and repetitive.

So what’s all this mean…? To be completely honest, we don’t know. Lauren and I talk about the shop multiple times a day. It’s a constant troubleshooting exercise. It’s like playing chess on a board that is constantly changing. The lasting impact that the pandemic will leave on the cultural aspect of bars, pubs, and cafes is what I think about most. Even when the restrictions are lifted, how long will it be before people decide to gather in a crowded cafe with all of their friends, family, and associates? I know I’m not in any hurry to do that, so I can imagine others might feel the same way.

The hard part for us is that the coffee shop was designed for the very atmosphere in which we’re being told to avoid. As I mentioned in State of the Shop #001, the shop isn’t designed to operate as a carry-out option and while we might try that out for a time, it’s not something we’re interested in doing long term. When we created the coffee shop, we set it up to provide an exceptional product, atmosphere, and service to our community. We’re not interested in compromising those standards in order to pretend to be something that the space was never intended to be. We strive so hard to be so much more than just a series of liquids in disposable containers. So, while we’re still fine for now and weathering the storm… The future of the coffee shop will ultimately be determined by how the long term social distancing standards shape our society going forward. If it turns out that the coffee shop environment (as it was intended) is found to fly in the face of these new norms, we will take this feedback to heart as we steer The Caffeinery forward. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that. 🙂

Anyway, that’s enough REAL TALK for now. I imagine we’re all going to be bombarded by an assload of fireworks over the next couple of days. With everyone being cooped up for so long, it seems like a perfect time to blow shit up. With that… Lauren and I love you all. We’re still here. We’re still going forward with painting and renovations as if somehow we’ll pierce through this tidal wave and come out the other side unscathed. Let’s just hope the second wave is less menacing. <3

State of the Shop #002

So we’re now at the end of June now. This next week, we’re heading into July and the world is still in a state of massive change. That’s fine. It’s all fine. At least, that’s the mantra that most people are adhering to. Either way, the only path is forward. So, that’s what we’ve been doing. Lauren and I have been spending our time working at the roastery in addition to getting our coffee shop up to post-COVID-19 speed. We’ve made some aesthetically pleasing changes that have been on our to-do-list for a while, in addition to installing some new barriers to help improve the level of health safety for our staff and customers. We’ve still got a ways to go, but we’re making a lot of progress.

The politicians have been re-opening the economy at various rates and to various degrees over the past month. There is no real rhyme or reason to the opening… It’s sort of up to state politicians and their gut feelings. So, as you might expect… it’s a mess. The majority of states that have opted to open up earlier, are experiencing pretty significant upticks in COVID-19 cases and now there’s another push to slow openings and in some instances, states are opting to shut the service industry sectors back down. At the same time, a number of medical professionals are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Some are stating that it’s a big deal. Other s are stating that the media is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Normally, we could all turn to the raw data and form an educated opinion, but even the data is subject to polarization as many people don’t trust the collection methods. Indiana is set to open up without restrictions on July 4th. Now, this isn’t to say that Indiana is without cases… The original pre-requisite for re-opening was largely based on seeing a sustained downward trend in COVID cases. BUT, being that we never really reached that point, the politicians seemed to think that maintaining steady numbers was good enough to green light the re-opening.

So here we are… No one really knows what’s going on at this point because everyone with information has an agenda. Small businesses, like us, are basically left to scratch our heads and fend for ourselves. The state is getting everyone ramped up for a post-COVID celebration as if now’s the time for everyone to take off their masks and look to the future. There’s one huge problem though, a good number of the population is calling bullshit on this false bravado that’s being pushed by government. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of us realize that the economy is a factor and that things need to be produced and consumed… After all, that’s largely how the world works. BUT, the politicians calling these shots are doing so from a much safer distance. I’m sure that state governors would make different decisions if they were the one having to work checkout lines at grocery stores or drive-thru windows. Or maybe they genuinely wouldn’t. I have no idea.

Anyway, I know that’s a lot of ranting and it’s not really providing much clarification on the state of things… but that’s basically how it is. Essentially, we’re all on our own and have to make the best decisions for our own family and friends. To be honest, it’s not much different than how it used to be… We were always on our own. Now it’s just more apparent because the thin veil of security theater has been torn down.

Lauren and I are still being cautious with the re-opening of our coffee shop. Our plan is still to shoot for mid-to-late July. We’ll see how all of this pans out with the states surrounding us go back into lock down. As of this moment, it appears that the big push to re-open was premature.

River Rock is HEAVY AF

Yesterday was dedicated to moving and cutting a bunch of heavy-ass used railroad ties to create a border for our backyard fire pit area. Today, we had the pleasure of loading, unloading, and spreading a whopping 2,880 pounds of gravel. I feel like I said that way too fast… Let’s revisit what I just said with a bit more gravity. You see, we don’t have a full-size truck. So, that means we had to actually load each of the 60 48-pound bags by hand. Then, we drove to the house and loaded them into a wheelbarrow 5 at a time and moved them to the backyard.

It’s safe to say that I’m going to be sore AF tomorrow. I can already feel it. Moving bags of rocks is one hell of a way to spend a beautiful Sunday. Despite my aching back, it looks pretty awesome so far. We’ve got 15 more bags to pick up tomorrow and we’ll be done with the gravel part.

Oh, in other news… We learned that under no circumstances should you attempt to burn railroad ties scraps. Being that they are treated with creosote they’re basically the equivalent of burning a tire. So, if you’ve got scraps… be sure to dispose of them properly. The more you know!

Alright, that’s enough for tonight. All I want to do at this point is eat tacos and die. Well, not really die… but basically just be still and do my best not to resist gravity.

Railroad Ties are HEAVY AF

Another week in the books… so they say. How is it the middle of June already? This year is going by so quickly and yet also at a snails pace. The shortest longest year I’ve lived.

It’s 1:21 in the morning and I should probably be in bed, but instead I’m sitting at the computer and combing through the internet as if I’m searching for the edge. Drawn to the screen like a moth to a porch light; or in this case June Bugs… Those crunchy little shits are quite abundant in the midwest this time of year. God forbid you stand near a light after dark… it’s like being shot by a shitty paintball gun.

Anyway… I digress. Let’s recap the day. All-in-all it’s been a pretty pleasant Saturday. I woke up a bit later than I had planned. I had two beers the night before and I hardly ever drink these days. Felt kinda nasty. You people that imbibe this shit on a regular basis are gluttons for punishment. That, or perhaps you’re past the initiation hump and feel no pain. Or you just don’t give a shit and do it anyway. Either way, I felt kinda nasty and it was compounded by some muscle soreness from doing resistance band exercises on Thursday because now that I’m old, you have to do shit like that just to exist. I’m trying to get in shape. This whole quarantine situation has really taken a shit on my normal routine. In some ways it hasn’t been all that bad; but I’ve definitely been eating more and moving less which is a bit of a problem. So I’m trying to fix it.

Lauren and I went to the coffee shop for a bit to check up on all the construction progress. We’re having quite a lot done as we prepare to bring the shop into this new COVID-19 world. It’s going to be weird, but we’re definitely not the type of people that shy away from weird. We’re just adapting and figuring it out. The break has been good. It’s given us time to think things over and re-assess what’s important to us. Our priorities are different now. Once all the hustle and bustle came to a stop and all the noise had gone quiet, it was easier to think. Moving forward we are going to prioritize happiness over the seemingly never-ending chase for more. This will result in fewer days open, and less hours worked. It’s the best possible solution. Mainly because the more you give, the more that will be taken… Until there’s nothing left. Understanding your limits can be extremely liberating; although it sounds really funny to say that limits are liberating.

After we spent some time at the shop, we went to Menards and picked up a bunch of used railroad ties to create a border for our backyard fire pit. We’d been meaning to do this for a while, but today the weather was perfect and it happened. I don’t know if the demographic of my blog knows much about railroad ties, but they’re ridiculously heavy and a huge pain in the ass to move; especially with just two people. I mean, we got it done… but it wasn’t easy. Tomorrow we’ll take some measurements and then get some gravel and finish it up. If I don’t get caught up in just living my life, I’ll try and take some pictures.

On the bright side of things… I had the foresight to double dip our time working in the yard to fire up the BBQ. I smoked a pork shoulder tonight on the Traeger. I’ve finally got my pork shoulder situation dialed in on this machine. I found the right temperature, the perfect pre-wrap smoke time, and the perfect post-wrap time. It turned out great. We’ll definitely be snacking on this for the next couple of days. It will definitely make it into some tacos tomorrow.