Category Archives: News + Blog

The Caffeinery: 10-Years In

This is a bit of a time travel post as it’s technically 3/29/24 at the time of this writing.

March 17th of 2014 is the official anniversary of when The Caffeinery first opened its doors to the public. We had a public celebration at the shop on Saturday. My wife, Lauren, had put a callout for customers to share photos with us on social media that they’d taken at the shop over the years. It was an awesome idea and so many people shared photos of their visits over the years. There were a lot of baby’s first outings (and now those babies are proper kids) and that just hits different these days now that we have our own lil one. Being able to see the shop through the eyes of our community was such a rewarding and humbling experience. I’m just happy that Lauren and I have been able to bring so much joy into the lives of so many people. That the space we created became space that one-time strangers felt safe enough to take a chance on and make regular destination. I mean, that was always the plan… But plans don’t always go as planned if you know what I’m saying.

Seriously though… I can’t believe it’s been 10-years. Depending on the circumstances, 10-years can either feel like a blip or an eternity. It’s all up to your vantage point. My perception on the passage of time is largely dependent on how well rested I am. If I’m exhausted, it feels like it’s been 50 years. On the rare instance that I get a full-night of sleep… It seems like we just opened the shop yesterday.

I’m always so busy working on new projects that I often don’t spend enough time reflecting on past accomplishments. I’m always moving forward and focusing o n the next step or evolution of a process. The downside to constantly moving forward is that I tend to forget about previous accomplishments as I continue to build and evolve. This is why the pictures that everyone submitted meant so much. I was able to take some time and see the many different iterations our vision and saw the gradual and constant evolution of not only the physical space… but the evolution of menu items, offerings, services, and protocols. Not to mention all of the faces of people that have been kind enough to spend time with us working to make this community a little bit better than we found it. If there’s one thing I’ve always felt confident in, it’s the ability to find and support people that want to make a difference. Over the years people have come and gone, but I am appreciative for the part that every individual has played in pushing this place forward. Even if someone was only with us briefly, whether it worked out or didn’t… their contribution provided a lesson in leadership. Whether the mistakes made were their fault or mine… I am finding myself constantly learning and adapting as a employer/leader. I’m by no means perfect or would even want to strive for such an impossibility, but the whole process simultaneously keeps me young and ages me deeply. ha

So many things have happened since we’ve opened our doors… It’s hard to keep track of it all… If we were to just focus on broad strokes, The Caffeinery now has 3 different businesses under one umbrella.

In the beginning, we set out to create a fantastic multi-roaster coffee shop that would serve as a community hub to help provide contrast to our sleepy downtown that seemed just on the verge of waking up. We made it a point to set extremely high standards for our hospitality program. Within the first 6-months we had placed as one of the best coffee shops in America thanks to being invited to compete in Coffee Fest’s America’s Best Coffee House competition! That distinguished recognition really helped us feel that our efforts were heard/seen and appreciated. We’ve always been a people over profit organization and it just feels good when people see and appreciate the efforts and sacrifices we’ve had to make in order to provide that type of environment.

In 2016 we started to explore what it would take to begin roasting our own coffees as a means to further elevate the coffee experience not only at our physical shop, but in the homes of countless coffee enthusiasts across the country. We approached roasting with the same ambition and dedication to quality that went into opening our coffee shop. We spent years researching and studying the ins and outs of roasting coffee. In 2018 we ordered our first small 2-kilo production roaster and started putting in the work. At the time, we were carrying the best roasters the US had to offer and that set the bar pretty high for our up-and-coming roasting program. However, just like playing music… You’re only as good as the musicians you’re playing with and by having those excellent roasters in our shop it pushed us to swing for the fences and really put in the work. It ended up paying off and within 8-months of starting our garage-based roasting operation… we brought in our first national recognition for our espresso blend, Habitual. Since then, we’ve continued to push ourselves to be a little bit better with each passing day. Today, we offer online retail, wholesale, and private label coffee to customers all over the world. We have built amazing relationships with wholesale partners that share our vision for bringing exceptional coffee to the masses. We don’t spend a lot of time on marketing as we often keep our heads down and focus on the work and we are fortunate that so many people recommend us. A lot of the work that goes on at the roastery happens behind the scenes which makes it hard to show off, but you can taste the effort in each and every bag that we send out. The real testament of our coffee roasting program is that it has created multiple award winning coffee roasters that had never roasted coffee previously. The crew at our roastery is beyond amazing. Their dedication to quality and curiosity is the driving force behind the successes of the roastery.

This year we’re embarking on the third business under The Caffeinery umbrella. We are launching our new sister business “Midwest Coffee Repair” as a way to provide even more support to our community of coffee aficionados. This new venture will serve as our equipment, service, and preventative maintenance wing of The Caffeinery. It will allow us to offer that extra level of support that our customers who are putting in the work and need their equipment to be in tip top condition. I’m also extremely excited that this company is being created in partnership with one of our long-time employees. It will be the first female-led coffee repair outfit in Indiana that I know of. Really looking forward to introducing everyone to MCR in the very near future! I’m proud of all the work that’s gone into this startup thus far.

Wow, that’s quite a bit of reflection. Maybe too much. Idk… I suppose now is as good a time as any to start wrapping things up. I appreciate everyone for their continued support of my family and our business ventures. We couldn’t do it without you all and hope that we continue to earn your trust and business for many years to come. Thanks for everything!

Blogging is Terrifying

What a bold subject line to lure a reader into a winding path of paragraphs. It comes off as if I’m attempting some sort of shock tactic for click bait, but in reality… it’s just blunt and honest. Blogging is terrifying. The very idea of putting your thoughts into words and then posting them on the internet for others to interpret, take at face value, or take entirely out of context should scare the shit out of anyone. Especially since most of these 1s and 0s (that’s binary for those of you that have never known a world before the smartphone) are being stored for a seemingly indefinite amount of time. Not by any sort of archival entity interested in documenting and preserving culture, but by companies hoping to exploit the market value of your digital existence. All in the hopes that some data set might improve an algorithm that will find that perfect moment to suggest a product when someone is in a state most compatible with making a purchase.

It’s terrifying. It’s scary to think that the words that I type on this specific date, by the person I am today could be used years from now to somehow define the person I will have become and that all of the context may or may not matter. Who knows? Yet, I’m still taking the time to sit here and conjure up these words. Fear has extinguished many sparks before they ever get a chance to shine. The problem is, most of us want to hide our mistakes and the various imperfections because we’re afraid of being judged. The thing is, those mistakes and imperfections are what make us similar.

Today, as I’m checking in on the various headlines and attempting to contextualize the current state of the world… something I tend to do on most mornings and/or early afternoons whilst I imbibe coffee and plant matter… the world is just sad. Talks of civil war and general distrust dominate news and media. I can’t help but think that we’re all turning on each other instead of focusing on the things we all have in common. There’s a reason I’ve turned back to the blog platform. Social media is currently not the place for long-form ideas and rhetoric. It’s become a daycare that does everything it can to prevent its ward from experiencing friction.

Facebook should have imploded long ago. It should have been prevented from buying up competitors and gone the way of myspace. That’s the natural evolution of the internet. Anyway, the point of this message is simple… we shouldn’t be fighting each other. Here we are, arguing and fighting amongst ourselves for the tiniest sliver of pie while 99% of it is being consumed by those that are fully pleased that we’re bickering amongst ourselves. We could have it all. We really could. If we just focused that frustration in the right direction, we could accomplish so much.

That’s it for this session. Maybe it’ll come back to haunt me in 10 years. I hope you all have a great Sunday.

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.