As we wrap up our Origin Series with Greg, we thought it would be fun to relive the Coffeebar evolution through the lens of three people who have been along with him for the ride.
With their combined experience, Chantel, Alain, and Joel have had roles at all eight (!) of our locations. Their varying responsibilities have included, but are not limited to: commuting between two states to deliver pastries or repair an espresso machine, working the busiest grand opening in Coffeebar history, and batch brewing coffee in just four, yes four, french presses.
These three embody the devoted, scrappy, service-oriented “hospitalian” mindset that is truly the magic of Coffeebar. We hope you enjoy their stories as much as we did!
- Years at Coffeebar: 6
Past roles: Cashier, Kitchen, Kitchen Manager, Assistant Manager, Barista, and Store Manager
Current role & location: Accounting and HR Specialist. Currently, my apartment.
Non-coffee hobbies: Hiking: My current New Year's Resolution is to hike 1000+ ft in elevation per week. Kalimba: I started learning how to play the kalimba ("thumb piano") the last few months. I'm not particularly musically inclined, so it's a workout for my brain. Art: I'm working on some linoleum block printing projects.
Coffee/tea drink of choice: The past couple years Oolong tea has nudged out Earl Grey for my drink of choice. But they both are fantastic for different reasons.
Go-to road trip snack: Pizza-flavored Combos and Corn Nuts. They are both awful, but in a deliciously-awful kind of way.
Favorite movie: I don't really have a favorite, but these stick with me: Ghost World, Salt Lake City Punk, and (even though I've only seen it once, it has a fantastic mood...) Only Lovers Left Alive.
- Years at Coffeebar: 3
- Past roles: Cashier, Barista, Coffee Lead, Trainer, and Front-of-House Lead
- Current role: Assistant Manager, Menlo Park
- Non-coffee hobbies: Video games and movies (thrillers, dramas)
- Go to drink: 12 oz triple mocha; kids temp so I can enjoy it right away
- Go-to Road trip snack: Ruffles, flaming hot
- Favorite movie: Saving Private Ryan
- Years at Coffeebar: 6
- Past Roles: Kitchen, Cashier, Barista, Kitchen Manager, Assistant Manager, Store Manager, Cheer Lead
- Current role & location: Facilities Coordinator, Roastery
- Non-coffee hobbies: Playing music, building computers, video games, photography and throwing knives
- Coffee/tea drink of choice: Depends on the day but usually just single origin batch brew
- Go-to road trip snack: Chex mix, easy
- Favorite movie: It’s a three-way tie between Shaun of the Dead, Django Unchained and The Blues Brothers
In Chapter One of our Origins Series, Greg wrote about how his love affair with coffee and cafe culture began while he was eating his way through hole-in-the-wall gelaterias in Italy. Can you point to any similar “come-to-jesus” moments that lead you to fall in love with the cafe experience?
Alain: When I first started making coffee ten years ago in Mexico, it was like love at first sight. It was something that was mine that I could craft into a masterpiece over and over again.
Joel: I started at Coffeebar not actually liking coffee, but being around it so much I just started drinking it and honestly it wasn't until I became a barista a year into working at Coffeebar that my love for the cafe and coffee really took off. Once I learned how intricate espresso and coffee in general is, I became hooked on coffee. The conversations and connections I made with customers and coworkers is what made me love the cafe experience.
Chantel: In college, I lived in a housing co-op: 52 college kids living in two houses figuring out how to pay our rent, clean the bathrooms, feed everyone AND have a ton of fun. That experience shaped the way I think of what is needed to make a pretty big project successful. It's not the concept for the project or individual skills, but instead it's the relationships between the people that hold the project together. So, I don't find it surprising that my passion for the cafe experience started from behind the counter, on the co-worker side of things. I'm fascinated by how individuals with their disparate interests and focuses can specialize and be very good at that specific task/craft. It works like clockwork when each person has a deep respect for the skill of the coworker next to them and the judgement calls they're making in the moment.
“Just like the Big Bang Theory, there was an explosion of life, love, and community at Coffeebar.”
Each of you have had a role in opening a Coffeebar cafe to a community who was new to the concept. How would you describe early days at that location?
Chantel: When I think of the early CB Reno days, I think of EDM on Saturday mornings (shout out to my first Reno manager Eric!) and I think of punk rock in the evenings (shout out to Joel!) after the managers went home. I think of french pressing ALL of the black coffee and how four Frieling French Presses would never be enough. We were a bit rough in the beginning, but a good rough, a Reno kind of rough. The kind of scrappy where you don't quite know what you are doing but it doesn't matter because you are learning and figuring it out,getting it done and making people laugh.
“I had never felt so welcome anywhere in my life and that's just how we treated all the customers as well.”
Alain: I would describe the first years of coffeebar Menlo Park like a beautiful chaos. Just like the Big Bang Theory, there was an explosion of life, love and community at Coffeebar.
Joel: The early years were a lot of hard work and care from everyone at the Reno store. I really think it all boils down to the staff back then-- I had never felt so welcome anywhere in my life and that's just how we treated all the customers as well.
We’ve been pumping out a plethora of baked goods over the years. What have been some of our greatest hits, baked or otherwise?
Joel: SPINACH FETA CROISSANTS and I know I’m not alone in that; I still talk to regulars from way back and we reminisce about how dang good those were. Also can't forget the crepes-- just all of the crepes we have ever done.
Alain: At Menlo Park, The Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin is an all time favorite
for me and I could say for most customers. It is usually first to sell out and if you have tried it, you would understand why. I personally love to drink it with an iced americano.
Chantel: I used to scrape the tops off caramel espresso bars (the top is chocolate mixed with shots of our espresso). Someone would accidentally break one, it would get staffed, and over time in the hot kitchen during the hot summers, they would melt. My favorite pick-me-up while busting out dishes.
“Seeing the whole staff, most of whom aren't baristas, pouring their first heart is such an amazing feeling.”
Epic parties are kind of a signature of the Coffeebar lifestyle and something we have really missed this past year due to the pandemic -- we love to come together, whether it’s over latte art, pizza, vino, or a grand opening. Could you narrow it down to just one or two of your favorite parties or events?
Chantel: Latte art throw downs! They are as supportive as they are competitive.
Alain: Seeing the whole staff, most of whom aren't baristas, pouring their first heart is such an amazing feeling.
Joel: The Coffeebar holiday parties are always legendary but the Olympic Valley opening party was one of the most fun nights of my life. For events, my favorites will always be the “Beer and Brauts”, “Beer and Donuts”, and the first latte art throwdown we ever did. All of those were just awesome events with amazing food.
Chantel: I was super excited to see where Reno's “Thursday Night Music Series” would lead, but unfortunately Covid cut it short. Hank Allen, a former CB employee, played our first show and it was a ton of fun. Lots of people came out, employees stayed late to listen to good music and chill with friends. I'd love it if we could support our Reno musicians again soon after Covid.
“Lorenzo in Italy sorting through grapes in order to produce great wine is a lot like Manuel in Guatemala sorting through coffee beans to produce great coffee. It's humbling to be on the receiving/tasting end of the process.”
Joel and Chantel, you’ve each been on a Coffeebar origin trip. Where did you go, what producers did you meet and what are some of your favorite memories and takeaways from your trip?
Chantel: I loved the tour of the La Marzocco factory. I grew up with my dad who runs a folding machine at a printing press in Michigan. He taught me to be mechanically-minded, so peaking into the guts of the espresso machines, many of them custom orders, and getting to watch the machinists building them piece by piece (boilers, wires, control panels, pumps...)... it was just so cool! Even though we were in Italy, the factory had the same smell as where my dad works. Biggest take-away: Lorenzo in Italy sorting through grapes in order to produce great wine is a lot like Manuel in Guatemala sorting through coffee beans to produce great coffee. It's humbling to be on the receiving/tasting end of the process.
Joel: The whole trip in Guatemala was just life changing, honestly. The hard work that these farmers do is no joke, yet they were the kindest and most caring people I've ever met. Being there and doing work in the fields with them is something I will never forget, it is arduous work and something that needs to be recognized more. Some of my favorite moments on that trip are drinking beer with Manuel Gomez and just talking, playing soccer with the kids in La Suiza, and the La Suiza sunrises. I used to get up early to read a book, listen to music, and watch the sunrise because they were so dang breathtaking.
“Coffeebar still has a big and bright future ahead, I can't wait to see what the future holds for us.”
What does the future of Coffeebar look like to you?
Joel: I hope we can build relationships with more farmers and cooperatives all around the world to help support the coffee farming industry and make sure they get paid enough for their product. I think Coffeebar still has a big and bright future ahead, I can't wait to see what the future holds for us.
Alain: The future of coffeebar is to continue to open new stores and spread the love and “sprezzatura” to more cities.
Chantel: Oh, I'm just along for the ride :)