The Pilot's Blog

The Roasterie Newsletter April 2014

Dear Roasterie Friends and Family,

Happy Spring! We celebrated Easter Service at The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts with our friends from the Church of the Resurrection and it was our favorite Easter ever. The service, setting and message embodied everything that I love about Kansas City. Pastor Hamilton did a great job of knitting together the horror and tragedy of the shootings last Sunday with the message of hope and resurrection of Easter. And as Mindy and others have said so eloquently this week, we do get to choose how we will be defined, as individuals, as a city and as a society. The lives violently and senselessly taken last Sunday will be defined by the courage and strength of the families involved, the scholarships that will now be endowed to hundreds of children, and the outpouring of love for these families. The families stood up and declared how they wanted this to be defined; and the community followed in spades. While I selfishly hope to never have to endure such a tragic event, I am certainly going to be much more mindful and conscious of any and all discrimination, bullying or nasty messages in my presence. May God bless the families and continue to give them the courage they’ll need in the days ahead.

Happenings
We are 21 this year! And we like the way it feels! Many of us remember our 21st year as being pivotal or transformative. Maybe we graduated college (those of us on the 4 year plan 🙂 ); maybe we started our first career job, or had our first legal drink. Whatever the case, after our big 20 Year Anniversary party, we were reflecting on the first 20 years and all the endeavors that we had on our plate right now and agreed that “21” feels great; indeed, 21 will likely be our biggest year ever in many ways. We’ll cover just a few of the highlights.

Cafés Refreshed, Remodeled, Reimagined
We’ve been tweaking the Cafés since we opened, listening to your comments and suggestions. We’ve made many simple changes already but have been building our ‘refresh’ plans since we installed the plane, Betty, on our factory roof. We will stay open in each location during the work and time the messiest jobs to happen during the night, while we’re dreaming of flying and new coffee adventures :). As a simple Iowa farm boy, I promise that form will follow function…as always, our mantra will continue to be “Be easy to do business with; be easy to do business with.” There will be many improvements and at least a few that I hope will be ‘dazzling” and perhaps unique to North America. With at least a couple, we’ve had to wait for the technology to catch up. Stay tuned and get ready…every upgrade and improvement has YOU in mind, our customer.

The Relentless March Towards Convenience
Many of you have heard me talk about this and God knows my Roasterie Team surely has :)! But since the Stone Age, human beings have been on a relentless search to make life easier and more convenient. And we’ve succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Many would argue that we haven’t made it ‘simpler’, but we have surely made it easier. Any number of technological advancements comes to mind, from the automobile to the computer, from the telegraph to the microwave.

We struggled with K-Cups, until they became nearly 30% of the market and we heard hundreds and hundreds of customers confess to using them in certain situations; we call these situations “when life happens”; and we get it. I’ve told our team that we can be “so right, so self-absorbed and defensive and preach to the market about how they ‘should’ prepare and consume our precious coffee; that we certainly can move forward any way that we want to. But in the end, we can be so ‘right’, so arrogant, and so alone. And ick! Who the hell wants THAT? So, with the K-Cups, for example, we felt that the customers spoke loud and clear; and we said; “Okay, if we have to do the K-Cups, then we are going to create the best one in the world”; and I think we have done just that, in addition to offering the only air-roasted single serve cups in the market. Try any of them side by side with any other cups on the market and you’ll see what we are talking about.

This same issue of convenience…of ‘life happening’, relates to drive-thru’s. Personally, I do not use them and really never have. I can probably count the times on one hand for my entire life; and if it were about ME, we’d never consider a drive-thru. However, it’s always been about YOU and again, looking at our society, we’d say ‘the audience has voted’. And our response is something like this: “Okay, if we have to do a drive-thru, then it’s going to be the coolest, most fun drive-thru ever created.” And that’s what you’ll see very soon. And I’m pretty sure you’ll see some totally unique local Kansas City collaborations with folks that we’ll partner with, that could only happen in Kansas City. For the folks with babies strapped in the back seat, for the folks who would trade 10 minutes of time this morning for an hour this afternoon, for those of you who are forced to commute for longer times than you wish you had to, for those overworked and forced to be on the phone or conference calls and for those who have shared dozens of other legitimate reasons why they use or would use a Roasterie drive-thru, I would respond with “we get it; we hear you; we understand”. And I’d follow it up with “okay, we hear you loud and clear; but if we are going to build it, it’s going to be one flippin’ cool and fun drive-thru, in addition to being world-class quality and excellence. So stay tuned…I promise excitement :).

Normy, Chapter III
Bittersweet: this is what a good friend said when he heard that Normy was retiring. And I can honestly say that my selfish side only feels loss and sadness. I always said that we’d never have made it without Normy (we never would have) and that I’d never want to do this without Normy (I don’t). But Normy is only going to Olathe, and while that is a whole different state, he’s really only 21 minutes away. And when I’m not selfishly thinking of myself, I smile when I think of Normy getting up and acting on one of his many, many questions that he’s curious about…and going to the library, a museum, an old bookstore, a ghost town or coming to the factory and sitting on the front deck. Normy and I have been buddies since 1987 and have taken fun road trips together since 1994; and this won’t end. We’ve already planned on hitting every presidential library in the Midwest, the annual meet for the Chrysler Airflow Club, and our now annual pilgrimage to Detroit for Henry Ford Days.

And Normy will be able to spend more time with his wife Bonnie and his grandchildren who live in the area. I reminded our team that the poor guy had already retired once before I dragged him on this adventure…and after going on 21 years here, the guy deserves a rest!

Normy can be reached at norm@theroasterie.com. He will keep that address for life, he’ll continue to receive his free weekly coffee for life, and I hope that he’ll grace us with his frequent presence for life. You cannot reach out and touch anything in our company that doesn’t somehow have Normy’s mojo in it. He’s been our historian, our workhorse, our compass and our bedrock with respect to virtue, compassion, purpose and values. Normy’s baked into every aspect of The Roasterie and always will be. He is a great teacher and has spent the last several months downloading his 44 years of coffee knowledge into The Roasterie Hard-Drive. If I can talk him into it, we’ll write a book together…with lots of Iowa in it :). His official last day will be Friday, April 25th and we wish Normy and his family Godspeed.

Mentors
Carla says I’m morbid but every day I think about regrets, specifically, future regrets. I’m the kind of person who beats up on himself when there is a “Oh, I should have…” So I’m always conscious of this and try to make choices on a daily basis where I’m not thinking or feeling that. And thanks to incredible mentors like Barnett Helzberg and Henry Bloch, I’m able to. Each of them, dozens of times, have insisted to me that the most important aspect of your life is family. And that when we look back later in life, this is really the aspect of our life that is most defining, most important. I could imagine someone reading this and thinking, “duh”, but how this manifests itself to me is the way I make choices, specifically with respect to time, on a daily basis. There are hundreds of things, for example, that we could do to make our company bigger, to grow significantly faster, to expand geographically much more than we have. But there is always a price: always. Sometimes it’s quality, lack of control, customer service or opportunity cost. For me, it always comes down to that fear of regrets; of what my mentors and so many other folks have told me when I’ve asked them “What would you do over, if you could.” I’ve yet to hear “I’d have built a bigger company” or “I’d have spent more nights on the road away from my family”. Obviously, it’s always the opposite. And when I think of my own parents, what I remember the most, what I cherish, it’s always the time that we spent together, the intimate moments; never, ever the ‘things’; or ‘stuff’.

This past week made me reflect on this a great deal and I’ve vowed to double-down with respect to the time I spend with family. And I hope that each of you is blessed with mentors in your life who share great wisdom with you…in time so you don’t have those regrets later.

We LOVE Kansas City!
I so love Kansas City and I love it more every day! I love the spirit, the honesty, the entrepreneurialism and work ethic. I love the art, the food and the trees. And I especially love the humility and the humbleness. We have a great mayor in Sly James who just simply brings the best out of everyone and everything in our city. He inspires us to do more and to make our great city ever greater, ever more attractive.

We aspire to have a strong, awesome, extraordinary local brand. We buy coffee from around 32 different countries and get around the country and the world a good bit. But we choose to live and do business right here in Kansas City and we LOVE collaborating with other local brands. Last week we taste-tested a new Roasterie coffee infused sausage from Alex Pope at Local Pig and 21 different coffee-infused chocolate bars from Andre’s. Look for Local Pig’s Roasterie coffee flavored sausage in the greater metro area very soon; but for now, get it at Local Pig. And we are stressing over which four chocolate bars to add to the two that we currently have trouble keeping in stock. We love our Roasterie coffee infused Dizzy Three vodka we created with Clear10, our espresso infused balsamic vinegar with The Tasteful Olive, our Roasterie Barbeque sauce and rub with Original Juan’s, our chocolate flavored coffee with Christopher Elbow and our Roasterie coffee flavored ketchup with Fine Vines. And we just had to have a Roasterie Coffee scrub from Milagro Midwestern Spa that was simply pure heaven :). And to all the folks who’ve been asking, our own Roasterie coffee flavored ice cream will be available at our factory Café this summer; expect something very unique and extraordinary :)! If you haven’t tried these awesome creations, we surely encourage you to do so :). Most are available at our Cafés, factory or in the case of Dizzy Three, local pubs, restaurants and liquor stores.

To all of our local partners, thank you! We are proud to be the Official Coffee Sponsor of Brookside Soccer Club, Sporting Kansas City and 90.9 The Bridge. We not only think of them as partners but as dear friends who we love spending time with and sharing their missions.

Costa Rica
We had the best trip ever to Costa Rica this January during harvest. In addition to Roasterie Beans Bonnie Smith, Nick Pasley celebrating their 5-year anniversary with us, our Bean Hunter, Jon Ferguson, who did a fantastic job of organizing an educational adventure, led us. Each year our dear friend and coffee producer/miller Grace Mena hosts us for a week where we take all Roasterie Beans celebrating 5 years with us. This year we were blessed to have local writer Kimberly Stern, Chef Jasper “JJ” Mirable (read about his experience here) and Blair and Louise Anderson of Minnesota, the winners of our 20th Anniversary Roasterie Adventure Photo Contest. You can read about their experience here.

Grace and her team just lined up the most impactful and educational trip, ever. We normally visit 15-20 small farmers, some of whom we’ve been visiting for over 15 years. We all feel like family to each other and it is, in our opinion, the ‘poster child’ example of how to do business. We are blessed to have partners like Grace and customers like you who both appreciate the extraordinary quality as well as the fact that it costs more to produce this special quality. Being able to spend time with my host family who I lived with as a foreign exchange student in Costa Rica back in 1978 is too special for words to convey. And seeing Sophie and Terry making coffee angels on the drying patios each year just puts me in heaven.

Green Musings from Our Bean Hunter, Jon Ferguson.
The Roasterie plant is looking fantastic! The Roasterie Factory Café recently installed a beautiful Modbarespresso and brew station, giving the entire tour experience another level of excitement! It’s a modern design with minimal distraction, helping highlight the coffee while allowing the customer to observe every step of the brewing process, increasing the overall experience for those who visit. There are very few of these Modbar units within the United States, and only one in Kansas City – right here at the Factory Café. From a coffee geeks perspective, it has been wonderful to experience the extra control and consistency the equipment provides. This extra service station also provides a dedicated place to highlight unique single origin espresso and pour-over reserve coffee origins.

We are approaching an exciting time of the year where most coffees from Central America’s fresh crop are arriving to our warehouse.  A few outstanding and remarkable coffees are about to be released as a part of our “Reserves” selections.   The coffee market started out in 2014 with a bang. With the fear of drought in Brazil and the threat of coffee leaf rust in Central America damaging crops, the New York “c” turned to a bullish market with record breaking increases in the market.  Predictions are difficult to make on where the market will go from here, but for now, we have locked in most of our purchases for the year and everything is looking good in the foreseeable future.

In regards to these purchases, our most recent arrival is our Sumatra “Red Cherry” Reserve, which we found near Lake Tawar in the Northern Aceh Provience of Sumatra, Indonesia in December of 2013.  It’s a truly remarkable find, as the selection of red cherries in such fashion are a rarity in Sumatra.  Danny and I had a wonderful timeexploring the region and are excited to bring home this experience to share with everyone.

Our second arrival is a limited offering of a beautiful coffee found during our most recent trip to Costa Rica, known as the “Geisha” from the La Candelilla Estate. For over twenty years, Danny O’Neill and Norman Killmon have led the way in discovering amazing coffees and creating truly exceptional coffee experiences with The Roasterie.   Years ago, Danny O’Neill was on the Panama jury that discovered the Geisha coffee varietal, and has continued to source and roast this rare coffee ever since.  After 20 years with The Roasterie, Norman Killmon will be retiring.  One of his last production roasts will be the La Candelilla Estate Geisha Limited Reserve coffee, one the finest coffees available currently offered in the specialty coffee world.  We were able to fly twenty pounds of this Estate Geisha from Costa Rica as a pre-release celebration offering.

For now, The Roasterie’s limited roast by Norman Killmon provides enough for twenty 12oz retail bags of roasted coffee. Check out our Cafés or call 816-931-4000 to order. We will continue to offer the Candelilla Estate Geisha from Costa Rica later in May, and will follow the “Killmon” roast profile for it’s production.

As a professional coffee buyer and roaster, it has truly been an honor to work along side Norman during my time at The Roasterie. To express this appreciation, we have dedicated the roasts with his name on each bag, to a master of coffee, Mr. Norman Killmon.

Books
I’ve been fortunate to read several this quarter, two that I’d like to share. The first, Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin, was the best. It is a fascinating page-turner that is also heartbreaking. Some of my fondest memories are of watching Johnny Carson with my dad. And I vividly remember driving like a maniac to get to the Marina Inn in South Sioux City, NE to see his last show in 1992. I was so sad as I knew it was the end of an era, an incredibly special era. No one like him before or since and the book reveals the person that Johnny really didn’t let anyone see. Totally worth the read.

The other book that I’d recommend is Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. While this is a rare case where I actually liked the movie better than the book, it is still a great book worth the read. It’s based on a true story of a Seal Team in Afghanistan that allow civilians to survive, knowing that their position will be compromised and that they may not get out. It is both riveting and gut wrenching and another page-turner.

We Still Believe That Work Is Noble
I highly, highly recommend the TED Talk “Dirty Jobs” by Mike Rowe. He is the actor who stars in same titled series but I have never seen it. It is absolutely wonderful and his insights and observations about work, hard work, are just heart touching and I believe his message comes at a very pivotal moment in our society’s history. I hope that you’ll take the time to watch it and let me know what you think.

New Beans
We are proud to welcome Mandy Bell on board our Accounting Department. Mandy focuses on all of the non customer-facing accounting activities for our Cafés so that our team there can focus on serving YOU! Mandy is a delight to work with and has fit in with us from day one.

We’d also like to welcome Anna Smith who will be focusing on tours, special events and factory activities. Normy has been teaching her his dry sense of humor and I think she is going to do him proud :).

We have the best team that we’ve ever had and they really do focus on serving you. Our Roasterie culture is very team-driven and we often use the tagline “One bean, one dream, one team.” We don’t do prima donnas and aspire to always have a team spirit totally focused on our mission…creating extraordinary coffee experiences. We love an old-fashioned work ethic focused on our customer and our community. If you know of folks who possess these qualities…who love coffee…send them to our website :).

Connections
I recently reconnected with my old college roommate, Pat Rogers, from undergrad back at Iowa State. It is hard to describe the overwhelming feelings of gratitude, comfort, and joy. Just thinking of him makes me smile and each time we visit I am flooded by more and more fun memories. We shared 4 precious years together and we had just an absolutely great time together. I look forward to each time that I get to see him now and my reason for bringing him up is to encourage you to reconnect with the people in your lives that were highly important to you. Everyone gets busy building their own lives and it’s only natural that for lots of practical reasons, some relationships get put on hold. But I just encourage you to go back and look up that old neighbor, roommate, classmate or friend who you wonder about from time to time. The feelings are hard to describe and I endeavor to look up many old friends this year and reignite old friendships that will likely continue right where they left off.

Blessed
We so appreciate you and serving you. Indeed, without the opportunity to serve you…we’d have no existence. We’ve been blessed to be able to assemble a team of like-minded individuals who realize that it’s not about them; it’s not about us, it’s about you; specifically, serving you. And in spite of the intense passion we have for the finest coffees in the world, the most impressive latte art or the coolest coffee-roasting factory, none of it matters without you…allowing us to serve YOU. We do not take that lightly nor will we ever take you for granted. The essence of the Jesuit credo “Men and women of and for others” inspires us. It inspires us to serve you and to make our hometown of Kansas City the best city in the world. We are truly grateful for the opportunities we have to serve you and we hope that this comes across in our actions and deeds.

Thank you for choosing The Roasterie and God bless you and your families.
Sincerely,

Danny O’Neill

Bean Baron.

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