A letter from the Co-Owner
So, as I am neck deep in the storm and stress and paperwork and plaster and credit card smoking because I’m using it so damn much section of opening a coffee shop so this seems like the ideal time to discuss why we are doing this crazy, risky, super-expensive, but rewarding thing. I grew up in the broken glass and trailer park region of Phoenix, Arizona and nearly choked to death on the beige of it all in my early/mid teens. I was 400 lbs of awkward punk rawk nerd poured in a 150 lb body and my entire neighborhood looked and acted like Johnny from Karate Kid. My leg was getting swept constantly.
I needed a damn haven.
One Friday night, I stumbled upon The Willow House in Downtown Phoenix and my eyes bugged so far out of my head that the barista on duty had to brush my pupils off his shirt. There was my community: Punkers, and Goths, and Artists, OH MY. I was amongst intellectual conversations and acoustic guitars and graffiti art and coffee and cigarettes and political theory. I learned so much about life and culture and the glorious differences in people from spending endless nights on the patio of that place drinking coffee until 2 am. The Willow House was truly my first love. I lived twenty five miles away but I drove or rode the city bus to visit it almost every night of my teens.
I can honestly say that finding that place saved my young life and felt more like home than my neighborhood ever did. I spent years bouncing from great coffee shop to great coffee shop all over the country and basking in the easy friendliness that always tends to emanate from those places. Higher Ground in Tempe, Az. RB Winning in Albuquerque. Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, Kick Butt Coffee in Austin. Insomnia in Dallas, Caffe D’arte in Seattle, St. Marks in Denver. Stumptown in Portland. Speckled Axe in the other Portland. The list could go on and on. I fell in deeper love with the buzz and thrum of these places. I even got lucky enough to work at quite of few of them (including my first love, the Willow House). I became a pretty good barista, my forearm got used to the torque of the portafilter, my thumb got calloused from the grip of the tamper, I got used to the smell of espresso always under my fingernails. My hands and arms became second degree burn farms.
I then became a trainer and a competitive barista representing some of the best independent coffee shops in the country, I taught Latte Art classes to baristas, I taught machine maintenance to coffee shop owners. I’ve travelled to roasters on different continents and consulted for James Beard Award winning Chefs. I’ve probably trained over 1,000 baristas over what’s now become a twenty plus year career. Some of them are quite a bit better than me now, and yes I am bitter, but only in a joking way. I’ve done pretty much everything a barista could do EXCEPT…
Opening my own Coffee Shop.
Which is why we are here now. My Partner and I have been working our collective asses off to make the best coffee shop our imaginations can deliver. We want to be a place you fall in love with. We want to be the place you will drive 25 miles for. The place where you see a new band that you love. The place where you see poetry that matters to you. The place you find your community. The place you have first dates and bad conversations about Marxism. The place where the Barista knows your name because you are an interesting person we know, not because the corporate headquarters wants us to put your name on the cup because it seems more personal.
We hope you like us.
We’ve tried really hard.
This is our heart, and I hope that you feel that. (I originally wrote “taste that”, but that’s really gross.)
Eirean Bradley,the Grand Poohbah of Coffee Goodness at Strong Style Coffee.