I put a kettle of water on the stove and measured out 33 grams of our featured coffee of the week into a V60 filter. I poured the coffee beans into my new Comandante hand grinder. And I started turning the handle in circles as the water temperature coasted toward 200 degrees. The feeling of this experience flooded my mind with thoughts and emotions. This coffee I selected from my cupping table and spent time learning to roast, now being sheared into perfect particles by meticulously manufactured burrs turned by my own hand, is taking its final journey. Its ultimate purpose fulfilled in the most careful and exacting manner. Tipping the scales as the aromas wafted through my olfactory and its most precious liquid extracted, dripping into a very special mug with a moose and “Colorado” imprinted on its curvature.
Driving to work, mug in hand, sipping, smelling, enjoying. Discovering florals and melon aromatics I hadn’t noticed in this coffee. Dazzled by the impossibility that coffee can be like this, I sipped and drove. And I saw a woman walking her dog, carrying a DoubleShot cup with our distinctive black sleeve and copper-toned logo. A white bag pinched between her fingers containing, perhaps, a toad-in-the-hole or a lemon-poppyseed muffin. She walked on the sidewalk in front of some empty, discarded parking lots. Her dog looked happy. She looked happy. And I felt happy.
This is going to be a great day.
I had big goals when I opened the DoubleShot. I saw a void in Tulsa where I could pour everything I love about coffee. When we opened, the coffee options here were depressingly monotoned. I thought I could make an impact, and I made note in my business plan the importance of freshness. Of being unique and innovative. Of continuing to learn about coffee and improve the coffee every day. And I could see in my mind's eye that I wanted the DoubleShot to become a landmark in Tulsa. A place people would seek out daily. My vision looked a lot more like the county courthouse than the strip mall at 18th and Boston.
Life is nothing, if not changing. Many of the changes in my life have come after the death of someone close to me.
Papa Franklin. When I was growing up, my dad worked a lot. I spent a lot of time "piddling around" with his dad, my grandpa, Gale. He was a short, friendly man with a wisp of white hair and a round face. An outdoorsman, he loved to hunt and fish. And he was known around town as the boat motor repair man. His garage was scattered with Evinrudes and Elgins, outboard motors and trolling motors, each one partially disassembled on his work bench. He worked at his own pace, meticulously, it seemed. Whenever something was wrong with my car I would take it to his house and we would always begin by removing the carburetor. We would take a coffee break mid-morning. A lunch break. A break to have a Mountain Dew in the early afternoon. And another coffee break at the traditional coffee drinking hour of 3 o'clock. He would usually come slowly pulling into our driveway in his square, brown, Ford pickup around dinner time. He was quite a guy.
In 2002 I was competing in a 36-hour adventure race in Arkansas. My teammates lagged and the weather turned very cold and very rainy. After the race, we fell fast asleep in our tent until we heard someone hollering at us. The rain had continued and the river was rising right outside the tent. We hurriedly pulled stakes and wearily hit the highway. Once my cell phone signal returned I had a voicemail from my mom saying I should come home right away because my Grandpa was dying. And so I drove back to Tulsa, packed some clothes and drove to Galesburg, Illinois, my hometown. He was on his death bed, but he recognized me and seemed happy to see me. I waited there for a week as he took his last breaths and my life changed.
For 6 years I had my own personal training business here in Tulsa, but when I returned from my Papa's funeral, I told my clients that was my last week. I was leaving.
Fred Bendaña was a client of mine. He worked out with me every weekday at 630a. He had cancer before I met him and he told me he was the only person who ever gained weight on chemotherapy. Fred and I became close friends. I think I earned his respect, and he even offered me a job in his company (which I respectfully turned down). Fred's cancer returned. I was coming back to get my belongings to take to Illinois until I sorted out the next phase of my life, and was looking forward to seeing Fred. But instead I attended his funeral.
I had talked to Fred about opening a coffeehouse and roastery. His advice was not to sell one cup at a time, but to sell an entire shipping container of coffee at a time.
Steve Franklin. What a guy. I'm not going to start telling you what he meant to me or how he influenced the DoubleShot. It would be too much. I just want to say that he instilled in me the attributes that have allowed me to be successful. He taught me the skills and gave me the confidence to build and repair and invent. And when my dad died, I was cut loose from his expertise and had to put everything he taught me into practice. On my own. He did a good job preparing me to be my own man.
General Sterling Price. The cat that saw everything. This is the guy who was behind the scenes picking up the pieces every evening. He suffered with me, he rose and fell with me, he danced and cried with me. He was no ordinary cat. I'm pretty sure behind those eyes and that smile was the understanding of a superior being. And when he died one year ago, I died a little too. I began to think about my own mortality, what I want in life, and what that means for the DoubleShot. This is no simple task. It involved sleepless nights and many very long runs. It happened in the quiet, in the woods, in my dad's green chair, on the saddle of my bike. Alone.
I was listening to This American Life on NPR a couple months ago while roasting, and they were talking about Fermi's Paradox. David Kestenbaum talked to some physicists about his concern that we actually might be the only intelligent life in the universe. That we might be alone. And that we might be finite. And if we are all there is, and we are exterminated for whatever reason... poof. That's it. It feels like if there is no one to appreciate the miracle that is existence, it's all for nothing. Looking out the window right now all I can see are millions of miracles. Trees and plants and man-made lights and wires, butterflies and birds, and the closer you look the more miracles you see.
I don't know why this bothered me so much, but it did. It's sort of the same problem of trying to make extraordinary coffee, only on an infinitely grander scale. If there is no one to appreciate it, then it is all for nothing.
Shortly after I listened to that episode of This American Life, I loaded up my gear and drove to Arizona for a 50 mile run on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This race was on my 44th birthday. Alone in the car and in a hotel and in my tent and in the woods, it was all more time to think. Thinking about Fermi's Paradox and why I should assume the worst case scenario is true (from my accounting background). As soon as I caught a glimpse of the Grand Canyon at the first overlook in the race, I began to weep. I had to stop because the trail was steep and loose and winding and the tears clouded my vision.
The result of all this contemplation is weird. But I know that it's time to make a decision. My goals still stand. Those far-reaching and unattainable hallmarks that guide my decisions in business. My ultimate personal goal is freedom. I want to be able to make any choice without limitations - monetary, physical, time, etc. This is obviously also impossible, but that's my ultimate desire. Freedom. But I do not want to divorce myself from this business. I love the DoubleShot. Have I thought about selling it? Yes! But then what? I like what I do and I want to keep doing it and to get better and better. And here's the thing: if this is all there is, and if human existence has an endpoint, I want to make life better while it exists. I think the DoubleShot does that. I think it makes life better for people. So maybe I need to start thinking about how to ensure its operation for future generations. Maybe until life is extinguished from the earth.
In 2012 the idea popped into my head that the DoubleShot isn't stuck in this strip mall. But where would it go? Only one place seemed right to me. So with the knowledge that the bank would barely lend me enough money to buy a modest house in a run-down neighborhood, I talked to a realtor about the property and talked to private investors about the money. This deal eventually fell apart suddenly just before a trip to Costa Rica. But I am persistent. And I don't spend money frivolously. So eventually the deal began to come together again. The bank agreed to loan me money. And overcoming a few major hurdles, I found myself at the starting line.
I have a lot of people to thank for helping me get this far. More people than I could list. But posthumously, I want to recognize:
The man who told me how to drink coffee.
The man who told me how to sell coffee.
The man who told me how to work and build.
And the cat who told me that everything was going to be ok.
I don't do anything the way those people told me, but they wouldn't have expected me to. They simply inspired me to explore and learn and find my own path.
So that woman I saw walking her dog, carrying the DoubleShot cup. She was walking in front of what will be the new home of the DoubleShot. The real home of the DoubleShot. It's time we move out of mediocrity and into a building that is suitable for one of Tulsa's landmarks. We are erecting a barn I bought that was originally built in 1850 in Berne, Indiana. We are building on a roastery with brick cast before Oklahoma statehood. It will be built with all the care and attention to detail that made the DoubleShot great. I intend to be hands-on throughout the build, adding all the quirky details. And I know my dad will be there in spirit, foreman of the job.
Like the pourover of coffee I made in my kitchen, I intend to extract all the goodness from the DoubleShot into this new building. The exactness and personality with which we make coffee will finally be on display in every corner of the construction. Like a cross between a pioneer cabin and a cathedral - for coffee - it will at once feel new and old. Fresh. Like the coffee belongs in this place. Seamlessly the DoubleShot will fill the room from wall to wall with its amazing aromas.
There's no stopping change. My college football coach used to say, "Every day you either get better or you get worse." Nothing ever stays the same. And you can expect that the coffee at the DoubleShot in our new home will be even better. Join us as we take our final journey into a building that will forever be the iconic home of the DoubleShot. It's going to be a great day.
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