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Ep. 016 | Curate Conversations With Pia Beck
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PODCAST SHOW NOTES
In this episode, episode 016, Pia interviewed Kim Anderson and Aaron Olson. My personal favorite coffee shop, a CWco. staple, and a growing client favorite.
Pia’s conversation with Kim and Aaron was amazing. She caught them off guard and asked them to step out of their comfort zone to answer all my questions, and they delivered. What struck Pia the most is how genuinely humble, committed and driven they are — it’s no wonder their coffee shop and micro-roastery is so successful.
In this conversation, we will talk about two things that Handlebar is known for: really, really good coffee…and operational excellence. We talk about coffee as a commodity, how mediocrity drives most of the world, and how the athlete’s mindset contributes to good business.
Do me a favor — if you like this episode, reach out to Kim and Aaron and let them know, or leave a review so the whole world can see it.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Join the Curate Community Membership (code PODCAST for 20% off)
- Follow Handlebar on Instagram @handlebarcoffee
- Visit Handlebar’s website Handlebarcoffee
- Purchase Handlebar coffee
Music created by Queentide.
Kim and Aaron Anderson are husband and wife owners of Handlebar, a cafe and micro roastery here in Santa Barbara, California where Curate Well Co is headquartered. That’s right, we are [00:01:00] talking all about coffee in today’s episode. Kim and Aaron were professional cyclists who traveled the world and loved the cafe culture that they experienced with friends.
Um, and throughout their travels, during their cycling careers. They chose Santa Barbara because of the weather, like most of us, and they open handle bar in 2011. Today they have two locations here in town. They celebrated the five year anniversary of their second location just last week, and I found out in this conversation that they are roasting a hundred thousand pounds of coffee a year. And it’s really cool. If you come to Santa Barbara and you go to their De la Vina location, you can actually watch them do that and maybe even get to meet, uh, Jeff Jeffrey. Who is the guy who’s responsible for roasting the vast majority of that coffee. When I think of Santa Barbara, I think of a Saturday morning at Handlebar, and when I think of handlebar, I think of two things.
Really, [00:02:00] really good. Coffee and operational excellence. In this conversation, we get to learn about both. We talk about coffee as a commodity, how mediocrity drives most of the world, and how the athlete’s mindset contributes to good business. Do me a favor. If you like this episode, reach out to Kim and Aaron and let them know.
Uh, we’ll link their social media and their website in the show notes, or you can leave a review so the whole world can see what you think about what they’ve created.
Before we get into the episode, let’s hear from our partners.
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So y’all have heard me talk about SeaVees and their impact quite a bit. Aside from the wonderful people at the company that I get to work with and their commitment to our planet. I really love the shoes themselves too. They’re simple and stylish, they’re comfortable, and they’re creatively designed. A few of my favorite styles that stay in my [00:04:00] closet all year round.
The Hawthorne slip-ons in white are my go-to clean and comfortable everyday shoe. They’re classic. I also love the Monterey platforms also in white for a more playful look. They look fantastic with a wide leg pant and the Huntington midis, which I have in the oyster color translate from day to night really, really well.
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All right. Welcome Kim and Aaron. I’m so happy to have you here. I know I pestered you endlessly to do this, um, but I admire you both so much and I just wanna tell the whole world about you. I was telling Aaron this right before we, we hit record, so thank you so much for being here.
Um, so the first question I always like to ask is, in your own measure of success, what are you proud of?
Um, so it could be number of coffee sold, it could be a compliment that someone gave you. Um, it could be the supply chain that [00:05:00] you’ve created for handlebar. Whatever feels meaningful to you.
That’s a very good question. I, I wanna see if we can, Is it possible to come back to it later in the, later in the podcast? Only. It’s a tough one for me. It’s a tough one to initially think of or answer cause I don’t think I’m very proud person in by nature. So I have to really kind of like ease into it and just try to think about, um, at least what I personally feel like.
I don’t have a good answer for you off, off the top of my head even.
Yeah, we can come back to
Yeah, even having been asked it before, I don’t know if Cam has. It might have a better answer for you up front, but I think we can think of something during the podcast, if that’s helpful.
Okay. Yeah, of course.
kinda, kinda a big one to lead into, which is a good, which is not a bad thing.
It’s just, um, for us, we were both raised to be very modest and to just speak with our actions and from professional sports or just how we raised as kids. So I think it’s harder [00:06:00] to, harder to think of what make, what would, what would make us proud. I mean, what we’d be proud of, I guess, And we’re also, so we’re so in a day to day that I feel like it’s, it’s probably most difficult to answer that only because we don’t see, it doesn’t seem like it’s changed for us.
I mean, you know, it doesn’t, we can’t really tell what, what we’ve helped make and we’re not the only ones a part of it. So it’s really, we don’t look from the outside. We’re so far in it that, um, it’s probably super difficult to.
Yeah, totally. I, I understand. I mean, you are, you’re both there every day, right. So that makes a lot of sense. Um, okay, so let’s like back up then. So you were both professional cyclists before you started handlebar in 2011. And so I know that you, uh, have an appreciation for coffee farmers, and you got to sit in cafes all over the world as part of that career. Um, and I know that you purchased a roaster that kind of kicked off the process, but what else prompted the shift from [00:07:00] cycling into coffee?
That’s a great question. I think the, our biggest thing was we were living in Europe for eight, nine months of the year away from both of our, most of our friends and family. And so cafe culture is such an epicenter of every little village in town you go to in Europe and, and all of course the bigger, the bigger cities as well.
It’s just the meeting place and I mean really it’s just the epicenter and a lot of the cafes have food, so we spent lots of time in our off time, even after our big days of training, six, seven hours or whatnot, where we would spend a little bit of time in cafes, watching people go by and just kind of embracing the culture.
Eventually we wanted to try to make that wherever we ended up settling. So I think we just try, we like that slower pace that the European cafe culture provides, not just Europe, Australia, New Zealand are probably maybe even leading the way on it. And then America’s, you know, really growing. It’s really growing fast.
Um, we never knew when we [00:08:00] would be done with cycling. We probably could have kept going for for sure. We could have kept going for a few more years. But mainly I would say just to try to bring a meeting place or a place of community. We talked about doing it in Asheville, North Carolina, and Portland, Oregon, which is close to where I’m from originally. We really loved here and the community was, we were really, we loved the weather here.
Like who doesn’t? And, and, uh, the community. And I think in the end we’re really happy we did here because a Portland would’ve been, well, a miserable place for. It’s a beautiful city and it’s nice. And the cafe culture is, is amazing. But here we just had a, I mean, I think we had a, it’s a big enough city that you word can spread fast, but a small enough city that if you do a good job, um, people will really try to embrace it and definitely took a little while to, to make some traction.
But, but yeah, we’ve been pretty, we’re very, for.
Yeah, you’ve done an exceptional job. Um, I have a couple questions about that, but, I’ll, I’ll build off of what you just said. So back [00:09:00] in 2011, you were one of the first coffee shops in Santa Barbara that kind of made the, the cafe culture, the coffee culture that I think is, is growing here. Um, how have you seen that evolve the community evolve, let’s say in Santa Barbara over the last 10 plus years?
I definitely, I definitely think it has, it has grown a lot, especially in the last three, four years. There’s a lot more new cafes opening and, and owners trying to do, you know, trying to do more of the third wave coffee scene. Roasting company, of course is like the, the OG coffee roaster in town and at the time, French Press was the first kind of specialty coffee company, which is now Dune, but they didn’t roast their own at the time.
So in a way, I guess we were one of the first, I mean, I guess we might have been the, we weren’t the first to roast by any means, but the first to do it in a different way and maybe a little bit less of the old school style of, of roasting, which is more on the premise of dark roasted coffees. And, [00:10:00] um, we were sourcing. I mean, I can’t say the practice of others, but, you know, sourcing really, really, uh, great coffees and paying, uh, a big premium to the farmer, which was the most important to us. And also the whole, the whole line along the, along the lines of everyone getting paid more to receive a great product. And then of course, trying to do the best we could to, to turn to not, to not do damage to the product that we were provided, which is about the most you can do is not mess up the coffee. to Columbia maybe like six years ago. That was one of the most magical trips. It was super quick, and that was one of our ultimate goals, was to travel to all the, all the origins we buy coffee from, meet the farmers and, and have that as an adventure because we’ve been so busy and it’s been tough to do it, but it’s been a, it was an amazing trip.
We gotta see so much, learn so much, you know, have our feet on the ground and learn a different aspect of the business. Maybe for us even more rewarding than all the rest. I mean, we [00:11:00] accolades and the, the thanks when someone enjoys a cup of coffee or the atmosphere or a combination. Combination of everything, which the farmer doesn’t get any of, but they do so much.
And I mean they’re really, I mean, they are underpaid, but they’re very, a lot of ’em are very happy. And it also helps you, uh, realize that money doesn’t, isn’t, doesn’t, isn’t not what makes people happy. Cuz you go to a lot of latin American countries where people are very poor, but they’re very happy and so it’s a nice, it’s refreshing to be
Yeah, absolutely. I think what you said about, you know, you getting to maybe see a customer’s reaction when they take a sip when they, you know, get to be in your space is, is super rewarding. But the, the growers, the farmers don’t necessarily have that benefit. Um, tell all of us who don’t, who haven’t had the opportunity to see that part of the process.
Like what was it, what was it like? What goes into farming? Really good coffee.
Yeah, great question. There’s too men too many things to list. [00:12:00] Um, it is the, it is the one food, the one commodity that travels. I mean, it is a commodity traded on the stock exchange. I don’t think of it as a commodity like oil or anything else like this, but, It is the one food that we consume that travels and travels the most distance and touches the most hands.
So it is in a way, the most volatile, uh, food or product that we would consume. And it’s super tough to control a lot of those things that are outta your hand because from the time it actually is at a farm to even like the major city in which it, you know, departs. To other countries and it’s, um, so it’s, you’re pretty fortunate if you can get great coffee more if you can get great coffee to actually land to you.
And it’s actually pretty amazing that it’s not as expensive as it would be because a glass of wine these days, or a pint of beer, which has, is a, is a craft and a skill in itself definitely travels [00:13:00] a lot less. Wine can travel a long ways, but once it’s in its end result, like in a bottle or in a can as long as it’s refrigerator or treated well. Whoever’s serving it can, you know, as long as they serve it with a smile. If you’re buying it someplace, you can have a great experience having that wear coffee every step of the way, including the person making it, you know? Yeah. Affects it. So that’s the, I guess the difference between that and like micro breweries and, and artisan wine or craft wine is, it’s, Wine is, I mean, wine is very similar to coffee.
I feel like you can take, you can interpret and you can take grapes and you can try to, I would say they don’t try to manipulate it, but you can, you know, keep it on the vine as long as you feel like you want to and, and, and so many other variables. So there’s no way to take the same grape or the same coffee and, two of us can have the same coffee and roasted totally different
I think you make a really, um, good point. Which is, I mean, there was, there was a lot that I think is, is really insightful in what you just said. And I, I really like what you said about like [00:14:00] every step of the process, uh, contributing to like the end cup that someone receives and, um, I. think that people don’t fully appreciate that.
Like, I know I didn’t right? Until I really sort of started looking into it. Um, and I’m still like very early in that I don’t have a ton of knowledge in that area. But, I’ve been, you know, kind of practicing my, my espresso making skills and there’s so many steps and that’s just like one part of this like overall process and, you know, I don’t even see 90% of it.
So maybe you can just like break that process down for us a little bit. Like, you know, someone buys. $4, $5 latte or whatever. Right. Like what is everything that goes into that from the way that the coffee bean is grown all the way to the person who prepares it and puts it on the counter.
Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s funny, the actually most expensive ingredient is, uh, is dairy, especially if you [00:15:00] use or organic. In most cases, most of the espresso drinks are, are milk based. So it’s that, I mean, that ingredient can’t be overlooked as well because, you know, great milk is a larger, uh, ingredient than anything else going into it, a cappuccino or, or any of the drinks unless it’s just straight coffee and water.
and also that, even, even that said, water is also the next and most important in. In a cup of coffee because probably a cup of coffee’s, 90 some, 97% water, and then the flavor of coffee. But it’s just, uh, man, it’s, I think, you know, a lot of times they were saying over 40 people, 40 different individuals will have, you know, touch the coffee.
We’re talking months of time. for, I mean, for starters, a lot. I think there’s a disconnect because we don’t, because it’s, we’re not coffee growing nation. Also, no one generally sees coffee even being roasted. So that’s why the De la Vina location’s kind of cool because it’s not just any, any cafe. There’s great ones in San [00:16:00] Francisco and others, um, sight glass and, and others that have that kind of, it’s that Willy Wonka chocolate factory thing going on where you can actually see it.
And we have it all the time with moms and kids and the kids are sitting on the rail at De la Vina and they’re just watching the process. But, um, It’s grown on a, it’s grown on a tree. It’s a, it’s a, you know, it’s a cherry tree in these countries, and these cherries have to grow and, and become ripe. So from the time the farmer plants, whatever varietal of coffee cherry they have, there’s too many to too many to name it, even ones that they’re, they still find to this day.
it’s being meticulous on the picking of the crop. So just like apples pairs, Anything that grows if, if you let it sit there on the tree and ripen from the sun, from the climate, uh, from the soil and uh, and pick it only when it’s ripe, which no rip, no tree ripens all at the same time. So you actually have to make multiple passes.
And the hardest part is, I think in the third world countries that are mostly the ones growing [00:17:00] coffee and taking care of it, is they get paid by the kilo to pick coffee cherries. So you have to pay them well. And give them the training to not just fill a, a bucket full of anything that weighs something because they’re just getting paid by weight.
They’re not getting paid for quality, generally speaking, and less. So that’s the, that’s one step that is, that will make a huge difference in the overall outcome of the, of the coffee. You know, having a, a lot of bags now that they line with grain probe, it’s a plastic liner because it’s burlap. And burlap is moisture.
You know, moisture can easily get through it. Anything can happen. And this is going across the sea and ships and anything else. So there’s a lot of things that can damage it along the way. It’s not, it’s just being thrown around like, like, just, yeah, I don’t know. It’s not, it’s, I mean, if it was, and there’s been times where you’ve heard of tainted, uh, coffee that.
When it arrives, it smells like diesel or something like that because it’s just, it’s next to all kinds of [00:18:00] random things. I mean, a tractor next to it or, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of, um, mind blowing. I’m sure if you, we did a documentary on what, what it travels next to. And the roasting process is one of the most, I think it’s definitely one of the most huge, um, aspects of it.
And we really only have one person that roasts a hundred percent of the coffee, and that’s Jeff. We, feel he does a like a really world class job, and only reason why I say that is because mainly what you said is you have coffee when you go to a lot of places, and we hear this all the time and we buy great coffees, but I think it’s what you do with it.
Even a great chef doesn’t always buy the most expensive cut of meat. They can do amazing things with a very inexpensive cut of meat. It still has to be great. But it’s also their skillset along with the quality that, that the product, um, has behind it. All of our ingredients from the farmer’s market at the cafe.
And that helps us have this great end result. And so the same goes for coffee. You have to start with a great [00:19:00] ingredient, but that said, two people starting with it and you just roast it super dark, you might as well just buy cheap coffee because you get the same end result. So,
um, best analogy someone gave us is taking a onion sauteing it in a cast iron pan or whatnot, you wouldn’t most likely take a bite out of a raw onion cuz it’s so bright and so acidic. But if you start to saute that, the sugar that’s within it, which you wouldn’t taste when you, when you eat, when you bite it, raw starts to come out of, it, starts to caramelize and you’re taking that onion and trying to saute or cook it to bring out as much of the sugar and as much of the flavor that’s naturally inside of it without, without burning up that sugar.
Now, you might want to have a little bit of that char or something if you were gonna put it on a burger, because it does add some flavor to it, But much past the point of caramelizing an onion, you’re starting to burn up the product and then you’re actually making the onion flavor into something that it’s not. And that’s kind of like what [00:20:00] dark roasty coffee is you. You take it past a certain point and then it starts to take on this smokey and bold flavor, which it can be for. It can be for. We’re not judging anything. We don’t roast that dark. And it seems it’s very popular and we probably should actually have some offering like that, and we get asked quite a bit to do that.
But for whatever reason, we haven’t, we haven’t stepped in down that realm yet.
Well, I think the reason is that your coffee is really, really, really good , so you’re doing something right. Um, and it sounds like, uh, Jeff deserves a big shout out for that. So he’s the, he’s the person who’s roasting all of your coffee, what’s like, what’s the, what’s the volume in pounds or kilos or however you, you measure that, that he’s roasting in, I don’t know, a month or a year or whatever timeframe makes sense.
Since we opened, which actually since we opened De la Vina, the larger Cafe Roast Street, it’s been five years. As of Sunday, he’s roasted every pound of coffee except for when he is been on vacation. So maybe one [00:21:00] week or two, you know, only. So when we’re, right now we’re doing a little over a hundred thousand pounds a year and he wrote, he roasts all of it.
I mean, this year he hasn’t even gone on vacation. So I’m the only other person that does that. Not, that’s not totally, We’ve had a few other people that have helped in the roastery under, under his, um, guidance. Just have helped do the production side of thing, bagging shipping. In the past. So in the last a few of, we’ve had two other people, I think roast the week that he was gone a week or two, the 10 days that he was gone.
Otherwise I did the last time. And, um, previous to that though, I, I did all the roasting and Kim did some early on with, with me when we were open downtown, but I think I have like six or eight years of experience doing it. But Jeff has like, was surpassed what I can do and yeah, he’s super, he’s definitely deserves a big shout. Out cuz he’s very personable. Like when you talk to him or others, then he’s very engaging and he really loves that. And I think that’s, I think it’s a really cool aspect [00:22:00] of having the roastery in the cafe setting. It’s more fun for him rather than under fluorescent lights in some warehouse with no, with no ambience and no energy.
And then he can really get feedback from, from rad people. And also he can. Uh, he can feel a bigger part of the overall thing, and also he can just walk over and get himself more coffee when he wants.
Yeah, a good perk.
Yeah. But he’s made tons of friends from it. Um, and it’s really, and yeah, I mean, I, I really, I think Kim as well,
a third part of our family, like he’s, Yeah, he’s, we couldn’t do without Jeff. He’s very special.
Okay. So everyone who is enjoying their Handlebar after they listen to this episode and order some online can give a shout out to Jeff, um, in their minds or via email and, and thank him for all of his hard work. So Aaron, you mentioned before, um, we started recording that, hiring is is a really important part of the process too, right?
You’d rather be understaffed than. Not have the right people [00:23:00] actually on site, in the cafes making coffee, interacting with customers. So tell us a little bit about like, that part of the process. So you have this high quality product that is like picked at the perfect ripeness and it’s roasted by Jeff who does an exceptional job.
And it’s, um, then in your cafe and you have a lovely staff, who’s facilitating that experience and actually making the coffee. What’s important there?
Mm-hmm. I would say Kim doesn’t
First introduction. Yeah. It’s the most important part. Yeah. It’s a first introduction. When they want, they’re, Oh, they’re welcomed. Like that’s, that’s number one for us is how someone’s welcomed. That they’re just brought into, they’ve chosen to take that moment out of their day, spend their money, and come into Handlebar like.
I think that’s what I’m the most proud of is. That’s just something we wanted, We wanted people to come into our home feel, our love that we have for people in general, and then what we do and, you know, just our, our family of kids that are just, they’re all amazing. Like, we [00:24:00] get all the time compliments on them.
And Jeff, like, I’m more proud of the people we put together and like, you know, like Pia you’re part of the community that’s, that we’ve, that you’ve all created, you’ve helped create it. you, you’ve come in and I, that’s what makes me proud. It’s, it’s not the, the sourcing, because of course we, that’s just how we are as people.
Well, we’re driven to do the best we can, but you know, the second you walk in and we just want it to be like all about you, we want you to feel that way. And that’s why, you know, Yeah, we hope people return because they know that we, we love that they come in and we care. It’s not just coffee for us. It’s, it’s, that’s how it starts.
And then, then Aaron can continue with what, But that’s what I’m most proud of, is. No,
I, Yeah, I think I, sec I don’t, I wouldn’t say I’m most proud of it, but I think that what sets us apart from some other place is that we don’t try to serve great coffee. I think we do serve great coffee, but I feel that our number one, goal is [00:25:00] the guest experience and making them feel and making them feel important. Because you never know what people are going through in life.
You know, people they’re going through, some of their families are going through chemo. I mean, right by were by College Hospital, the location where by people come through on their break. I mean, everybody knows someone who’s going through cancer pretty much. And you don’t know if they’re taking a 10 minute break from some, something like that.
Or most people don’t like their home life or they don’t like the job they’re going to. But if you can make them enjoy a part of the 10 minute even to go, um, time out order and they, you smile and we can make them. And a lot of people give us a lot of accolades or whatnot. And I guess to a certain extent they’re right that it does start at the top.
But I feel like we get more, I just feel like, just like you and others that come and, and support and you find whatever you find that you like about it outside of the, the flavor of the coffee, which maybe is what initially brings you, but I’m sure there’s gotta be more than that that keeps people coming.
Cause I don’t think most people need the coffee [00:26:00] that come through the doors. I feel like they need or. That feeling of community running into somebody that they might know, even if they don’t know anyone, they come through having someone engage them. And smile is, I mean, a smile really goes a long ways.
And customer service is a, is a super bright, uh, dying breed and mediocrity is what drives the world for the most part. So I think if you really strive to, to do, you know, an amazing job. Yeah, you’re never going to achieve the level you want, but you have to shoot for that. Um, and so to go back to your earlier question, I think the teams we’ve built have been, have been awesome.
And some of that is not even us doing, it’s just from a housemate or a roommate or a friend of a friend that can bring it on and they can kind of vouch the person. This person’s really kind of, uh, aligns with the culture that we’ve built. And it’s taken a long time to do it, but I feel like we’ve always had a pretty [00:27:00] awesome team at either cafe when we just had one or both.
But it is, It is. We would rather be, we would rather take on more personally, and we try never, never be shorts staffed in the sense of , the guest experience. We’ll make up the difference and just work all day or 12 hours or 14 hours or not have lunch so that we’re not short, so that the team doesn’t have to do extra work.
We’ll take it upon ourselves to. I mean, at times everyone still takes on a bit. We’re short. But um, yeah, it’s, um, we definitely want the guests coming through the doors to feel pretty special and obviously go with a really great drink. But, um, yeah, I think the feeling they have is more important than the flavor of the coffee.
Totally. I, I mean the coffee is really, really good, but I think you’re totally right that it’s a full experience, right? Like anyone, you, you can make coffee at home, right? You can buy a bag of handlebar coffee and make it at home, and it still isn’t the same as when you go in and you get a smiling face and a conversation, and you do get that like really special experience [00:28:00] or you grab a table outside and you know, it’s a beautiful Santa Barbara Day. You see someone, you know, it really is part of the whole experience. And, I think that, you know, one of the words that I, one of the phrases that I wrote down when I was thinking about what I wanted to ask y’all was operational excellence. Like, you, you do that, right?
Like, I, I think of two things when I think of handlebar, which is like really, really good coffee, right? And this other piece that is just as important, like you said, which is like, Operational excellence. Like Kim, I watch you and you’re like behind your machine, and I like watch your eyes like scanning, right?
And I can tell that you’re like looking for the things that, you know, someone needs to go get on to, like maintain that experience and it, it makes a huge difference. And so I, I think that that’s something that you do really, really well. Um, and I think that you have an amazing, amazing customer experience.
On that note, outside of having someone feel like welcomed, which is super important, and you know, not settling for mediocrity, also very well [00:29:00] said. What else do you think makes for that like memorable customer experience?
Definitely the first sip, right? Like if you can lock him in on that first sip and you hear it all the time, like, oh my gosh. Like, I mean, it’s just, it’s like Aaron said, it’s just training. They take their time and they learn the cafe. And then those who just have the passion, like you have to have the passion because it’s, we hold very high standards, so it takes, you know, a little bit of time.
We train ’em for, you know, first of all to steam and they just have to have that passion and that drive. And once we see that, then it just kind of all falls into place. But then they spend a little bit of, quite a bit of time steaming. Aaron and I try it. We have them. All the other kids try it. Like I’m constantly there, like I’m filling the pictures, I’m tasting the milk.
I’m, um, and then next they’re able to go on bar and there’s just like a lot of training behind the scenes or just with each other. Um, you know, Aaron up there and me downtown, but [00:30:00] making sure we taste our drinks or we’re watching their shots and they, they know the parameters that we, that we have, are strict and we hold, but I mean everyone in town, there’s not saying we do, we just try to do the best that we can with every cup.
And that’s why we hold such high standards just so that when you come in that you get the same coffee from everyone. And that’s our biggest goal is consistency. cuz you don’t wanna come in and say, Well, I don’t wanna drink from Kim, but I wanna drink from Aaron. You want everyone to be like, Oh yeah, I go in there.
I love going in there. I’m not just gonna walk by if I see who’s on. But yeah, it just has, is, goes together. It has to be the great, you know, we just try not to mess up what Jeff does. We just try to highlight it, and that’s just the coffee, how we brew it, how we steam the milk, and that all goes together.
And hopefully a great cup every time.
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Well, I can tell you that I’ve, one of my favorite ways to like enjoy a new city when I’m traveling, Aaron and I were talking about traveling earlier, is to visit coffee [00:34:00] shops and it’s, it’s all of it, right? It’s the coffee, it’s the experience. It’s. The, you know, the playlist, it’s all the things that y’all have talked about that, that make for that lovely interaction.
Um, and I, like, genuinely, I have not yet had a cup of coffee that is as good as your coffee. And like, I’m like motivated to like, find one now. Right. Cause like at first I was like, Oh yeah, like Handlebars better. But then after a while I was like, I just like, I can’t find anything better. So if I ever do, I’ll let you know.
But you guys have a, a strong hold on slot number one.
That’s super Dude, that’s super cool to hear mean.
That’s what we always love to do as well. We went, we were like, Oh, let’s go and we rode our bikes. We’d ride our bikes, a different coffee shop and try them all out and yeah, it’s just fun. It just such part of a great day. Like I still miss it going with Aaron at three o’clock.
Hey, where should go? And we go to a coffee shop and hang out and talk or I miss those times. Like I hope to get back to that with him. Those are just special moments, [00:35:00] but it’s, that’s, that was him and I like sitting all over the world, or even here, or San Diego in a coffee shop. So it’s been most special moments and I wanted to just, I want everyone to have that place here.
yeah. Well, I think a lot of us do and, um,
what makes our days
Yeah, it makes our days to see you guys. So it’s, it’s reciprocal for sure.
Yeah. Because a a lot of folks come in, really po like yourself, the, the really positive ones. You can’t tell that they need coffee, but every, if you’re coming into a cafe, I mean, you don’t need coffee per se, but it’s like, you’re there because you wanna pick me up, you know?
Or it also becomes part of a ritual. That’s why we love the name ritual for the coffee, you know, in San Francisco. It’s such a great name
and I think that people, it just, you get into that, it’s, for most of us, it’s an affordable enough luxury that you can do daily. Or, you know, relatively so, And then, and then you get to know, you get to know people that are there.
And so it, it’s a, [00:36:00] where you go to any restaurant every day or five days a week, but yeah.
You might not need coffee, but I have a Handlebar problem now, so I need coffee. What were you gonna say, Kim?
I just love that. I think the best part is knowing people’s names when they come in. Yeah. Like it’s great to be like, Hey, good morning, pe. Like even if it’s just a good morning, like I love that. And even if I’m busy or someone thinks I’m busy, I have my head down working. Like I would love them just to say good.
Like, hello. Like no one’s ever bothering me. That’s why we face out because it’s our face, our kitchen. You’re coming in and we welcome you and I love it. I know names and most names. I wanna know everyone’s name, and I’m always bugging them when they stand next to me. . It’s just, yeah, part of it.
it’s equally enjoyable from the other side of the bar.
Um, so you two seem like you kind of divide and conquer, right? You’re at two different locations. Um, from my observation, it seems like you’re good at different things. Correct me if I’m [00:37:00] wrong. Was that like, uh, obviously not the good at different things, but was kind of that divide and conquer approach intentional, or did that just happen naturally over growth and opening another location?
the latter of two. It just happened. It just happened. There was never a dream to have when never even talked about having two. And all of sudden it just started like, this is great.
And now you have lines down the block at both. So when is the third coming?
We tried, we tried, we worked on a third one for 18 months. In your neighborhood. I mean, right here on the corner of Milus
au across from the bull, the old gas station.
But we pulled the pin on August 1st after a year and a half. Cuz it wasn’t, it just wasn’t working. And we just kept every, even though we, we went to the city beforehand.
Long story short, it just road block, we just kept hitting. Yeah. Brick Waller roadblock and we couldn’t find a way around it. So it just kinda like, maybe, if anything it’s that difficult to achieve. Maybe not meant to be, maybe that’s not. Scenario and or maybe it’s got the [00:38:00] right timing. Who knows?
So much time on our hands when we,
Yeah. Right. You guys have all kinds of downtime.
A people would ask one clone.
I was about to ask the same thing. What’s your solution?
I don’t know. To answer your question, when we’ve opened the first one, like Kim said, we never intended or ever thought we would a, a b as busy as, as downtown has become, nor did we ever expect to be able to expand into the spaces next to us. Although when we first signed at lease, we before you would come, I think, uh, our space was only 10 feet wide and we only had outside seat, and we used to rose right inside the door.
You may have come at that time, you would’ve been, you were small. Yeah.
I missed that. I think I missed that era, but I’ve seen the picture that you have hanging up.
And then we’ve done two expansions since, but um, we just needed another place to move the roasting to, but we were kind of reluctant or very reluctant to wanna just, we’re not reluctant. We, we, we entertained the idea of moving into a warehouse or a roll up garage, or, which is still a really cool thing cuz you have a semi roll, roll [00:39:00] in and it’s easy.
It, it makes some things much easier and it makes the, but long story short. We want to open up.
It meant to be that spot because we always loved that building. Even though it was a smoothly mattress, we always loved it. And it just so happened when we were looking that it came up for rent. Like I just feel like that one fell into place and it was, Yeah, meant to be for sure.
That building. I walk in there, I’m still like, Wow.
And now we well traveled, well traveled friend. He is actually our first employee ever. He comment the, like, I think you guys have one of the most, You didn’t say one of it, I think, I think you guys have the most beautiful cafe on the west coast.
As far as the, as far as the bigger one.
I was like, wow. Cause I think of Cylo in San Francisco, or even Four Barrels space in San Francisco and, and others. But those are the two that first come to mind, uh, of being like, amazing, amazing. Of course they all have, you know, millions of dollars behind them, uh, investment, investment money, and we did ours. [00:40:00] Our own, our own
without that. So that doesn’t make a difference. He still takes money to it, still takes money to do it. But um,
To get back to her question, I helped Aaron open. We opened, uh, De la Vina and I was there for four or five months opening. So we left, um, our great kiddos in charge downtown. And then eventually I just went back downtown because we felt like we needed, uh, someone at both.
And that’s just kind of how it’s always happened. And I was always at On Bar even when it was just Aaron and I, I mainly was on bar. He eventually wasn’t on bar anymore. I enjoyed that part and he was more like always how he is now, like front of house I think.
Um, and I wish I could be more in that position.
I just needed to train more and get myself off cuz I’d rather be able to walk around, relax and talk to people just for some reason and pigeonhole myself into this. It’s a goal definitely to, to change that.
You’ve got your post [00:41:00] in the meantime,
I think my last question for you is, if you were gonna give a piece of advice to any business owner who’s looking to maintain quality and operational excellence as they continue to grow and get very real or theoretical lines down the block. What’s your piece of advice?
You go, you go for it. It’s hard because we were both so driven as athletes. So everyone that we were surrounded by on our team, our teammates, everyone, like they have the same goal. They wanna be the best in the world. So we’re just, we’re just wired that way. So it’s so hard, even with sometimes with staff to be like, Wait a minute, what do you mean that’s good enough?
Right? Because it always, like every cap I make, I’m still striving to do the best one. Like it’s just how I am. And if you’re just gonna come in, there’s so many people, so many people have approached it like, Hey, how do I do this? You know, we’ve sent them to the coffee school that we went to, but unless they have the passion to [00:42:00] actually work in it or to like it really, I don’t know.
I mean, I’m probably battl, but No, no, you’re not The desire to just, Just the desire to create something that you’re proud of and every day and every day you open the door. Like it’s the same, like you want the best experience, you’re just always trying to push the limits on being better. And that’s, that’s why you open something is cuz you wanna, you wanna provide that place and you wanna do great.
So that’s just, I don’t know, you can say what you want, but
No, I think to go on along the same lines, I mean, I think if anyone can watch any Chef’s Table series of any, any, any of it. I don’t know how many there are on the restaurants between lot, Most of ’em are Michelin star restaurants, which obviously lots of people don’t eat at, but it, it doesn’t matter, it’s just about the trials and tribulations of, of the, the person behind at the restaurant tour. Some are super successful, some who had me mega failures, and some who had, you know, [00:43:00] all kinds of dependencies and, and come overcome that and gone to the top. But mainly that said is it just takes a certain mindset and I think that we have that same similar mindset.
We hit the ground running every day. There’s never really a day where we wake up and we don’t go to, We don’t wanna go to work. And there’s never a day where we’re not trying to be better than we were the day before because it’s the only way to do the same thing every day and not get burnt out is to challenge yourself.
And we are never where we want to be. And you’re only as good as the team you can build. And you always wanna build a better team and you always wanna give them better training. And while we have an an amazing team, It always changes. And so you have this, um, you’re ongoing, The training’s ongoing. We learn from, sometimes from, from employees that have rad experience and some is have even come from, you know, corporate like Starbucks back in the day.
And we’ve learned that they have, you know, great customer service. Um, they [00:44:00] don’t know how to make coffee, but
Yeah, . I was thinking the exact same thing in my head. I was like, Huh, okay.
But they have things that we learned more so in the earlier years. Like, Oh wow. There’s just some things. It starts with customer service. Yeah. Um, and so there’s, there’s always a little thing, so we never feel like we know it all, but, but yeah, I feel like, um, it’s,
Anyone can open a business. Yeah. Anyone can open brick and mortar, but
tell the people who. Who care that, you know, you walk in like, come on in like this. We’ve, we’ve trained for this, We’ve trained for you to come in. Like, we want you to come in here and if that cup’s not good, I want you to bring it back. Like, I want you to tell me, like, I don’t wanna be like, Oh, whatever and whatever Yelp. Like, no, we are sweet or just driven to be, you have to have a passion or anything in life.
You won’t succeed. You’ll just be mediocre. Yeah. And it goes with everything right. Exactly what you’re doing. You’re creating, your new business’s gonna be amazing cuz you just always have that, you know, that positive, that glow around you and that’s [00:45:00] just that contagious and,
And you great questions. Yeah.
Yeah. I can’t answer. You could answer
You guys did a, you did a great job.
I put you with a big one at first, which I know is
Well I knew it was coming, but now was, Shoot, did I supposed to read something? Cause I didn’t know.
So, okay, so let’s go back to that. So now that you’ve had a moment to like think about all the things that you’re great at. there anything else that, um, Aaron, I’ll, I’ll throw this to you cuz, cuz Kim answer. Is there anything that you’re proud of that you wanna celebrate yourself for? You guys have been waking up every single day and making coffee.
362 days a year for 12 years.
bakes. He’s up at three and he bakes. It’s amazing.
Oh my god.
Yes, he does everything. He does everything.
It’s probably a, it’s probably one of my downfalls, but I, I’m not really like, um, I, I, people have asked other, I’m not like a super proud of, I, I always feel like I’m never achieving enough. Had a conversation with somebody that I, that I [00:46:00] admire, I look up to.
The other day, and I’m like, probably one of my downfalls, not like I have but is that I never, I never feel like I achieve enough. So I’m never, I mean, and that, and I think it’s a good thing, but it’s not because like he said, Well, if you never feel like you have done anything great or good enough, then you’re, you never can really, um,
Like in cycling there were like benchmarks,
Like you’re never done. Just like on to the next benchmark.
France, like there was in here. It’s like they don’t really have those.
When you’re in a business, don’t really reach like a goal that you’ve been training for and then reach that one. Now it’s my next goal, like it’s, It’s so different than what we’re used to. Yeah. You’re usually achieve it and then you’re like, Okay, perfect.
Now that you are driven to go even further,
Yeah, I get that.
I don’t know. Yeah. So I don’t, I could try to make up something, but I don’t have a good, I don’t
[00:47:00] No, no, no. Don’t, Don’t make it up. Don’t make it up. I think, um,
along lines of what Kim said, if I can think of something. Um, just that, you know, that I guess you have the, that you help build something that, that it, that, that makes someone’s life slightly better even though we either. We could do more in life to make, to improve people’s lives. We’ve set it back. We should do something else like go work in the Peace Corps or something like that.
Cause that would feel more like you’re more tangible, more like you’re actually making an impact. How can you help bring people water or something basic, but something, so, so necessary. Yeah. And people said, you guys do that. You guys just don’t realize what you guys do for others because. You don’t, you’re not bringing them food or water or things they need.
You’re just providing it. And then they’re coming and seeking you out and aligning their style or their vibe with what you, what you have. So, so in a way, even though it, you don’t really realize that, um, yeah, maybe we help a lot more of the [00:48:00] masses than, than we think and provide a, you know, a stable place or a place where people can feel welcome.
Cause, uh, one thing I always. mention is you never know if it’s someone’s birthday anniversary. And then people come all the time and I’m like, Oh, what are you guys doing? You know, maybe I, because we almost recognize everyone that comes to the door, not totally this to these days. Like if we would recognize them if they have almost, because we both work at, and so some guys, we’ll strike up a conversation.
Oh, you have, you’ve been, if you’ve been here before, you know somebody, been people. Oh yeah. I come in all the time. I’m like, Wow, I don’t recognize ever seeing you.
But especially with the masks, you were like, Oh geez.
Yeah. But then a lot they haven’t, or they’ve been in once before, but it was five years ago and you know, on a busy weekend and.
They’re like, Oh yeah, it’s our anniversary or it’s our birthday. And then that’s pretty amazing. Cause they came on from LA from San Francisco and one of the places they came to first, or, or one of the, you know, on their routine of, on the list four places they wanted to go to. And they, you’re like, Wow, that’s pretty, that’s pretty special.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s really special. You are on the list.
Well, you are on our [00:49:00] list.
Thank you both so much. Um, I know that you work really long days and you are like you said, like very, very in it. This is an awesome conversation. It was so cool to hear just a little bit more about what goes into what you’ve done, which is really, really special and really unique. So if you can’t feel proud of yourself, I hope you know that we all feel really proud of you.
I’m not, not proud, I just dunno what I’m proud of and I dunno. I’m probably good. A day off probably. Yeah. Not good at expressing it, I guess, or I, I can, I can’t pinpoint the one thing. I probably proud of something, but I, I’ll have to like,
we’ll definitely take a day off. Um, and thank you both so much. Like I said, I, I know your time is precious and I really appreciate it.
Not now, Not now, not now. Maybe. Okay.
I get it. You gotta, you got a big community to serve.
Thank you. It was fun for us too.
Thank you so much.
There were so many great moments [00:50:00] of that conversation. I really loved how Aaron and Kim kind of like found their groove. I asked them to do something that they, um, is not a part of their normal day to day. And so, um, after a while, I kind of got to see this like fiery. Perspective, um, when they talk about the high standards that they have for their business and, and the product that they make.
And so I love so many moments of this conversation, but what really strikes me most is how genuinely humble, committed, and driven they are. And so it’s no wonder that their coffee shop is so wildly successful. Thanks so much for listening.
Oh, and by the way, you can order Handlebar and have it shipped to you. So if you wanna try this coffee that I will not stop raving about, you totally can. Um, you can go on their website and you can order a bag and have it shipped directly to your house. It’s gonna be roasted super fresh, and it arrives really quickly.
And feel free to reach out if you need some tips on how to prepare it.