Friday, November 5, 2010

The Roasterie Newsletter November 2010

Dear Roasterie Friends and Family, November 2, 2010

My, my, is this the most beautiful fall you’ve ever had in your entire life? It is absolutely stunning! Today I had to snap pictures of the streets in Brookside as I was driving away from the church where we vote; it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting and I was flooded with wonderful childhood memories. I sure hope you’re enjoying it and getting some quality time in for your favorite outside activities.

Lebanon and breaking in WallyJ.

We had a great trip to Lebanon at the end of the summer and really enjoyed our time with family and friends there. I read about 6 months worth of New Yorker magazines and a few books that I’ll mention later. Over the years I’ve found that when I feel like I really cannot leave…that there is too much going on…that is when I need it the most. And, as I mentioned in my last letter, we hired Wally Piepho as our CEO just a couple of weeks before we left and the three weeks we were gone gave him the perfect opportunity to jump right in. He did a stellar job and we came back to a better company than the one we had left.

Over the last few months I’ve thought a hundred times or more “I should have done this sooner!” But, as with most things, they happen when they happen for a reason. I’m just thrilled that Wally is on board and one of my favorite things about him is that he is a great teacher and developer of people. This is one of his many gifts and a talent that I truly admire. It’s also allowed me to focus on the things that I enjoy the most and where I can bring the most to the party. A friend of mine asked me, “Would you rather be in control…or in charge?” I most positively do not want to be in ‘control’…of anything. But there is a great deal that I can and should be in charge of; and want to be. Everyone is different but this is certainly where I am.

One of Wally’s first moves was to bring in Steve Dolezal as “Sales Bean”, aka Sales Manager. Steve is from a small town in Iowa like Normy and I can most assuredly say that ‘he gets it’. He loves people, food, work, serving others, sales and coffee. He has been busy getting us organized and if you have not met him yet, you will likely meet him soon. Steve doesn’t believe in luck or miracles…he believes in old-fashioned service and I am confident that you’ll find him delightful to work with.


Of course, another added ‘Benny’ of having Wally on board is the extra time it gives me for the kids. Terry just turned 5 years old and Sophia turned 2 years old back in July. They both speak Spanish, Arabic and English and are comfortable in any culture that we set them down in…from running through coffee trees to playing with their cousins in the mountains of Lebanon, they simply don’t know a stranger. We feel blessed and not a day goes by that Carla and I don’t remind each other of this. I just treasure my time with them and we are on one mission after another, finding adventure around every corner. One of Terry’s favorite “jobs” is his work at The Roasterie Café in Brookside. He puts on a name tag, sports a serious look, gets his spray bottle of water and a towel and cleans chairs and tables every Friday. He chats up the customers and everyone, especially him, loves it. Sophie is content to watch and eat pumpkin bread. And as much as Terry loves any and all coffee…Sophie hates itL! This could put dad on a couch in some office if it doesn’t change soonJ.

Hello Leawood!

The Roasterie Café Team opened up for business next to the Apple store in Leawood on Monday, November 1st. It is a delight and by our second day we already had several hundred customers. The folks in Leawood simply could not be nicer…La Bodega has been very helpful; Andre’s across the street, our friends at North sent pizzas down for our staff while they were training…it’s just been heart-warming. We LOVE the way the Café turned out and want to welcome you all to come and visit. In fact, if you come out and send us your photo in front of the DC3 mural, you will get a free cup of coffee and register to win free coffee for a year (and a yummy dinner for two at JULIAN for a Sunday night meal)J! Chef Celina Tio will draw the winning name this Sunday at 7:55 P.M. right before her “Next Iron Chef” show comes on. Oh, and check out the insanely, outrageously delicious, Roasterie Coffee Ice Cream floats, made with our homemade Roasterie Ice Cream (available only at Leawood or at Roasterie factory tours Monday – Saturday 10:00 A.M.).

We will be having an open house at the new Café in Leawood on Thursday, November 11th from 6:00 – 8:00 P.M. 50% of all sales will go to the Blue Valley Educational Foundation and we hope that you can come by and see the new store as well as contribute to a worthy cause.

Roasterie Brookside Café just celebrated 5 years and they are doing great. They won KC Magazine’s “Best Coffee House in Kansas City” for the 4th year and we are extremely proud of their dedication and commitment to Specialty Coffee and customer service. If you have not experienced the new brew bar or our $7 per cup Geisha coffee…you might want to soon; it’s a delectable treatJ.

As you may have noticed, Leopold Gallery ( has installed a variety of wind sculptures in front of The Roasterie Cafe over the past two years and now Leawood. These mesmerizing works are by the renowned sculptor Lyman Whitaker, who also shows in Santa Fe. To learn more about his work, just drop by the gallery at 324 W. 63rd St. in Brookside. They have 40 sculptures on display, and will be happy to answer any questions you might have. Paul also handles all of the art in our Cafes and we are grateful for his assistance over the years.

Stormin’ Norman

Normy was awarded a once in a lifetime award by the Roaster’s Guild in August. We kept it a surprise and I got him out to Oregon by telling him that we were going to visit the ‘Spruce Goose’, which we did. We also visited Michael Sivetz, the inventor of the fluid-bed roasting method (‘air roasters’) which we feel are the best roasters in the world as they never burn the beans (haven’t we all had enough burnt beans and heart burnL?), roast every bean perfectly, and deliver a beautiful, clean, bright flavor and aroma in every single cup. It was beautiful and surreal at the same time…sitting in this old church in Corvallis, Oregon nearly 17 years to the week when I was first there to train on my first roaster…’Baby’, as we affectionately call her. It was like coming home and to be there with Normy was a treat that I will cherish forever.

Normy’s peers named this award in his honor and it will only be given out to those who exhibit the character, honesty, hard work and dedication to the craft that Normy has these last 43 years. And I suspect they won’t be handing too many of them out as there are simply not many Normy’s out there.

We are keeping him as busy as ever and one of his favorite tasks remains the tours, Monday – Saturday at 10:00 A.M. They are always free and he just asks that you call or email us (816-931-4000 or ) so that he can brew enough coffee. He made a video of our history and will soon be moving his cupping room to an expanded cupping and training room overlooking the green coffee and production space. The tours are a great way to learn about coffee and have a ton of fun. The Roasterie Café in the factory is open during all tours as well and we have lots of fun merchandise like the best brewers in the world, old-fashioned Roasterie lunch pails, coffee grinders, etc. And, our spectacularly delectable Roasterie Coffee Ice Cream Floats. Yum!


In September Paul and I visited our friends at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI. I’ve been a huge fan of Ari and his team since the late 90’s and have always admired his philosophy, dedication to quality and customer service. Their total commitment to all things local is something we’ve tried to emulate since day one. If you have not had any of their world-class food products from any of their 13 or 14 companies, go online and check them out. You’ll be glad that you did.

We then went to Chef’s Garden outside Cleveland to experience their tour and back stage operations of perhaps the best supplier of vegetables in the world. It was beyond impressive and made the Iowa farm boy in me just want to get in the fields and go to work. They have a very impressive program for school children where they basically ship a garden in a box with a full year’s curriculum for the teacher. The kids grow their own vegetables and learn a wealth of knowledge that they could never get from a book. We learned a great deal that we’ve already implemented on our tours and added to community engagement programs that we are involved in.

You may have noticed new labels on our coffee bags in the grocery stores? We are contributing a % of sales to them, as well as when someone purchases their coffee from our website. I’ve mentioned over the years my love for the work that this organization does…bringing uncontaminated water to poor communities, and the fact that contaminated water is still the number one cause of death of infants worldwide. We encourage you to contribute to this worthy organization and we always remind ourselves that $25 can bring clean water to someone for life. Thank you.

In September we hosted a KCPT Harvest Dinner here at the factory with renowned chefs Michael Smith of Michael Smith and Colby Garrelts of Blue Stem. Our heartfelt thanks to all of you who came, to these great chefs, the KCPT team and board, Diane Boone who organized it and the awesome Roasterie team that pulled it all off. We had great local sponsors and everyone agreed that we should make it an annual affair, with all proceeds going to KCPT. We’ll let you know when we schedule the dinner for next fall.

Our new website is up and running! Please check it out ( We have a slew of gifts for just about any holiday occasion and any price point. Lots of fun stuff…and you can even have us write your cards (hand written) and send to your friends and family all over the country. If you don’t see exactly what you want, please call us (816-931-4000) and we’ll be happy to design a custom gift package just for you. Several folks already have and we’ve designed several corporate gift packages for clients around the country.

It’s about being local

We have been fans of doing business locally since our founding on November 4, 1993 (17 year anniversary this week) and are happy to see that it seems to really be catching on with the general public as well. We are thrilled that the folks at Farm to Market bread are working on a special bread incorporating our coffee that Blanc + Burger has already agreed to buy, before even tasting it! Blanc already serves our coffee and a coffee encrusted hamburger (you will die…simply delicious) so this just adds to the fun.

We’ve worked with Marcel and Connie at Andre’s since 1994 and they were one of our very first customers. Finding the right coffee to go with their world-renowned 100% Swiss Chocolate was no easy task, but they created the perfect combination with their new “Reserve Caramel Collection”. Their Espresso incorporates our Gotham Espresso Blend and each time we buy a box, they evaporate before our eyesJ. Look for these and other Andre’s Chocolates at their stores, our Brookside Roasterie Café or at

Joe Polo of Original Juan’s teamed up with Chef Ali to create one of the best BBQ sauces that we’ve ever tasted, using our Super Tuscan Espresso Blend. Chef Michael Smith tasted it and immediately planned a dinner where he will feature it. We love it enough to have consumed 5 cases of it with just our staffJ! It is available at Original Juan’s store just down the street from our factory or in our factory store here in the plant. Check it out.

In August Jeff Stehney and Doug Worgul of Oklahoma Joe’s came to our plant and created their own custom blend. It was the beginning of a great relationship and look for many new products coming from them, incorporating our coffees and espressosJ.

We continue to work on our Shatto-Roasterie Coffee flavored milk recipe. LeRoy Shatto is the master and is every bit as picky as we are. We continue to refine it and it just makes me hungry thinking about it. Most of our team would have been happy many versions ago…but we are continuing to tweak it…stay tunedJ!

Finally, a ‘coming home’ type of a story; we were long time Sprint customers for all the right reasons: local, great people, great products, etc. However, somewhere along the way we had some technical issues that we couldn’t resolve and several years ago we had to part ways. But we never felt comfortable not being a Sprint customer and always hoped that it would only be temporary. Last year we met Dan Hesse, their CEO, and we fell in love with him immediately. We appreciated his honesty and the transparency with which he shared his story. Then we found out how much of a coffee hound he is and invite him and his wife down for their own private cupping…and the “Dan Hesse Blend” was formed; as well as a friendship where Dan has a company of admiring fans. I had the privilege to meet several of Dan’s classmates from Notre Dame this year while visiting the campus and my admiration for him and the job he’s doing grew stronger yet. We became a Sprint customer again and I could not be happier with their new Evo. But more importantly, I am so happy and proud to support the ‘home team’…Dan and his team has earned it. We have a saying in our company that says “local supplier wins all ties”. We don’t feel that anyone should get a free ride just because they are local and we are just as demanding of our local partners, in terms of quality and service, as we are of anyone else. But my hat goes off to Dan and his team for their leadership, perseverance, and awe-inspiring turnaround efforts. And lastly, what they do for our local community…much of it behind the scenes. Godspeed to you Dan!

New Beans?

I’m happy to report that Paul “Bean Hunter” Massard has not been sitting around on his duff. Normy has been cracking the whip and Paul and his team have really been getting after itJ. It was just about a year ago today that Paul and I were finishing up our drive from Kansas City to Panama. We loved the Toyota Tundra so much that we put it in a box and shipped it back and Terry and I drive it on weekendsJ.

We also fell in love with several micro-lots (we currently have coffee from 28 different countries), one of which I mentioned earlier, our Costa Rica Geisha, that we’ve introduced only in our Cafes. We hope you’ll check it out and find out why it’s worth $7 a cup.

The rest are being introduced next Monday so please check them out at either the Cafes or at Paul also submitted several of our coffees for review at Coffee Review and received some very laudable scores, including a 91.33 on the Costa Rica Geisha. Our new Bali was a huge seller at the Cafe and scored a 92. We sold out of Tanzanian Peaberry, which scored a 93.

Suffice it to say, we continue to buy the best beans that we can find on the planet, roast them the best way known to man (air roast), and get them to you, the customer, as fast as is physically possible. Paul and I will be visiting small farms in Colombia in a few weeks, some of which we’ve been buying from since 1998. We’ll visit the community center that we’ve supported over the years and share stories in our next newsletter.

We are sponsoring a Roasterie Coffee Martini Competition during the first quarter of next year. Our own Ryan Maybee has helped us organize it and you’ll be hearing much more about it. For now, stay tuned and let your favorite bartender know that it’s coming up so they can get some early practice. We’ll be partnering with several local companies and all proceeds will of course be donated.

Great Books

There are so many great books out right now that I feel guilty that I cannot read them all! A few of the ones that I really like, in no particular order:

Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. I was fortunate to be able to meet Stephen Dubner a few weeks ago and talk to him about this book and his philosophy. I told him that I could never sense his own bias…that he never seemed to have a ‘dog in the hunt’ with respect to the topics they study. He took that as a big compliment…which is how I meant it and why I love him and his books so much: he is innately curious and loves to study data and people and find the basis for many interesting problems and trends. A fun, fascinating and intensely interesting book.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. I really like this book and am not quite finished with it. It is not an anti-internet book, but Nicholas Carr offers substantial and unbiased evidence for how the internet and technology is changing us, our children and the way that our brains work. Lots of applications, both for one’s business and perhaps the way they raise their children or teach, etc. Very worthwhile read.

The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley. When I hear two or three of my smart friends tell me to read the same book, I do it. And this is one of them. I’m in the middle of it and absolutely love it. It’s basically about how trade and commerce has helped us to evolve and prosper and how much better off we are today than ever before…and more importantly, how much brighter our future will be than our past. I am loving this book and the author goes fairly deep in his research and arguments. If you are lacking confidence about mankind’s future, then read itJ!

Well, I am about half way through the topics on my list but had better close this or I’ll have to call this a bookL. The Roasterie Team and I thank you graciously for giving us the opportunity to serve you these last 16 years, 11 months and 363 daysJ. It has been an absolute dream and we stand in awe of what many of you accomplish on a daily basis. We sincerely thank you for your support and confidence and never, ever take it for granted. Please do not ever hesitate to let us know how we can better serve you. My email is still and please let us know how we can improve.

For fun, I thought I’d close with this little story that I think about nearly every day. For me, it’s about family, friends and fun…and if not, then it’s highly unlikely that it’s worth doing.

A tale…with an important lesson.

An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a tiny boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The businessman complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."
The American then asked why he didn’t stay out and catch more fish. The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

He answered, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I eat a relaxing dinner and play the guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life senor’."

The American scoffed, "I have a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat; with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several more boats, eventually owning your own fleet. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you will run your expanding enterprise."
The fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will all this take?"
To which the American replied, "15 to 20 years."
"But what then senor?"
The American laughed and said, "That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."
"Millions, senor? Then what?"
The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll into the village in the evenings where you could eat a relaxing dinner and play your guitar with your amigos."

We remain at your service and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.


Danny O’Neill

Bean Baron

The Roasterie, inc.

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