“Guys! Get in for a photo! Come on, everyone in! Sal! Stop trying to avoid the photo! Everybody look! Okay here we go...10...9...8...7…. “
These were some of the first moments of 2016 with myself (Alex) forcing photo memories on everyone else, Sal trying to avoid my enforcement of photos, someone saying some kind of random joke that sends everyone else into fits of laughter, and over all, a very dysfunctional photo of a dysfunctional group of people celebrating the New Year. We didn’t have plans, so we created our own. We didn’t really have a good place to go, so we brought the Holiday cheer to our favorite four walls of this tiny little shop. Complete with pizza, beer, bourbon, Cards Against Humanities, and some great staff and friends, it was a great way to bring in the next year of 2016.
And here we are a year later. So much has happened. Yes, a ton of crappy things have gone on in this year - it’s been the worst year for many a soul. But what I’ve found is that sometimes it’s the weirdest and craziest years that bring on the most soul searching, which, in turn, brings on incredible amounts of growth.
Our shop has been through a whirlwind in 2016. This time last year the shop, the staff, the plans were nothing like they are today. Some things are not the way we would have chosen or planned them, yet some other things are better than our wildest imaginations could have led us to dream. So as I sit here, thinking back on a year that’s made me cry from both extremes of sorrow and happiness so frequently, I wanted to highlight 5 moments or growing periods for us in 2016.
1. January 4. Almost immediately into the new year, we acquired a sweet coffee roasting business called Magic Beans. Schuyler, the previous owner, had raised this thing from the ground up, built a solid customer base, created profiles that are still some of the staples we use today, and then passed everything to us, leaving the roasting in the ever so excited hands of our So Pro Joe Bro. Joe shifted from being Shop Manager at A Cup of Common Wealth to Roast Master at Magic Beans. We were able to integrate it moreso into our brewing line up, and we all began to learn more about the process over time. Magic Beans has added a whole new element of life to this company and to our team. From the learning curve of roasting coffee, to the development of relationships with the customers we got to take on, it is such a great new and growing section of A Cup of Common Wealth’s story.
2. March 19. On this day, our lives, for staff, customers, and fellow community members, changed drastically as we learned that Katie Stewart, one of our former long time baristas and friend, died tragically in a hiking accident. As I sit here writing, I still don’t even know the words to describe the pain that began to seep in as we realized more and more how real it was. Katie was sunshine and life. She had been a crazy fun barista to work with, and had kickstarted our Marketing department. She had left in 2015 to pursue some new internships and jobs, eventually landing her at Crank & Boom Ice Cream lounge, where she helped grow their marketing department as well. But during the whole of her transitioning, she stayed a loyal friend, and came in frequently. I remember the last time I saw her was her birthday just 5 days before. I made her a silly little birthday hat out of a cappuccino cup and snapped a photo. She was beautiful and everything lovely.
The hours and next morning that followed seemed to last forever. I remember the only place I wanted to be was at the shop, with my people, my friends, my family. I remember all of us going through phases of fighting tears and trying to stay strong for customers who came in to find out the news, or already knowing and wanting to receive some comfort. I remember hearing one of my co workers cry in the back room, and witnessing another rush by me, his eyes watered up, hoping to avoid any eye contact. That night we honored her memory at Crank & Boom. We all came and sat at a back table and shared some stories of who she was. There was no one else I would have rather been with than those people around that table. The next few days were just as hard, followed by a mini road trip up for the funeral where again the tears were all too real. As we walked out of the church, another staff member said to me “Maybe we’ll all stop getting mad at each other for little things any more.” I knew she was right. And in the days and weeks that followed, I felt as tho nothing could rip apart this family. The little things didn’t matter any more. We had each other. And that was enough.
3. April 2. Welcome to the family, Common Wealth Mercantile (#FeelTheTeal)! To bring us to this date, I have to backtrack. One of our biggest and most constant complaints was the lack of seating in our establishment. We understood, we got it, we totally agreed. Yet the fact of the matter still remained, that there wasn’t a ton we could do about it, especially in the winter. Then, enter the vacancy of the space next door to us. We chatted with our landlord, talked it over with each other, and decided it was the best decision to invade the empty space and turn it into our new retail store. We set a soft open date of literally a week later and spent the better part of each day cleaning, painting, arranging, reorganizing, rearranging, repainting, and dreaming up this new part of our home. The locations stayed separate for a few weeks, allowing for overflow seating, and a little quieter of a space for anyone who preferred it. Then on April 29, we broke through the wall, making it one large space altogether. It’s been a crazy transition - things are constantly moving, new retail is in continuous circulation, and you never quite know how many tables and chairs you’re going to find. But we’ve been increasingly grateful for everything it’s allowed us to do, have, offer, and everything we can pursue in the future.
4. This past spring and summer brought a few months of sweet reunions, milestone moments, tough goodbyes, and crazy fun times with our staff. We celebrated with Evan and Allison as they each got engaged to their significant others just a few weeks apart and started planning two off the wall staff weddings for which would count down the days (and still are! #EnglishWedding2017) We welcomed two of our former staff back for the summer - the much loved Basil Ray and Bonnie Hance, who had some free time to spend with us slinging coffee. We said goodbye to one of our best baristas, Michael Russo, via one of our best surprise parties yet as he embarked on a new adventure in Colorado. We all celebrated A Cup of Common Wealth’s 3rd anniversary block party - one of our favorite days of the entire year, and had our first ever Staff Retreat, where we closed for the day and hung out at some of our favorite businesses, played a Break Out Game, and had a cook out in the park. Our staff hadn’t been so full in a long time and we absolutely loved it. The summer came to a close and with it we said goodbye to our summer staffers, and our long time Marketing Assistant, Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast, joke loving Zach Weezelpuff Wooldridge as he pursued a job of teaching English overseas!
With the changes of staff were the addition of 6 new fam members over the course of 6 months - starting with Daniel in May, and including Joey, Selena, Laura, Lee, and Thomas during the fall. These goobers have added so much to our family already. Looking back to all of the changes in our staff, while we miss those who left in this last year, we can’t remember what life was like before this new slew of crazies joined.
5. Our community that surrounds us has always been our favorite thing about what we do. We love getting to do life alongside many other entrepreneurs, non profit directors, business owners, and passionate Lexingtonians working to make this city a better place. We’ve seen new breweries, restaurants, and shops open their doors, new buildings start to go up, projects come to fruition, and dreams begin to take shape! We’ve seen this community celebrate with friends during their successes, and come alongside one another during dark times. We’ve seen people rally behind causes to promote love and encouragement, and we’ve seen money and time donated to help someone who needed it. We’ve seen people go crazy over fundraisers for organizations and families alike, and we’ve seen love shared between so many “strangers” over a common cause. Yes, 2016 was hard in so many ways, but we’ve seen that our city, our neighborhoods, our coffee community, and Lexington at its core, is so much stronger and united than we ever dreamed.
There are so many more things that have helped shape this year. Some really really hard, and others really really good. There have been a lot of personal, community, and political issues that we’ve had to face. There have been a lot of times when things seemed pretty hopeless. But there have been so many more times where our Coffee Fam has reminded us of everything that’s important, and why we are who we are today. When we sit back and think about all the people who walk through our doors, we’re truly overwhelmed. They aren’t just customers, and we aren’t just their baristas. They’re our moms and dads, they’re our shop grandparents, they’re our brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles, they’re our nephews and nieces, and they’re even our own pets that we love and cherish as our own. This crazy community is everything to us. I know for myself I get teary eyed just thinking about all the love that is passed in those walls. We’re so thankful for so much, from our boss, Papa Sal, who kicks ass every day, looks out for our well being regularly, and is the biggest reason that mission is our back bone today, to our Grandpa Don who teaches us to laugh at the little things and enjoy sweet solitary moments of a cup of coffee in a rocking chair. And from our baristas who make a point to learn as many names as possible, to our customers who bring our baristas gifts just because they were thinking about them. And from our daily fits of laughter, dancing, and singing, to the moments when we just want to hug or punch each other (it’s generally either / or). 2016 has been such an incredible year, filled with incredible moments. Moments that pushed us and made us grow. Moments that made us realize everything we had and everything we loved.
These are the moments that we share with these people. And these are the people that make this place home.
From all of us at A Cup of Common Wealth, Happy New Year!