COFFEE CREW OF A CUP OF COMMON WEALTH: JEFF POLING
We’ve been so lucky to meet so many people since we’ve opened shop. First-timers have become regulars; Regulars have become friends; and Friends have become family. Then of course, there are our baristas - our foundation. Not only are they amazingly talented people, they are in many ways the heart and soul of the shop and the ambassadors of our mission.
We thought that (maybe) you all want to know a little bit more of the people that serve you ever day. So, we’re going through some of our baristas and introducing them to you, a little bit at a time, asking them loads of super serious questions.
First up is none other than, Jeff Poling.
Jeff was born in a little town just outside of Toronto called Ajax in the providence of Ontario, Canada. As cool as he finds that (and as much pride as he has of his birthplace), he actually moved here when he was only 6 months old, so he doesn’t have a ton of recollection of his hometown. Ever since then, he’s been in Kentucky. He lived in Berea for his formative years (he’s still in love with Berea and he’d love to live there again) and made his way to Richmond for college, and then Lexington after that. He’s never had much reason or desire to leave this great state.
Jeff has been working since he was 16, and working in coffee since he was 19. He believes that he didn’t necessarily choose coffee, but it chose him when he was a broke college student needing to stay on top of tuition. He fell in love with it, but his philosophy has always been what his first manager at Starbucks put in his head: “We’re in the people business, and we just so happen to serve coffee.” He’s kept that in the back of his mind ever since. While the coffee industry has been incredibly good to him: providing him a way to graduate from college debt-free and providing him with a ton of fun workdays ever since.
Outside of work, he’s toyed around with a bunch of different hobbies over the years, but only lately had a couple really come to the surface. Now that he’s older, he has realized the joy he gets from music – as a hobby when he’s alone or as a cathartic experience with other people – and writing. He’s a big believer in trying a lot of things and then deciding on what you’re good at as well as what you enjoy the most. Once you’ve figured that out, do it!
But, above work, hobbies, and anything else in life – he’s a big believer in community. He’s convinced that people are designed to do life together: help each other in seasons of need, celebrate with each other in times of celebration, and love one another at all times. That, he believes, transcends everything else we do as people…it should bleed into everything we do as people, and it makes life better – and that’s the legacy he hopes to leave.
And, the super serious questions we asked Jeff (here are the first few, more to come next week) --- check out below:
1) What drew you to the coffee industry?
Ha, this may not be the best answer, but I’ll give it anyway. So, I was a sophomore in college, still living with my parents. They were mostly okay with me being there and helping me out, but my dad wouldn’t let me keep going without a job, especially since I was trying to pay school off as I went along. So I had to start looking for a job, and my friend Kyla, who was an absolute Starbucks nut, said I should apply at Starbucks. I didn’t like the idea because I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did – but I applied and it was the only thing I got a response on. I loved my job there, and I’ve been in coffee ever since.
2) Why A Cup of Common Wealth?
I was working at another coffee shop in a city south of Lexington, the owners of which knew Chris and Sal, so I met them before A Cup of Common Wealth even opened. Then the time finally came when I made it up to Lexington, myself, to see A Cup of Common Wealth, and on my third or fourth visit, I was offered a job working a day a week. I asked if I could do more than that, and the rest is history. I fell in love with it really quickly – how accepted I was by the staff and the customers, and for a guy from a small town like I was, Lexington was such a big deal.
3) What's your favorite coffee drink and why?
Honestly, just black coffee. Ever since I started drinking coffee, I’ve kept a pot on almost incessantly. It’s my favorite thing under just about any circumstance – waking up and playing a Sudoku; reading a book; having a conversation; running errands; watching a soccer game; it’s just so low-maintenance and high-reward.
4) What's your favorite non-coffee drink and why?
Beer. It’s good in social settings, it’s good when I’m alone, it’s good when I’m relaxing, and it’s good when I’m doing paperwork or writing. And, in moderation, it’s not bad for you.
5) What's your favorite part of being a barista?
I like to serve people. I believe that we (as human beings) are made to serve each other, and this is such a great avenue for that. I relish an opportunity to give someone exceptional service – sometimes I’ll spot someone driving past the shop to find a parking spot, and I can start their drink. By the time they get inside, it’s ready and waiting for them, and they’re usually so impressed, even though it’s a natural part of my job to remember that stuff – but I love that feeling. I love serving.
6) What is one of your guilty pleasures?
I’m a teeny bopper at heart. In my movie and CD collection, you’ll find all three High School Musical films and their soundtracks, and both Camp Rock films. I have tons of movies directed at kids – Despicable Me, Frozen, Tangled, you name it. One of my best friends accuses me of being a sixteen-year-old girl. It’s hard to argue against that.
7) When is the last time you broke a rule and what was it?
I, unquestionably, exceed the speed limit every single day. No doubt about it.
8) What's something about yourself that you wish more people knew about you?
I love having guests. I never had my own place until I turned 23, and so I never really had the chance to be a host. I’ve only gotten a few chances to do that in my new house, but the feeling of preparation is exciting (and I’m forced to clean my house) and I’m also an extroverted homebody, so the best possible combination for me is having people around, and having them at my house.
9) What's your favorite holiday?
That’s a hard one. Every holiday has its own stresses and joys. I tend to think Christmas, though, mostly because it has the best of every holiday put together – the joy of Easter, the togetherness of Thanksgiving, and the gifts of birthdays. Being with other people is the best mark of any holiday, though.
10) What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?
You’re going to be afraid of a lot of things – trying out for sports teams, moving to a new city, going through red tape and applications for jobs, college, etc. But the reality is that everybody is scared of a lot of things, and having a little fear and apprehension doesn’t make you different – it makes you human. Nobody is confident about everything.