I remember two years ago in March walking from the University of Kentucky to this place called A Cup of Common Wealth. I hadn't really heard much about the shop before, but I knew that I could get a free drink and that's the only incentive a college student needs. So I walk half a mile to a small building on a small street with some weirdos inside it: some quiet guy named Joe and an excited girl named Basil.Read More
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So, lets keep getting to know the Jeffster. Below are the rest of the questions we asked Jeff to help you all get to know him a bit better. Enjoy!
11) What advice would you give to your 50 year old self?
Make the most of every day. With being older comes different responsibility from being young. Redeem every second the way you tried to when you were younger.
12) If you could hang out with anyone, real or fictional, past or present - who it would be and why?
There’s a podcast in England called the Football Ramble. It’s my favorite podcast because somehow they manage to be really professional in their analysis but also have a really good time. If I could hang out with any or all of them, I think it’d be fun. When people are able to have fun in their profession, I think that is a good indicator that they have a good head on their shoulders and they tend to make good friends.
13) What are you reading right now or plan on reading next?
I’m reading Gaston LeRoux’ The Phantom of the Opera.
14) Where do you want to travel to next?
It probably won’t be next, but I’m dying to see Eastern Europe. I think the culture seems so raw, so underappreciated, and yet it’s so classic. There’s a ton to see. I’d love to visit, maybe even live there at some point.
15) Describe one of the items on your bucket list.
This should be an easy one to fulfill, too…I’ve always wanted to get a straight razor shave. I just have to decide when I’m willing to part with my beard.
16) What do you do outside of work?
I’d like to say I do a lot of reading, but it depends on the book. Sometimes I read quickly, other times very slowly. I’m also rediscovering my joy in music – I especially love to sing. Not a lot of people know that about me, either – and selfishly, it’s fun when they find out and are shocked. Sometimes I write songs but often times I just like to sing other people’s songs that I enjoy, because I’m not a terribly creative person; songwriting is difficult for me. I also love and lose myself in the game of soccer – I’ll watch just about any game from any league in the world; I love playing (we have a plethora of soccer balls in my house that we dribble around the place) and I love listening to podcasts that break down the game. I’m always trying to understand it more, and I never tire of hearing about it.
17) If you could be a Superhero what would your name be? Your Powers? Your Supervillain?
I don’t know.
18) Describe your perfect day.
I awake around 6 AM, refreshed by 8-10 hours of sleep. I spend a little bit of time reading while I drink coffee, and then watch an early game of soccer. After the game, I go get breakfast (my favorite meal to eat) with a friend, where we sit and converse for hours on end about life, friendship, work, God, and anything else that comes to mind. Maybe later in the day I go to see a movie (in theaters preferably) and have a few drinks with even more friends before we play some music together at my house, and once we have worn our voices out, we call it a night.
19) In a perfect world - what would you be doing, where would you be living, what would life be like?
I’d like to do more with music, so in a perfect world, I suppose I’d be playing music with some of my good friends, and we’d record and play a few shows, but not travel too much (I’m a homebody, which is why I decided years ago that the band life ultimately wasn’t for me!) Honestly, I’d probably live here, but I don’t know. I’ve been here my whole life, and I’ve never had much of a reason to live anywhere else. But I suppose wherever you live, the most important thing is that you’re surrounded by people and activities you love, so that’s what matters most to me.
20) What makes you fun?
I like to think that my propensity to make puns is something that sticks with people. I have some people who ask me every time they see me if I have a new joke, which makes me smile. I also have a tendency to get really excited about really silly things – like Election Day or some new report that breaks something down numerically – and I think people think that’s funny.
21) If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
Breakfast: preferably some over-easy eggs, bacon, biscuits with sausage gravy, and some hash browns. I’d be a gassy man, but a happy man.
22) How do you unwind from a stressful day?
Playing soccer helps me a lot. It takes my mind completely away from every other issue.
23) What's your philosophy on life?
I just try to enjoy things as much as possible. If I’m playing sports and my team is losing, focus on the fact that I’m playing a really fun game. If I’m going to sleep, I think about how amazing it is that my body and mind are getting rest. If I’m working, I think about how much impact it has and that makes it easier to enjoy. I find a lot of joy in a lot of things that are sort of odd. I get giddy about Election Day results, regardless of who I voted for. I get myself excited about walking to the bank. There’s always a reason to be excited about something.
24) What makes you genuinely happy (when you can't help but smile at it)?
I realize this may come out of left field from a guy with no kids, but really good parenting. When I meet a kid who is well-behaved and polite but does so in a very natural way, I think that’s wonderful. I love when parents treat their kids with respect and dignity, and they teach their kids good manners without being fearmongers. I just think that creates a lot of functional people, and that’s worthy of a smile.
25) What's your greatest accomplishment?
I graduated from college completely debt-free. I think that’s a rarity, and I’m really proud of that.
26) What is one of the most valuable lessons you have learned?
In college, I was a psychology major, and if there’s anything I learned, it’s that there are a plethora of reasons for which people behave the way they do. I value that a lot, because a lot of times I want to rush to conclusions about people and what they do, but it gives me a lot of pause and forces me to think and try to consider all of the reasons why people are they way they are.
27) What's something you would like to do over again?
When I was in high school, I was in a band. Even now, I have mixed feelings as to whether or not I’d like to be in a band, but I really miss performing and practicing. I really would like to get back to that at some point, even if it’s not in a full-time or professional manner. I just miss performing for people.
28) What's your go-to entertainment right now?
I’m pretty hooked on FIFA and/or Football Manager on my phone.
29) Who are some of your mentors and why?
There are a couple of guys in my church who’ve mentored me for, I think, 6-8 years now. At first it was forced mentorship – we had set up a program in my youth group in which you just chose who you wanted to mentor you. I chose a guy named Ben, and he’s been one of my best friends and my mentor ever since. The other is my pastor, who took me under his wing when I was starting college and expressing some interest in ministry. I guess the ‘why’ is because they’re two folks who never made me feel unwelcome, and who always made me feel valuable.
30) How do you stay informed with everything that is going on in the coffee industry?
Shoot, I don’t even do it nearly as much as I’d like! I guess it’s mostly through talking with our vendors. I love to shoot them an email and find out what they’ve been working on, what they’re excited about, and what’s new with them. They do a really good job of spreading the passion of coffee.
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.