“No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
Growing up, I was the kid that always won the award for selling the most candy for the elementary school fundraiser. I didn’t win by my parents digging’ deep to buy a bunch of candy just to give it away for the holidays. I wanted to see how many people I could ask to buy candy from me. I set some crazy number in my head, and I just kept going every day until it looked like I needed to beat the streetlights by “just enough” to make it home without getting in trouble. I wasn’t concerned about how much candy the other kids bragged about selling. I suppose that in my little kid mind, that if I worked as hard as my imagination was able to grasp; I would win. And to me, the work to win that prize was worth doing.
I recall another year my kid sister and I wanted to buy our mother something special for Mother’s Day. We were kids without an allowance. So, at our next trip to the library, I checked out a kids craft book. We found a project that our budget could afford, paper Carnation flowers (ironic right?), and we sold those little yellow, white and red flowers made with pipe cleaners and green floral tape. Door to door, at .50 a piece until we sold out. Yeah, it was hard, but to have the ability to buy a gift for my mom with money that I made was work worth doing.
I get asked the all of the time what brought me to open a coffee shop/roaster. And I love telling the story all of the time, never gets old; it’s a testimony. My first job out of college was as a stockbroker at Charles Schwab. That fact has a great deal of significance as to what brought me to owning a coffee shop in the Zionsville Cultural District.
On first day of training at Schwab, you watch a video. They literally have a mantra that says, “At Schwab this not just a job, but a career, with an opportunity to do the best work of your life.” That stuck with me. Every day that I came to work, I always remembered that mantra, and let me tell you that it certainly pulled me through the dot.com crash. To me, that was work worth doing.
Because my first experience in corporate America was so mission-centric, my expectation for every subsequent employer was no less. It had to be where I did work worth doing. Mrs. D and I decided to move to Texas, we were a young couple still trying to find our “sea-legs”. And then when Allie, my daughter was on her way, we decided to move back to Indianapolis. I worked at few different firms, but I never found a place that was even close to Schwab. So, I’d had enough. I saw that Starbucks had open interviews; oddly enough the interviews were at the Zionsville store. I got the job.
I’d heard about how Starbucks employees treated each employee with respect, calling the employees “partners”. After working there for about a month, my manager gave me her copy of Howard Schultz’s book, “Pour your heart into it: How Starbucks built a company one cup at a time”. I saw this as the opportunity to again work hard at something worth doing.
Starbucks Coffee was not always the place that sold latte’s, mocha’s and blended drinks that they are known as today. Howard Schultz introduced the latte as his little pet project, in the corner of the retail roasting shop, and very quickly the beverage offering took on its own life. I read that part of the book, which is probably the most worn of any book that I own, I had a spark ignite. Maybe I…
Coffee means a lot. There are customers that come to the shop that say they can’t imagine drinking a cup of coffee, but they love the smell. To be honest, at first, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker, but my memories around coffee were pleasant. Even as I am typing this, I feel myself grinning.
I knew absolutely nothing about coffee roasting. And the knowledge base that I had acquired about coffee was from my coffee passport, the tasting guide that gave me an indication of pairings, processing and flavor profiles. I knew that I didn’t have enough money to afford a coffee roaster, and I didn’t want to waste money on an inferior coffee, so I went to Sweet Maria’s, a home coffee roaster bean supplier and bought my first 5lbs of coffee and a few days later I was at work roasting coffee.
At first, when I was learning how to roast coffee, it was all about this new cool project that could potentially turn into a business. But then it became something a bit more. We, the family, started to sell at the Farmers Market first Greenwood, then Zionsville. Darrin’s Coffee became about building something for my family. It was something, Saturday’s in particular, that worked to bring us closer together.
I had a customer, some dude really, that came into the shop and subsequently started to talk about how all of these other local coffee shops had terrible coffee. Or how so-and-so did this wrong, or did that wrong. So after I handed him his coffee, I asked him the same question I ask everyone. “Please tell me what you think. Don’t be shy, because you cannot hurt my feelings.” He then told me that it didn’t matter to him how it tasted, he just wanted to support.
It’s at that point; both the Charles Schwab mantra and President Roosevelt’s quote came to mind. Truthfully, they really did. I didn’t open the store or work there like a maniac expecting sympathy, because that’s what everyone has to do. I opened up Darrin’s Coffee on Main Street in Zionsville because to me, doing so would be hard work, it is work worth doing.