Today marks the final day of service for Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters‘ pop-up cafe at Firehouse 8 (1648 Pacific Ave), in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. We sat down with Wrecking Ball co-owner Nick Cho for his first interview since announcing Wrecking Ball's departure from Firehouse 8.
You're shutting down the coffee bar after just a few months. What happened?
We all want to know – What's next for WBCR?
The main thing we want to do is to serve people the best coffee beverages we can. We'll continue to roast for our beloved wholesale partners and look for pop-up opportunities around the Bay Area, but the priority is to find locations for permanent Wrecking Ball coffee bars. We've engaged with some truly fantastic folks in San Francisco (especially our friends at the newly launched Marla Bakery, and we're more than thrilled about our future prospects. In the mean time, we've also got an active mail-order business and our North American importing and distribution of Kalita coffee brewing gear, thanks to the incomparable Elise Hogan (@elisehogan).
Tell us more about your WB team – you've got some great people working with you, we'd like to know more about them!
Bonney Johnson (@bonnex_) and Scott Yost (@scott_yost) are absolutely cherished, respected, and precious to us, and we're keeping them on staff full-time to work on some special projects. It also gives us extra time to help them learn more about all things coffee, all the while preparing them to be the key staff for our upcoming coffeebar(s). Speaking of which, Chicago coffee folks should look out for Bonney – she'll be in town with Trish next week and she's a veritable force of nature.
You've had years of experience running specialty coffee shops, but anything special that you learned during this particular stint?
We experimented with new ways of keeping a very limited array of offerings (only offering lumps of sugar as a sweetener, only offering 2% milk for milk drinks, no syrups of any kind, etc.), while trying not to be a place that's known for saying “no.” You'd be surprised how willing to compromise folks are when you work hard to be deliberately gracious and sympathetic in your conversations about it. Also, contrary to conventional wisdom and beyond what even I thought was possible, you can make 1.5 liters of pourover coffee (3x 500mL) at one time. Bonney and Scott were doing it all the time.
What's the long-term plan for Wrecking Ball now?
Elise is continuing to grow the Kalita USA (@KalitaUSA) availability, with Intelligentsia, Stumptown, Counter Culture, Prima, and Irving Farm among our newer wholesale partners, along with an exciting and well-known national specialty products brick-and-mortar retailer (T.B.A.) slated to carry Kalita gear later in 2013. Trish is juggling her Wrecking Ball roasting and green coffee grading while working in her capacity with CQI as their Director of Q and Educational Programs. Eventually, we're working towards building a world-class coffee educational institution, to help provide our industry with the knowledge and training that will push us all forward. But as we mentioned before, our priority is opening shops to serve people great coffee the ways we know how. While it's become a trend in our industry to use the barista job as a stepping stone to other things, we truly believe that the barista is the core of coffee and coffee service. Nobody else gets to serve coffee to so many people, and that's as high a calling as any in our coffee world!