Showing posts from October, 2007

The Ruining of Stella Maris

On the shores of beautiful Lake Sagatagan, on the land owned by St. John's University in Collegeville, stands a quaint little chapel originally built around 1915 and lovingly restored around 1945. It is very small, only around 500 square feet and is made of field stone and mortar. Inside is a floor made of a locally quarried dark granite. In the center of the floor is a white, six-pointed star set in a circle of reddish stone. It is not used regularly, not officially anyway, but there is a path that circles around the lake that leads to this pretty little house of God and it has been open to the public for as long as I can remember.

When you looked at that chapel, with its uneven fieldstone walls, you could see the work and sweat that went into building it. The stones came from the surrounding fields, gathered by local farmers as they plowed in the spring, and were somehow transported across the lake where they were used by local laborers and monks to build a small testament t…

Big Wheel Keep on Turnin'

The reality of losing the Meeting Grounds in Sartell is really starting to set in this week. Tuesdays were the days that they would call and place their order and I would roast it. Yet here I sit not roasting coffee for them… or for anyone else.

I seem to do better when someone else is running the show. In the music world it's George or Jeff, they book the gigs and organize the shows, I show up, do my part, collect my pay and go and wait for the next phone call. I am horrible at pimping myself.

The world of business is weighing heavily on my shoulders these days. I know I have a great product, I know that people who drink my coffee for the first time are surprised that coffee can taste so good, but I don't know how to get out there and "sell, sell, sell!"

Today I found out that I am in a bidding war with Bernick's Pepsi to do a fund raiser for Cathedral High School. I have to outbid someone who can bury me in their deep, deep pockets. They're offering shi…

Jumpin' Punkins!

I am so doing this for Halloween!

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Amateur Jazz Night

We played in Brainerd last night for a Halloween costume dance -- a little early, if you ask me, but there you go. We were contracted by a guy named Dave, he plays the trombone a little and he sings a little, but he's not that good at either.

Jeff, Scott & I got paid to sit there and read charts of mostly jazz standards, with a few 50s rock songs thrown in. 15 couples in costume danced. My favorite costume was a young lady who was about 7 or 8 months pregnant in a form-fitting red evening gown with devil's horns. I really wanted to ask her if she got pregnant just for the costume -- that really shows some Halloween dedication!

Dave is a very amateur performer, but his heart is in the right place and he's very enthusiastic! All night he kept saying that we were "the best in the world!" and that we had played everywhere, from coast to coast. I felt a little like Shinola.

But I digress...

I really felt like a music whore last night. We played such a cheesy …

Not Really Good News

I got a call on Monday from one of my best customers telling me that she was being forced to close her doors and give up the business. The Meeting Grounds in Sartell is no more as of Tuesday last.

Certainly, this sucks for me because that store was good for around $1000 a month and kissing $12,000 goodbye is no easy thing. But I am more concerned about Joyce, the owner of that particular store.

She's a very nice lady. I always enjoyed talking "small business" with her. We were both very open and honest about how things were going, and I know she was constantly struggling to make ends meet. Yet she always managed to pay her bills and her employees. As usual, it is the business owner who is the last one to get paid and I know that was a source of hardship for her.

I'm really going to miss her.

Band Adventures: Getting Lost & Running Out of Gas

The variety band I play guitar in had a wedding gig at the Calhoun Beach Club in Minneapolis. The last time I played there was when I was in a college jazz combo back in the 1980s. It was a very nice reception, beautifully decorated with hundreds of votive candles. We even had some crashers from another reception in the same building, I guess they got tired of the DJ. The bride & groom let us quit about 15 minutes early and even tipped us.

"Cool," I thought, "I'll get home earlier than I thought," which was great because my girlfriend was waiting for me back at my house and since our time together is somewhat rare, every minute is valued.

Jeff drove, "I'm pretty sure there's an exit for Excelsior on highway 100, so if we head west we should get there." So off we went. Apparently he got a little confused because we got to France Avenue and he said, "I'm sure there's an exit for France on 100," and he turned left. I'm no…

Hemp for the Future

Recently I was listening to Science Friday on Minnesota Public Radio and heard a show titled "Fuels for the Future." It concentrated on ways to get ethanol from various sources such as corn, switch grass and even algae. Ethanol-based fuels are one possible way to lessen our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels, and should be researched and developed by those of us in the US and throughout the world.

Corn is, in my opinion, just about the worst source for ethanol, even if it is the most researched. In 2007 the US farmed 92.9 million acres of corn, which is the highest it has been since the height of WWII in 1944 when we farmed 95.5 million acres. The best way to grow corn these days is with tons of nitrogen-based fertilizers, what is not used by the plant is washed away by rainfall and irrigation. A majority of that fertilizer makes it way to the Gulf of Mexico and is a direct cause of a 6-7,000 mile square zone that has formed where nothing grows, a "dead zone" …

Current Trends in Coffee & Commerce

Well, I've had some time to calm down since my last post. I still don't like the guy in Little Falls, but I'm not sweating losing a small account, despite the fact that they were the ones who called me first (that still bugs me), and as Kate put it, "At least you're not working for a bitch."

I am obviously going to have to reconsider my business plan. Originally we wanted to contact every "mom & pop" coffee shop we could and become their roaster. Unfortunately, things aren't working out like that. It seems to me that the locally-owned coffee shop is becoming more and more rare.

People sure like building new strip malls, instead of finding older buildings. American consumers like things convenient, they want to go to one place and get everything. That's why places like Wal-Mart exist. But even the people who don't want to shop there still want everything centrally located.

So we keep building places where you can shop at many stor…