"How did you open a coffee shop in Seattle?" That question comes up more regularly in my life than "What's the wi-fi password?" The simple answer is that since day one I've been responsible for and hands-on with every single aspect of the business. I work the shop, unclog drains, run social media, deliver cold brew to wholesale accounts, design every window decal and punch card, run payroll, curate art shows, file taxes and do every single chore that I ask of my employees.
While putting the 10 Year decal on the window this afternoon, the irony wasn't lost on me that ten years later I'm still doing all the same chores I took care of in 2009. I think a lot of folks have a vague idea that a successful business is one that multiplies over time while the owner or owners distance themselves from the day-to-day tasks until they wind up behind a desk. There are plusses and minuses, but staying small and staying hands-on is actually a positive when it comes to understanding your business while still making a decent living.
Spending my teens to early twenties heavily involved in DIY punk isn't necessarily helpful or applicable to business (more anti-business than anything) but it also created a desire to make space and goods more accessible to more folks. Capitol Hill is an expensive neighborhood, and for better or worse, Porchlight is always one of the last shops to raise prices despite our own cost increases. In an effort to keep things more accessible and attempt to keep costs down while staying profitable, I am a manager, barista, delivery driver, graphic designer and window washer--and that's a-okay!
A lot of coffee shops these days start up with well over $100,000. They follow traditional business plans, have investors and usually enough funding to last them through months or years of poor sales. When I opened Porchlight, I didn't have any of that. My opening costs were the financial equivalent of a used car, then I worked 70+ hours a week until I could afford to work 60 hours a week--then 50 and so on. Slowly, I upgraded from used makeshift countertops to custom ones, then a better espresso machine and grinders. I actually ran the shop for two years without an ice machine until I could afford to buy one. The 6AM trips carrying 7-11 ice bags were not fun.
That being said, I didn't learn all of these things by myself. I asked a lot of questions of friends, family, Herkimer Coffee (who are the most knowledgable friends/family in the coffee world) and learned when to bow out (see plumbing and electrical work). Another aspect of all this that I frequently bring up to folks is that you should never try to swoop in and capitalize on a neighborhood just cause it's booming. I love Seattle, went to school and worked on Capitol Hill, played music with friends that also lived in the neighborhood and the neighborhood was good to me. When you open a business in the place you call home, the neighborhood wants to support you. I felt that in 2009 when I was getting the hang of it all and I still appreciate it to this day. When a well-financed business comes to cash in on a bustling part of town, neighbors notice. Stick to what you know.
If you scrolled to the bottom to find out the answer to the question, it is as simple as "Do all the work you can, stay hands-on, ask questions and buy some merch from the touring bands." A successful business doesn't have to have multiple locations, silent partners or $100,000 in startup money.
February was a fun one. First off, I designed a three-color poster for the Sharon Van Etten show at the Neptune. The show was fantastic too.
I also released a small book/bound zine of collected vintage maps and brochures from Washington State called Visitors. I illustrated the cover and took care of all the photography as well. It's available for purchase at Porchlight Design Co.
In an effort to start consolidating some of my creative outlets, I created Porchlight Design Co. Until now, Close By had been the offshoot of Porchlight as a Northwest-inspired online retail shop, but to avoid confusion and simplify the Porchlight brand, I decided to change to Porchlight Design Co. Using the Dandy Man logo I created for Porchlight Coffee & Records, I used a version of him for the Design Co. The majority of the products are designed in-house, but some books, prints and hardware are made by other folks.
A while back I decided to start carrying a small selection of greeting cards for our merch section inside of Porchlight. Tons of folks grab a card while getting their coffee, so I try to add a design or two every now and then. I added some non-holiday cards--one with happy faces and the other features a peppy "HELLO!"
This month I also designed a shirt for my old buddy Michael, aka Telekinesis. He and I grew up playing on the same soccer team as preteens and reconnected as adults as we both wound up involved in the arts. He's an incredibly sweet dude and his band has a great new record out. Luckily we are both mid century modern fans, so we devised this design together. This t-shirt will be available on his upcoming tour to promote his new album, Effluxion.
February brought a lot of snow days in Seattle, as well as some fun projects. Here are my favorite photos that I took around town during the month.
The main highlight of the month is the release of Mid Seattle Volume 2. This new volume includes a whole new batch of photos, as well as an index of notes relevant to each building. The cover photo is the home of architect Audrey Van Horne who, along with her husband John Van Horne, built the house in 1953. She was generous enough to let me visit with her for a few hours and take some photos.
This issue was paired with an enamel pin based on the well-known Seattle car wash sign.
Porchlight Slipmats are found online, at Porchlight, and other shops across the US, Canada and Japan. The new design is a spaceman floating in space, surrounded by rockets, spaceships and Earth. Hopefully he won't drift too far.
I also revived an old sketch of Squints from the Sandlot and turned him into a one-color screen print. You can find it for sale over on Etsy.
Lastly, a recap of my favorite photos from January:
This design was for a super small run of tote bags to celebrate the five year anniversary of the city-favorite wine bar, Le Caviste. A friend who happens to work at Caviste got in touch asking me to design it as a surprise for the owner, David. Inspired by David (a true salty dog) and vintage clothing labels, we decided on this two-color tote design--all in French. Sadly, the totes are not available to the public and only a limited number were produced. Big thank you to Ink Knife Press for printing these.
Sera Cahoone is one of my favorite folks to make posters for. This solo speedboater was an idea I've had for a bit, but wanted to save it for something special--and Sera approved.
Generally, I think it's a little presumptuous to give the gift of one's own art, but I made this for my dad and it is very up his alley, so it was a safe bet. Plus parents aren't allowed to tell their kids if their gift is a dud. If you're unfamiliar with Mold-A-Rama, it's a plastic souvenir-making machine that began in the 60s and became quite popular at the Seattle and New York World's Fairs. A few dozen still operate throughout the US today. My illustration is based off of one of the machines at the Seattle Fair that my dad attended as a kid and mold I featured is modeled after the Monorail that was available in 1962.
A month or so ago Seattle Magazine got in touch to ask me about designing pins and a page full of my pins are now out on newsstands.
I tend to take a lot of photos with my Fujifilm and here are some of my favorites from the month of December.
For the last 9 years of Porchlight, these two things have been a constant and sometimes it's nice to pay homage to 'em. These prints are available via the Porchlight Online Store.
Early in November I also contributed a print to the Artists For Progress group show benefiting Northwest Immigration Rights Project and Everytown. The theme of the show was "Truths Are Lies, Lies Are Truths". All pieces were auctioned the night of and my piece, "Viewer" found a new home.
As the proud owner of a beat up 1982 Datsun pickup truck, I've been plotting this little ornament all year. After thoroughly Googling whether or not anyone had made a "Dogsun" joke before, I came to the conclusion that I was a true pioneer and visionary. These guys are available via closebyshop.com
A few years back I started making candles that are sold via closebyshop.com and at Porchlight. This month I made a limited run of "Campout" candles--Cedarwood, Pine, Rosemary and Spruce blended together using all natural essential oils and soy wax. The labels are matte black on a glossy black glass vessel.
Lastly, here are some of my favorite photos from November...
First, a poster for the wonderful Vera Project. It's the third in a series of posters for them to promote their "Live From Our Living Room" series. The poster will be screen printed later, so I kept it to three colors, and as usual...animals doing human things!
Next, I designed a logo for a podcast entitled "Grief/Relief" with Moe Provencher.
Even though the Mariners were yet again absent from this year's playoffs and World Series, I still watched most of the post season on TV. I found myself rooting for the Houston Astros and couldn't help but work on a little Sad Astros illustration during their painful defeat.
I wanted to liven up the coffee bags at Porchlight, so i redesigned the labels, started using matte black bags and gave them a handsome classic look. Here are the new labels:
More Porchlight design stuff: I updated our light box with a real punny good time.
This poster is for the nice folks at Do206 and their second annual Seattle On Ice show. The idea of the show is to transform the venue into a snowglobe, so this design was only fitting. Coincidentally, Cumulus and All Star Opera are both bands that I've designed for in the past.
A month or two ago, Heritage Distilling Co. got in touch about making some pins for them. They have 5 locations in Washington, advertise with the Seattle Mariners, and make a brown sugar bourbon that tastes like Christmas. I designed two pins and backers for them. The gold pin is their still and the bottle is the aforementioned brown sugar bourbon.
Early in the month I took a very brief solo trip to Big Sur and San Simeon--and as always I brought my camera and stayed in a motel on Highway 1. In the two-and-a-half days I was there, I went on some hikes, read books and took photos. Most of my favorite photos of the month came from that trip. On the way back to the San Jose airport, my flight was delayed, so I stopped in Monterey. While I was there I stumbled upon the coolest pool I have ever seen. It had a drastic window looking out on the parking lot and a sloping ceiling. At first I took some exterior photos and finally decided to ask the kid at the front desk if I could go in and take photos. He generously let me in and now I wish I had swam in it while I had the chance.
As a fan of mid-century architecture, taking photos of mid-century architecture, and drinking date shakes, Palm Springs is one of my favorite places to spend a quick vacation. See my photos of some of my favorite buildings in town right here.
There are a few fun projects to recap from September, but the biggest project was the release of the first volume of Mid Seattle. I started the photo project less than a year ago as a way to collect images of the still-standing mid-century buildings in Seattle and then later decided to bring it to physical fruition. I photographed and designed a 40-page volume of photos, complete with addresses and construction dates and then packaged it with an enamel pin and two postcards. The first volume is available here, and you can follow along on Instagram.
Next, I started a three-poster series for the all-ages champ, the Vera Project. Vera is a wonderful all-ages venue and community space that helps youth get involved in music and hosts local bands, national touring bands, and other performers. The first poster in the series has four versions of "VERA IS ____" with rotating descriptors.
Using elements of the Happy Animals Print, I created a softcover journal with over 160 blank pages and three not-so-blank pages. It's perfect for on the go journaling or sketching. Grab one at Porchlight or online at Close By.
The Showbox is a long-running venue in Seattle that holds a special place in most Seattleites' hearts. It's currently facing redevelopment and most everyone in town has voiced a strong disapproval. My contribution towards saving the Showbox is a poster design for the folks at the venue, depicting their very prominent signage.
I'm not much of a painter, but to help with some last-minute decorating, I painted some tabletops for the VIP area of the music festival Bumbershoot. Colorful raindrops for all the important folks.
As always, here are some of my favorite photos from the month of September.
A quick little recap of last month's projects...
First, some new pins for Seattle's oldest camera shop. The otter shirts I designed for them have been a big hit, so we decided to make some little pins of the same design.
These two commissioned prints are for the brand new Danforth Apartments. They'll be permanent pieces inside a common area for...ev...errr.
The first shows a woman taking a very happy dog on a ferry ride, with the Seattle shore in the background. Not sure if dogs are actually allowed on the decks of Seattle Ferries though. I'll have to check. The second is how I picture a sixty-year-old ad for the apartment building.
This month I also decided to turn my "Coffee & Records" design into a pin. It's been used on all sorts of good stuff at Porchlight and I thought it'd be nice to have an even more accessible option for the design. Even accessible to cats.
The third pin of the month was via the promotions/marketing/everything company, Polite Society, who is working with the aforementioned Danforth Apartments. They commissioned a pin with their ad campaign's motto: "Live Well, Do Good, Have Fun."
As always, here are some of my favorite photos that I took during the month of August. Many were taken driving from Seattle to Redding and Seattle to Portland.
Here are a few of the projects that came to fruition in July. First is a poster for my buddies in The Sidekicks. They love basketball and gave me free rein, so obviously I featured a basketball-playing dog.
Next, I was commissioned by a new apartment building, The Danforth, and local marketing folks, Polite Society, to create a print for a contest that was raising money for the Humane Society, Country Doctor, and Artist Trust. Along with two other artists, I was asked to create a print the conveyed an idea of local community. Having lived in Seattle my entire life, the image of folks flocking to green space at the sign of first sun--May or June, has always been stuck in my head. Everyone tends to be a bit more smiley, talkative, and spread out in parks and beaches with cheap prosecco and rosé. The design itself was inspired by the Eames film "Powers Of Ten", which shows an overhead picnic scene in the first few seconds of the film. The print is 12 x 16 and limited to 12 copies that were all distributed via the contest.
A couple months ago I found a pretty ugly late 90's Leica point and shoot film camera for $50. I finally finished a roll and thought I'd share some of the gems.
As with every month, here are some of my favorite photos I took throughout July.