"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.