This is the second (missed the first?) in a series of posts about the people and stories that inspire us. We’re motivated by the dreamers and fearless doers who mold matchless products from their deep passion. Telling their stories is our way to salute their success and say thanks for the inspiration to be better at our craft.
A couple weeks ago, we visited our partners and friends in Chattanooga at The Farmer's Daughter and Copacetic Coffee, whose delicious and minimalist collaboration have inspired us from the day their doors opened. Copacetic Coffee is located in The Farmer's Daughter restaurant, serving up excellent coffee to restaurant patrons and walk-ins.
The Farmer’s Daughter is owned and operated by Ann Keener and Mike Mayo. Ann is the "Farmer’s Daughter." They have been holding “underground” dinners throughout the fair city of Chattanooga for the past 4 years.
Ann and Mike believe that the future economy depends on conscious consumerism and that the bowl you sip your soup from is just as important as the soup. The Farmer’s Daughter is the resting place for these dinners, where Ann and Mike hope to grow and share their appreciation and love for the local economy of food.
The hint of spring made a good excuse to take the back roads to Chattanooga, so we dusted off the moto's from a winter's slumber and rode down to learn more about this team that inspires us. We connected via email after the trip. Here's their story.
CREMA: The Farmer’s Daughter and Copacetic Coffee have been open for a few months now. Though you’ve each had your hand in other projects before, what are some things you’ve learned (about yourself, hospitality, your community, etc.) from the unique experience of opening the Farmer’s Daughter and Copacetic?
Mike (The Farmer's Daughter): Ann and I have learned all kinds of things. Both our folks are small business people, so we grew up around the constant demands of doing your own thing. So, naively I felt reasonably prepared for the constant juggling, but I am nonetheless awed by all the moving parts of even a small operation like ours. I’ve been surprised by who our customers are vs. who I imagined they would be. Tuesday through Friday I bet over 50% of our customers are over 65. Would have never guessed. I think our menu is really accessible generally, and our style of service is like a diner, so there’s that. I think the idea of supporting small sustainable agriculture is much more resonant with people of my grandparents generation than they often get credit for.
Andrew (Copacetic Coffee): I like forced friends. That’s kind of what happens from behind the bar anyway. You make someone’s drink a few times, then suddenly feel strange when you don’t know their name. The friendship unfolds from a casual, unforced interaction, and at some point you become interested in more intricate details of each other’s lives.
Similarly, I found that this happens with coffee. We decided to present it in a way that was very approachable and simple. The genuineness of the coffee surfaces either immediately or with time, based on the customer’s engagement. An interaction as simple to a person as getting coffee becomes a learning experience or point of discovery that develops into a much more engaged relationship.
I’ve definitely been surprised at how receptive our customers have been to the simple menu we offer. It’s such a different experience than what you find elsewhere in town with coffee, I was sure there would be daily backlash. But there hasn’t been.
People are generally intrigued and curious about our simple focus on quality.
I think something is communicated without words when you do what you want to do because you fully stand behind it. I’m also extremely grateful for the receptive nature of Chattanoogans.
Scott (Copacetic Coffee): As with what Mike said, the people we thought who would be walking in our doors vs. who in reality is there has been surprising for sure, but it has also been great. I think us (Copacetic) having a limited but approachable menu helps out immensely. Our menu is small, simple, and really exciting at the same time. We have very few components, if you will, in our menu--but they are ingredients we can stand behind 100% and are very proud of. I think when folks see our excitement and stance on what we are trying to do, they generally respond well to that. Does that make sense? Also, without The Farmer’s Daughter doing what they are doing in regards to food, We would not be able to do what we are doing with coffee in that space. It’s really a beautiful scenario.
CREMA: You guys do a good job of fostering community in and around Chattanooga, working with several local farms, and collaborating with CREMA and Velo for coffee. Why is local and regional tag-teaming important to you? Have you found that Chattanooga rallies behind a place intent on developing community?
Mike (The Farmer's Daughter): We believe that great communities are a product of small business and individuals investing in one another. This connectedness empowers us all to push the culture forward together. I think Chattanoogans are getting behind what we’re doing because of our stance on quality, and our sincerity.
So many people everyday interact in very structured corporate service environments, where the service staff has a script, that when someone comes in and has a great qualitative experience and is treated in a sincere and nuanced way, they react well.
Then, after developing a natural relationship that comes through regular interactions, like Andrew mentions, I think the value commitments we have begin to really resonate, and some of our customers get excited about our intention.
Andrew (Copacetic Coffee): I agree with Mike and think that you should pursue what’s important to you or you’ll find yourself doing something you don’t like. For Copacetic, we serve products that we are in love with. I have always thought Cruze Dairy milk was the best milk I’ve ever had. When we had the opportunity to serve and shed light on our favorite things, it seemed a no-brainer what we would do. I think you can capture customers’ curiosity because your interest is infectious. And I think that’s a much better way to involve people than any other form of forced evangelism.
CREMA: You actively promote and work with artists, film makers, blacksmiths--anything else?--in Chattanooga. What role do you see yourself playing in the city’s art scene? Any cool things in the works?
Mike (The Farmer's Daughter): Like it or not, consumerism is the American religion. Consciousness around food is really percolating up through the American culture right now, and we are really trying to figure out how to leverage the spotlight on the food scene to help our community move towards conscientious consumerism.
If you’re aware enough to care where your kale came from, it’s not a big jump to care where your plates, bowls, skirt, etc., comes from.
So that all sounds a little bit philosophical, but those values guide how we fit into the local art scene. When we built out our space we integrated the work of local artists and craftspeople, and then hosted a meet-the-artist event and invited the public to come and interact with us and the artists. Coming up on April 18th we are hosting a Q&A with an Atlanta street artist who is doing a weekend workshop on the free art movement and making work. So yeah, the point is, its all the same value structure and it all helps grow our communities and it’s all fun.
Scott (Copacetic Coffee): It also helps having a lot of wildly talented friends, who we want to support in anyway we can. From our logo, to bar design, countertop, shelf brackets, etc., we were able to turn to our friends for their creative input and approach. It feels good to refer inquiries back to those friends from people who admire what they see in our shop.
CREMA: From over here in the Music City, it looks like really great things are happening in Chattanooga, coffee-wise. We of course truly dig Velo. What are some things you love about serving coffee in Chattanooga? What do you think you guys (and others) are doing well to craft a great coffee experience for your city?
Mike (The Farmer's Daughter): The guys are crafting a great coffee experience by being accessible and approaching all their interactions with a gracious spirit. Anyone can bring quality to the table, anyone can make the decision that their product is going to be the best and then develop the technical expertise to deliver. What Copacetic does exceptionally is craft a quality product and guide the customer without being pretentious or holier-than-thou.
A customer asks, “Can I have the dark roast?” The guys generally explain that the beans are roasted to highlight the best characteristics of the beans, and often follow with a simple toast analogy. If you have a piece of white bread and a piece of artisan bread and burn the hell out of both, they are qualitatively indistinguishable. To me, this is a perfect example of how Copacetic sincerely wants to educate our customers and pull them into what we’re doing.
Andrew (Copacetic Coffee): Man, there are GREAT things happening in Chattanooga in regards to coffee! I’ve never been more excited. There are so many shops in town that are focusing more and more on the intricacies behind coffee extraction, and are genuinely caring more and more about quality. It seems like all this budding creativity is being fueled by engaged customers. And then there’s this super positive community around quality driven shops...it’s really inspiring and helps validate what we are doing.
Our focus from the beginning has been to involve people with coffee beyond a transaction. It seemed a bit like a gamble at first...to offer coffee with no flavorings and with no facade that would tell you if it was any good. There was also this element of tedium behind the bar that made sense to us, but could be perceived as superfluous by restaurant staff and customers. But I think the approach is successful in disarming people and inviting them to explore as much or as little about the coffee as they want. I think people can sense that we want to respect the coffee and respect them.
I also think the shared-space thing is a phenomenal way to symbiotically help each other exist. We could not do what we are doing without Farmer’s Daughter. They are awesome!
Scott (Copacetic Coffee): I agree with Andrew--right now is such a great time in this city for coffee, and for the community surrounding a more aware coffee scene. It’s a wonderful thing to have friends in other shops to talk with, and learn from all the time. Essentially, we are the end of a very long line from which coffee came. We just really want to respect all the efforts before us, and do what we think is a proud representation of such efforts.
CREMA: People in Nashville love visiting Chattanooga. Maybe we all secretly want to live there? Either way, we’ll all be coming down for a day trip soon (all 600,000 of us). We’ve got a full day in town--what do we do?
Mike (The Farmer's Daughter): Damn, 600,000 people can do all kinds of fun stuff. Go to Velo, come to The Farmer’s Daughter and Copacetic. Go play outside. Truly, the city is pretty swell, but we just do stuff outdoors. There are awesome trails going up Lookout Mountain, and we have some friends who have an awesome site called rootsrated.com that will tell you all kinds of places to go outdoors. That’s all.
Andrew (Copacetic Coffee): Sounds like you’ll want to do a cafe crawl. Good idea. As soon as you pull into Chattanooga, swing by Pasha in St. Elmo. Pasha is a Bongo Java shop that features rotating roasters such as Tandem and Verve via pour over. From there, you’ll want drive into town to visit the coffee district on the Southside. Camphouse serves Counter Culture very nicely and usually has four or five of their coffees to choose from. Literally across the street is Mean Mug, who serves Velo Coffee. Further down Main St. is Velo Coffee, which is open Wednesday thru Saturday, 10-3. Ask about the bikes. You’ll want to swing by Warehouse Row after that to visit Brash Coffee, an Atlanta-based roaster that does a fine job. Finish up your coffee guzzling at Copacetic Coffee and make sure you come hungry!
Scott (Copacetic Coffee): Yeah, you're gonna want to prepare thy goozler. Lots of great coffee in this city. Plus, Chattanooga is so close to so many awesome outdoor adventure spaces, so you can easily fill your days exploring our beautiful city. Hope to see you soon!