she pours, she pours
Everybody’s busy. Or, so they want us to think they are.
It’s the morning after a pop-up at Sprout, one in a series of locations that Melissa, founder of Everybody’s Busy held over the last few weeks. As she does, and each one pops into my Twitter timeline and Instagram feed, I’ve watched as if I’m charting her moves with a pushpin to a map. Curiosity has led me to interview her – about what she’s doing, why a Pop-Up now and how busy she or everybody is or isn’t, to have coffee. Now in Conversation with Melissa.
Coffeetographer: What did you have for a coffee?
Melissa.: What I had for coffee? I had the popup at Sprout yesterday. And the weather wasn’t so good, it was kind of crappy and misty. I wanted to be there at 7, got there at 9 and started at 10. I went to Dark Matter and probably had seven sips of coffee. That was yesterday. But you asked about today, today, I haven’t had anything. I usually get up and make coffee in the morning, but my anxiety has been at 20. It doesn’t feel right, so I’m monitoring it.
c.: First, your day yesterday, sounds like a day of many a start-up entrepreneur. Welcome to the club. Second, you do know that it’s okay that you haven’t had coffee today. I laugh.
m.: I really had nobody; Its coffee and its product. I made a $1 tip and it was fine. I tried to make coffee while I was there and I couldn’t drink it. I had an English muffin 45 min ago and apple juice. I don’t want anything but water.
This interview will be like this, direct answers, a trailing off from questions, random insights and high opinionated energy – all of which I love. Lets continue and please follow along.
c.: What’s going on with this anxiety that you’ve mentioned?
m.: I’ve done five or six of these pop-ups each one wearing on me. I had one and couldn’t get out of bed. I think its stress. It’s also nervousness with surprise and the shyness, confidence and non-confidence. When I’m done I’m like sh&$ no one really came.
c.: Understandable. You’re doing something new and bringing yourself to a market that’s new to you too.
m.: Because, they are unfamiliar with this black girl who has coffee. The midwest is loyal to a problem, it’s like a fault. It’s a lot of money here but its one of the hardest towns. Some of it has to do with color, some with presentation and familiarity. It’s one of those towns where you do have to go away and come back to do something here.
She did go away. Away, to Brooklyn, New York and stayed for a few years, six to be exact working in T.V. and the Film business as a costumer.
m.: “I never had a plan. I’ve never known; my mom is an entrepreneur, she’s been in the hair business since she was 26. I’m an entrepreneur but could never find my niche and I’m from Chicago but never had the Chicagoan mindset.”
c.: How did coffee become part of your mindset, when did it become something that you said, ‘I want to pioneer a space in coffee’?
m.: Working in [costume] wardrobing, there’s like 3-5 black girls for every 200. I broke into the Union in 2010 and then got called for a lot of jobs in Chicago. Coffee was always something I enjoyed. I grew up with a great grandmother and mother and there was Starbucks and Caribou, I’d made it at home and then go out and get it, because these were the professionals. As I got deeper in the business, sometimes we’d work 8 hours, 16 hours, so coffee is very vital, some form of caffeine is vital. Cue an exclamation mark.
Coffee does nothing for me in the morning. I can drink coffee and take a four hour nap. Coffee is like a ritual. It’s like reading a paper.
c.: How was your ritual enabled by living in New York?
m.: Working in wardrobe, I’d look for a good coffee shop. We’d travel from Harlem, Bronx, Brooklyn and I’ll take a chance. If its good, and its good, its good. If not throw it away and go somewhere else.
Coffee is also consistent, like brushing your teeth, you got to do it. For people who smokes cigarettes they have to take a cig break, but with coffee like, I would have to ask permission to get a coffee while on some of these jobs. As I moved up and got trust, I’d go get a coffee and find different places to get it from, it would be like my treat. ‘I’m going to get coffee, lets not make it a big deal.”
c.: Coffee and cigarettes go hand-in-hand for some, but the coffee break seems like something most could appreciate as well. Was there good coffee on the sets you worked on, an understanding of quality, specialty coffee?
m.: Working on Empire season one, I bought a Nespresso machine for the truck. It was my two people and myself. She chuckles. Nobody looks out for wardrobe department, the designers might. But coffee is important, you need it, its your daily tool. I started making it for actors and mixing it with baileys. It’s an experience you know, lets have a good experience.
c.: Did making coffee on television sets lead you to wanting to make coffee for others?
m.: Last summer had a rough patch and just didn’t know what I wanted to do. It comes with the mental part of yourself, when you don’t feel good or worthy. I got let go from that job. I wasn’t working in the summer and I wasn’t busy at all. I found a couple, at Anchor Coffee and Corp. They were smack dab in the hood and I thought ‘hmm, this is interesting, and it was Japanese.”
I had my first cup of coffee from Parlor. I had others – Brooklyn Roasting, Café Grumpy, Stumptown Coffee Roasters – but was never happy. I was there and they were playing low music, some Miles Davis or something and I was like oh my god, this is delicious. I was a little lazy that summer and I started walking there, chatting with the wife, then I bought beans and made them at home – I was enjoying having it at home but also sitting and having it there.
c.: I do like it there. It’s small, quaint and specific; its really nice to sit there and watch the place fill up and filter out, a great people watching space too. So then what happened.
m.: I went and did a cupping at Parlor Coffee. Then I went to Sweatshop. And then, I was like D&!? Australia. I’m not a coffee shop person where I take a computer and work. So I didn’t know what to do in a coffee shop but Sweatshop was cute, simple, and there was good design in the back. I always wanted a design studio. I thought, ‘What if I opened a coffee bar and I’m a music enthusiast, a sneaker person and people could pop up there, and try this roast. What if coffee was my product.?’
c.: What if? One of my favorite questions.
m.: I had a lot of stuff in my head and who knew, that it could be coffee. I couldn’t do it in NY, it wasn’t affordable. I had that everywhere you go, there you are mentality. So, I said I’m just going to move back home. I remember Seinfeld and George Costanza walking down the street and Jon Lovitz saying ‘Everybody’s So busy’. I said ‘OMG, perfect.’
She then left Brooklyn and returned to Chicago.
m.: Yea, so, I’m this black girl living in Chicago now. I’m an only child. I’ve been a loner, I can count friends on my hands, count my home girls. And in a week, I got this all together, the graphics, it was easy. I said, you’re kinda on to something, just accept it.
c.: You, and your story sound perfect for coffee culture.
m.: When I started telling people, coffee. They said, coffee? But you’re fashion, music. Look, I’m a concept person. I always have ideas and I’ve seen people make millions of dollars that I didn’t, but I didn’t have a passion for it. With coffee, I couldn’t go ask someone to have a cup of coffee just on my work break; I’m a very rebellious spirit. Being spoiled you do things efficiently so you don’t have to do it again. I didn’t know this third wave was taking over; I hadn’t done the research. But then, I got out of my way, I was on to something and I was going to make it work.
c.: And with coffee, have you found your passion?
m.: Yes. I believe in customer service, you can have great coffee, but if service isn’t there who cares. I decided to blend my style and personality, my love for 90’s hip hop, 30’s and 40’s jazz. Parlor told me, ‘Just get out there and see.”
c.: That’s exactly what you’re doing, being busy seeing.
m.: It’s like a sport. It’s a white boys town, but this lane is so wide open for me. But where are the dope women of color in this. I want to have a place where I have coffee; I have the music and I have the local community. Good service, good music.
c.: It all seems so simple. Hello Reader, I’ve also been playing Lauryn Hill lately.
m.: If I make 20 dollars today, that’s more than yesterday. I started doing the pop ups to create. And you got to get out in the street. People start saying you’re really serious about it when they see you. Trucks are great, I’ve been in one for eight years of my life. I want people to have a place to come in, sit down and feel it. I would like to be apart of your day over your work week. And, If I make $20 dollars today, that’s more than yesterday.
She aims to pop over all over Chicago and in other micro-cities as well, New Orleans too. She’ll do pour-overs with a sight on serving coffee to places like auto repair shops.
Everybody needs a chance. I gotta’ make it happen; if I died next week at least I tried.
All images curated and/or provided from the Instagram of Everybody’s Busy.