There’s a new Bubble Boy in Town, His Name is Jimmy Butler.

Room 0436

 

In 2001 Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young man with numerous allergies because he was born without an immune system. He lives in a plastic bubble in his bedroom until he learns that the girl of his non-plastic dreams is getting married and he must stop her.

Fashion had a bubble boy.

In 2019 Fredrk Tjærandsen, a Central Saint Martin’s graduate, went worldwide and viral with soft hued bubbles that protected designs on the runway until it was time for their reveal.

Social media had @JermCohen.

In March of 2020, @JermCohen whose name beyond his handle is Jeremy Cohen, is a New York City photographer. He put himself in a bubble during quarantine after the outbreak of COVID-19 – to protect himself – to go on a date with a woman across the street from his building.

And now sports, the NBA specifically, has the Bubble. While there aren’t round devices or major plastic contraptions to encapsulate the leagues players, the Bubble is the ideation behind what’s metaphorical at NBA’s Adam Silver’s campus.  On campus, or in the Bubble, players are quarantined together because of the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a litany of do’s and do nots, players are restricted to specific spaces and with limited contact to the outside world resulting in lifestyle amenities severely limited. However, when has a bubble stopped a show? Not in the movies, not on the runway and not on the ‘gram. If anything, bubbles have inspired life to creatively go on. This is where we find Jimmy Butler, the small forward and point guard, number twenty-two, of the Miami Heat’s NBA basketball team. He is the creative mind behind Big Face Coffee, a coffee company that exists in the bubble available from Room 0436, by Butler himself.

Since Jimmy Butler came to my attention, for caffeinating Butler and some of the nations’ most talented ballers, I’ve followed his coffee as hand accessory to and from the bubble; as moniker on his sleeveless t-shirts and emblazoned as type on the back of his matching hoodie and sweat sets.

Notwithstanding firsthand knowledge of how subjectively good Butler’s coffee is, Big Face Coffee is making a name for itself in the Bubble, building social and culture equity in the NBA and among those of us scrolling to see how it will pop.

A look closer at the face and the coffee reveals even more, like, a few lessons specialty coffee culture at large can learn from coffee in the Bubble.

One, Butler is exposing and serving a need. Basketball players drink coffee. Proximity is value. Without being able to leave the Bubble to get coffee, Butler works within the Bubble to provide it to a population with an existing need and demand. When a product becomes accessible to its consumer it propels its facilitation and value.  What could be better than being within the confines of the bubble than being able to go to a room near you to get that cup?

Two, Butler is turning a challenge into an opportunity.  Walk into any specialty coffee shop and your coffee is priced by ounce, type of milk and even varietal of coffee at times. Not in the bubble. No matter the size – small, medium or large – or the milk, it’s a flat rate of $20 a cup. Cash. No IOU’s.

Big Face Coffee Menu

While coffee, specialty coffee in particular, is often referenced as enjoyed by those with a large enough disposable income to consistently purchase it, that is not the case here. Be you Lebron James, Jamal Murray or Patrick Beverley, your barrier to a cup of coffee in your hands is the same: a knock and $20. The coffee price crisis seems not to exist here.

Three, Butler elevates a lifestyle ritual despite democratizing its price. Is it the coffee you want, is it what the ritual provides, or is it the association with a coffee brand consumed by an NBA finals contender? Maybe one, maybe all. One thing that is for sure these days, is a shirt with a company’s name on it, is as big as having a brick and mortar marketing your business these days. Additionally, the endorsement of a higher profile person in culture can send a brand a long way.

So, in our digital world where physical space is not necessary to run a company, it means Big Face Coffee is off and brewing from the bubble it is in.

I’ve seen coffee prices outside of the bubble triple the cost of Butlers $20 price tag. Yet, the coffee price crisis is still real, as the specialty coffee industry struggles with inciting consumers to pay more for coffee – not for its oft portrayed, commodity image, that coffee is easily accessible and there are no major distinctions in cup quality or taste than a hipsters accumulated craft and sensory skills.  Coffee should cost a premium because it intrinsically deserves it.  

Coffee in the bubble teaches us the principles of opportunities. It shows us idealism and resilience.  It inspires a craft subculture that specialty products even in distressed times can fetch prices higher than less distressing times, when it finds the right audience in a unique circumstance.

In 2014, Buzz Williams, Butler’s college coach at Marquette, spoke to Butlers’ mentality for making choices. He said that Butler bets not on the exterior things but on himself. Given that, the culture should expect big face coffee to come out of the bubble, a champ.

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