Noticing Neighbors Oddly Correct Coffee Roasters
In a time where service industry jobs have been faced with new challenges, local coffee roaster Oddly Correct has begun adopting new practices that just might help. Like many in the coffee community, this local roaster has spent the last few years adjusting and pivoting to changes as they came to the industry. The team at Oddly Correct adopted a to-go only model, then moved to a new location, and consciously opened its doors in accordance with health guidelines. Along with external changes, the Oddly Correct team began taking a look at the structure of daily business. How could the company take care of the emotional well being of everyone working there? During this time, the shop tried a new practice of closing once a month for a staff wellness day, and it has opened the door to some important conversations.
I got the chance to sit down with Mike Schroeder to talk about the stories behind the coffee shop.
Hayley: Can you share about the coffee shop and who you are to the community?
Yeah, so we're a coffee roaster. We started back in 2008 with just one person, just my brother in law Gregory. Then we opened our doors to actually serve coffee. In 2011, that's when I came on. We slowly grew from 2 people, to now 15. Our focus has always been introducing people to really great coffee as a vehicle to maybe help them experience something beautiful in their everyday life. And for us, that being a context to then maybe figure out new ways to operate as a business—like create new models for other businesses to hopefully follow that are breaking some of the negative norms of our industry.
Hayley: I was reading online that you guys started a new practice as a business during the pandemic that you said was really beneficial. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah. Having the pandemic start in March 2020, for all service related businesses it was really difficult to figure out how to pivot. What can we do? How do we stay safe? How do we keep our employees safe, and keep our doors open?
We were fortunate. I know a lot of places either had to close, or lay people off, or drastically reduce hours—but we were lucky enough to be able to move to a to-go only model and still have enough business to keep everything going. We did not have to do pay cuts or reduced scheduling, or anything like that to hold on to everybody. But in the midst of it, it was really mentally and physically challenging to do all that. So as a team, we got together over Zoom in May. It was after a couple of months of operating that way and just dealing with those stresses. One of our employees, Lauryl, had said: Just throwing it out there, it seems like it would be a good idea for us to just shut down for a day. To have an extra day after or at the beginning of the month where everyone can reset.
At that time, we actually took a couple of days just to give everybody a mental break. But afterwards we realized, well, why don't we try to do this regularly? It was really beneficial. We also used it as a way to offer space—to have an opportunity for anyone who wanted to get together outside of the context of doing work. It gives us time to spend time together and eat lunch together, but it’s also open for those of us who just need to shut down for the day and recharge and be by themselves—they can do that too. After a couple of months, we realized how beneficial it was to everybody and decided, well, let's just keep doing it. Hayley: What were some of the effects you saw that were positive?
It would have been easy to turn the day off into something where it was expected that people come, eat lunch, and hang out. But we were really specific and made it really clear, like, hey, this is not mandatory.
If you need to not be here, that's fine, go do that. It was an opening of the doors for us to start thinking, in a larger context, about how we deal with mental health in the workplace—in particular, in the service industry.
It’s been leading into other conversations about not just having paid sick time for when someone is physically ill, but also giving space for people to use PTO for mental health days. It's opened doors for us to be thinking about mental health and emotional well being in the workplace, for our company in particular.
I also think it's neat that you post about it and share when you’re going to have the monthly day off. As someone that follows your updates, it sends a really neat message and shifts the view about who works at the shop. Just that reminder of valuing human beings, because you’re regularly acknowledging what they do.
You also made another point I thought was interesting, which is that during the pandemic, the barista’s job turned into a production job as opposed to a customer service job.
How has it been since people have come back in? Following guidelines every step of the way, but how has seeing the public come in brightened up the space?
It's been really great to be able to safely return to having people in our space. Part of that was moving locations, and having a little more area to be open and better ventilated. Our location is smack dab in the middle of two neighborhoods, so we've found that we've become less of a destination shop and more of a neighborhood shop. We're seeing a lot of the same people every morning who are just walking here from their house, or stopping by before they're heading to work. Hayley: How does that change the feel of the shop? Mike: It's been important to bring on a crew of people who are really emotionally present, aware, and able to engage our customers in really kind and deep ways. We've had this new stream of people who are here really consistently. We get to engage people on further, deeper levels and I know it’s rewarding for our team. It’s refreshing, in that sense.
Refreshing, that's a good word. It sounds like a wonderful team. Could you give a shout out to some staff and say what leadership you've seen in them?
Yeah, I mean, I could say something about everybody.
For the people behind our bar, Cassidy, our manager, Jennie, Jaron, Morgan, Andrew, Niki—they've done an amazing job of showing us what it means to serve people with kindness. They move beyond just serving really good quality product, and make the manner that they interact with people a really special thing.
Of course, we have Kyle, our roaster, and Reilly, our production assistant, who have done such a super job of handling our growth and the needs of the business, while keeping the quality of the product really amazing. Then there's our kitchen team, which is Maddie, our culinary director, and Lauryl and Julie and Kora. We're probably doing twice as much food as we used to. They've done an amazing job at keeping everything really consistent and delicious, while coming up with new ideas to accommodate people with different dietary needs—vegan items and food things. It's been fun to see that solidify and see where the future can take it.
Then there’s Ernesto, he's our beverage quality director. He does all of our cold brew, heads up our seasonal drinks and is always dialing in the coffee—quality control and stuff like that. We went from doing a couple of gallons of cold brew a week, to now being able to supply a couple of other coffee places. We're now up to doing 30 gallons or so a week, so he's been super busy and great about figuring out our needs there. Again, taking the quality further than I ever could take it, with his talent and his drive to make coffee taste really, really great.
Gregory, my brother in law, does all the art and marketing. I think that's always been an important part of engaging our customers in a new and different way, and our art has continued to reach new levels of bringing people in in a beautifully strange and whimsical way.
In working at Oddly, how have you seen positivity through the coffee shop?
I mean, the thing that comes to mind is the way that our crew comes around each other. We're careful to make a distinction that we are coworkers, and that your job is not a family. Because historically, companies can use “family” language to break down important boundaries that you should have with your workplace. That being said, I've seen our employees behave in such a caring, accommodating, and emotionally intelligent way with each other. That's been really amazing for me to see.