What is your official title?
I am the Catering Director at Water Street Coffee. I also do all of our flowers, and I manage our social media as well.
What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?
There really isn’t an average day. My days are kind of sectioned off – I get flower deliveries on Wednesdays, so I spend most of my time cleaning the flowers and figuring out what kind of arrangements I’m going to make. That’s what I’m usually doing Wednesday and Thursday.
In any given day I could be at any of our locations, going into the shops to fix up the flowers; I’m always checking on the water and making sure things look good. I’ll go into the office for a few hours to catch up on my emails. I almost always carry the catering line with me; phone calls happen at any time.
It’s hard to say, because I don’t really have a typical day, which is great. I am usually in between the four locations, and our Roaster, which is where our offices are and where Kara/Daniel Jewelry and Mary Brodbeck’s studio is located. Our kitchen is off of 9th street; it’s where I arrange the flowers and it’s where all of the food is made fresh. We have multiple deliveries during the day that goes out to the shops; our food is made fresh from scratch at the kitchen, and then it gets delivered to the shops. That’s why you don’t see any kitchens in the shops.
Tell us about the new location in Portage.
We opened January 28th, 2015. Our Art Director and the Owner worked really closely on the vision of the new location. There’s so much detail that goes into it. They spend so much time, from the tile to the fixtures to the displays. They like using local. The steel structure that holds up the loft is sourced locally.
To me, it feels like it fits into our shops, but it also feels a little more modern. I know that a lot of thought went into how the drive-thru would work, since it’s not something we’ve ever done before. We always have comment cards out at our shops as well, so we took into account a lot of what our customers had to say. The drive-thru was definitely one of those things that people had been asking for for a long time, so we were happy to deliver on that!
Tell us about your background.
I come from a marketing background. I worked at a marketing agency in Tampa, Florida, and was there for several years. When I got pregnant with my son, my husband and I wanted to move closer to family. I grew up in Michigan, and when I left, I never thought that I’d want to come back. My husband is originally from Florida, but he kind of fell in love with Michigan. We made our move, and while I was doing my job search I was looking at marketing jobs, but ended up applying for a job at Water Street; I’m a huge foodie, like a huge geek about food.
It just so happened that they were starting catering right as I applied, so they had everything set to go and just needed someone to execute it. It was perfect timing; I started off part-time, and slowly gained more responsibilities, and now I am definitely full time!
Where do you get your inspiration?
I think it’s from a love of food and flowers and local goods. Personally, I am a big gardener; it’s a skill that I learned from my family. We have been gardening ever since I was young. I’ve always had a fascination with using fresh foods and flowers. I think what’s great about Water Street is that we use local goods whenever possible. It’s something that’s always spoken to me. You’ve got this great community around you, why wouldn’t you utilize the land and resources here? It’s a love of food and of things that come from the earth. Flowers are so beautiful; in the summer we get all of our flowers locally. The flowers come in, and it’s like, where do you find these! I’ve visited some of the farms, and it’ll just be rows and rows of beautiful dahlias out in the middle of nowhere. It’s really amazing.
Any big projects you’re currently working on?
Well, the Portage location has been the project for a long time. This flower cooler here is twice the size of the other shops. My part has come in in the last month where I am trying to create enough arrangements for the space we have since it’s so much larger. Right now, I’m trying to balance the shops with their flowers.
As far as projects, the summer is definitely a big wedding season. Right now I’m meeting with brides, doing tastings and going over flower photos, and getting a lot of bridal meetings in the books so when summer comes I’m not scrambling; some brides do wait till the last minute, so have to be prepared for that.
What do you love most about Kalamazoo?
Like I mentioned, I grew up in Michigan, and then lived out of state for several years. I just never really found another place like Michigan, and specifically like Kalamazoo. When we decided to expand our family, we thought about where we wanted to plant our roots and raise a family; Kalamazoo is really a no-brainer.
There’s always something to do, whether I’m going out with or without my kid, and it’s just so friendly. I don’t think people realize how friendly it is. I lived in other places and coming back, I feel like the energy here is really great. It’s big enough that it’s a city, but it’s small enough that it’s not overwhelming. There’s always a million things to do.
What have you been jammin’ to recently?
I am very strange when it comes to music. I really love all different kinds of music. Right now I’m listening to bluegrass, but I can go anywhere from a jam band to turning on the radio and listening to Top 40 – totally guilty pleasure; I rock out to it.
I have a really wide range of things I enjoy. It’s so funny; remember when people used to ask what’s in your CD player? I use Pandora, I love Mumford and Sons radio and Lana del Rey, and Tori Amos radio. And then I’ll listen to Taylor Swift, which is kind of embarrassing. My husband is this big bearded man and he’ll totally rock out to some Taylor Swift.
How do you take your coffee?…or do you?
I like my coffee black. I can’t even say that I have a favorite. I love our seasonal blends; Aroma Borealis I really like. We have so many different varieties and we’re brewing different varieties daily. I’ll come into the shop each day and pick something different. I’m definitely a fan of darker roasts.
I’ve always loved coffee, but haven’t always known as much as I do about it now. We do something really cool. Once every couple of months, all of the baristas come into the roaster and they do a cupping where they taste a bunch of different coffees and fill out a tasting profile. It’s really similar to what you would do with wine; you pull a lot of the same types of flavors and aromas.
It’s really cool in that sense that Water Street does this type of stuff so our baristas are knowledgeable. Likewise, we do that with our food. We rotate the menu every three months. There are a lot of mainstays, but we’re always experimenting and doing different stuff in the kitchen. Every three months we’ll change up the menu, and we’ll have all of the baristas come in and try the food. The head chefs tell them everything that’s in the food, so they can help our customers pick out something they would like.
Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?
We go to Bell’s a lot, I love Bell’s. It’s so cool in the summer. I like going to our downtown location a lot, and I like the KVCC museum; I take my son there. He’ll be three at the end of this month.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
The main thing I wanted to be was a writer. It’s cool, because I get to write a little bit with my job, but I think it blossomed into more than that. I enjoy writing and photography; I like to do a little bit of everything, and that’s what I love about this job is that I get to do a little bit of everything.
If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Try not to have any fear about your future. So many things are going to happen to you, and they’re going to be good and bad, and it’s all going to lead you to where you need to be. I’m a worrier by nature. I spent a lot of my younger years worrying about things like my grades. All of the great things that have happened in my life have come to me when I’ve just gone for it.
Who would play you in a movie?
I’ve never thought about that, but the first name that pops into my head is Melissa McCarthy. She is so hysterical. I re-watch Gilmore Girls just to see her.
What is your favorite food to make and your favorite food to eat?
I can’t make it, but I really like gnocchi. In any dish. Especially when it’s handmade. It’s something I aspire to do someday, but handmade pasta is the bomb. My last name would suggest that I am Italian, but I married into that one. I just love food in general; love to cook, love to taste.
Jessica, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Jessica and Water Street Coffee on facebook. Also be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.