“It’s the job of any business owner,” writes Danny Meyer, the amazing New York restauranteur and one of my industry crushes, “to be clear about the company’s nonnegotiable core values. They’re the riverbanks that help guide us as we refine and improve on performance and excellence. A lack of riverbanks creates estuaries and cloudy waters that are confusing to navigate.”
I set the table for 2017 with an admission, of sorts: that Summit Coffee’s hospitality, while still pretty darn good, was ebbing when it should have been flowing. As I detailed in a long post here in January, hospitality was Summit’s word for 2017, with a directive that “it’s our commitment to making our cafes inviting and our interactions thoughtful.”
And so I sit here, on December 30, both moved by the strides we have made and humbled by our community’s grace with our stumbles. We still ebb, and we still flow, but I affirm that Summit is a more hospitable company 12 months later. More hospitable to our customers in the cafes, more hospitable to our partners around the world and, most imperatively to me, more hospitable to the people who call Summit home.
We’ve pushed ourselves this year harder than ever before. In an effort to be great, we’ve had to stare at being “good” and acknowledge that we have higher standards. We’ve asked a lot of tough questions, embraced a lot of tough conversations (both internally and externally), and come up with a lot of tough answers.
We’ve also pushed the company to places we didn’t fathom in January.
Our two cafe/one roastery model that we adored 12 months ago is no more. By the time you read this, our Asheville cafe will be on its fourth month, and our Huntersville outpost will be days away from greeting its first customers. The Asheville space is more beautiful than we could have envisioned, and the team there is creating better drinks with our coffee than we’ve ever had. The Asheville cafe and the 10 talented folks on our staff push us to be better, and make us better on their own. The Huntersville cafe has a fun, totally unique design and will offer a more polished staff from day one than any coffee business I’ve ever seen.
In the meantime, our two Davidson cafes have continued to hold our business together and support all of this craziness. Basecamp, our flagship store, is wrapping up its best year ever. We’ve served more customers than ever before, all the while continuing to improve our drink options and quality. There’s something to be said for taking risks and sacrificing good to find greatness, and Basecamp epitomizes that belief. Meanwhile, the Outpost has allowed us space (both physically and mentally) to be uber creative. Courtney Spear has kickstarted our new catering business with tremendous success, and the quality of products coming out of the Outpost kitchen and cafe continue to improve and instigate betterment across all facets of the Summit business.
Our roasting department that was cozy producing 300 pounds of coffee each week is now producing an average of 1,200, with plans to double that average in 2018. Evan Pollitt, our Director of Coffee, has led the remarkable growth in our coffee program with an unmatched desire to be great. We’re sourcing coffee more thoughtfully; we’re roasting coffee more carefully; and we’re brewing coffee more intentionally. Not to mention, our adventures in 2017 brought us to Saudi Arabia (as a consultant) for two weeks; to Knoxville (for the U.S. Coffee Championships); to Guatemala (for direct trade coffee purchasing); to Seattle (for the Specialty Coffee Association Expo); and to Charleston (where we placed 2nd among Southeast roasters in the prestigious Charleston Coffee Cup).
We found our way, so to speak, with the Find Your Summit movement. The slogan that came to life while I was on a plane to Guatemala not only produced our most successful merchandise run ever (here’s to the Pocket Tee), but also our call to action both with our customers and with our staff. We finally have a quote and a thought to describe what it means to Find Your Summit. It’s not literally about climbing mountains every day. It’s about the figurative mountain and all that entails: the decision to start, the planning, the getting lost, the adventure, the challenges, the ascents and descents, the need for partnership and the need to go alone.
Our staff not only grew, from 41 people to 68 by the time this goes live, but grew with us. We restructured the company around our 6-person leadership team, and leaned on an immensely capable group of folks to propel us down the river. We’re only as good as the experience we offer, and the environment we maintain, and that’s not a Brian thing. That’s a Jamie thing, a Dora thing, a Holly thing, a Wheatley thing, an Ava thing. It belongs to all of our staff, and our success yesterday, today and tomorrow is both because of and for each of them.
In the end, though, it all comes back to hospitality. We amended our mission statement this summer to reflect our newly realized vision on what is important. “To approach coffee, community and collaboration with remarkable hospitality and a commitment to excellence.”
The past 12 months, 2017, kicked my ass. I’m tired, I’m stressed, and (presently as I type) I’m sick. But my goodness am I blessed. More than ever before, in my 3 years as a part-time barista and the 6+ years now as part of ownership, I’m enthused. I’m motivated, I’m fired up, I’m humming with ideas. I’m inspired. I believe, fully, in the decisions we’ve made and the vision we have set forth. It’s clear, it’s on point, it’s innovative, it’s remarkable. It’s going to take talent, ingenuity, troubleshooting, storytelling. It’s going to take hard work, passion, belief, commitment. It’s going to take hospitality. And do I ever believe we have the staff to deliver this all in spades.
In 28 more hours, we’re on to 2018 and a new word, a new mission, a new commitment. But for now, let’s reflect and admire how beautiful 2017 was.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for being a part of this journey. Find Your Summit.