Meet The Maker
You may have gotten used to seeing those cans of Phocus in our store, but did you know that Phocus got it start right here in Louisville? John Mittel was born and raised in Louisville and was on his way to getting a medical degree from the University of Louisville. He had been working jobs here and there for his mentor Tom O’Grady, when they became really close. One day Tom showed John an article that had just come out about a popular energy drink that was particularly high in sugar. The drink had done extremely well on the market despite its unsavory ingredient list. This really resonated with John since he had been trapped each semester in UofL’s library studying for exams. Day after day John would have to choose from a dismal selection and reluctantly push those vending machine buttons for a drink he knew could do better.
From the outside it is hard to tell just how ingenious and creative Monica Mahoney’s home is. When entering you can feel the warmth from a crackling fire while a small cat named “biggie” brushes against your legs. The floor plan is completely open and full of small details. I was surprised when Monica revealed to me that the home used to be a general store for the neighborhood. Pictures are hung in the hallway of the store and as you turn to see the space before you it is delightfully shocking. What used to be rows and rows of shelves and countertops, has now become a warm and inviting home, full of art, life, and spirit.
It all started with a realization: there weren’t any micro-brewed soy sauces being made in the United States. Add bourbon to the equation, and Bourbon Barrel Foods was born.
What began as spit-balling creative business ideas among friends (over oysters, no less), has since developed into a thriving local business. Bourbon Barrel Foods, which launched in 2006 with its signature Bluegrass Soy Sauce, is the brainchild of Matt Jamie. Matt, a returned Louisvillian, recognized the power of the bourbon trend early on and got to work creating the first and only Bourbon-barrel aged soy sauce.
If you’ve ever enjoyed one of the many treats in our bakery case, odds are they were handmade by the one of the bakers at Najla’s Inc.
Headed up by long-time baker and local entrepreneur Najla Aswad, Najla’s Inc. employs an almost-all female team (Audras makes the deliveries) of bakers, chefs, and culinary school graduates to make everything from scones, cakes, and brownies to protein bowls, energy bars and breakfast wraps from fresh, raw ingredients.
“It’s never scared me to start from raw ingredient to finished product. You can get so much more integrity in flavor and quality when you do it yourself,” Najla explains.
When Stanley Chase III first launched his business, he had no idea that the food truck he owned would eventually become a nationally recognized brand of vegan jerky. Now sold internationally, Louisville Vegan Jerky Company began with a fortuitous discovery and a lot of initiative.
It would be hard not to notice the sleek, bright orange and black Copper & Kings sign that rises above their distillery when you’re driving down Story Avenue. Located in the middle of Butchertown’s growing community of local and small businesses, Copper & Kings is often also at the center of promoting that community and organizing neighborhood events.
Copper & Kings is primarily known for their brandy and absinthe, but equally as delicious is their non-alcoholic Butchertown Soda. You can find the Louisville-made craft sodas in the cold case at any of our stores.
While Butchertown Sodas have recognizable flavors, they are preservative-free, and use organic cane sugar and other high-quality ingredients that make them less syrupy, and more natural tasting than the average soft drink.
Wood & Twine: the name is deceptively straight forward for the intricate string art installations that best friends Jessica England and Melody Niemann create for their Louisville-based company. Right now, you can check out their largest piece – a six foot Kentucky outline – brightening the walls of our Northfield store.
Meet The Maker: Karen Weeks
If you’ve seen our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere, chances are the first thing you noticed before taking a sip was the beautifully designed bag. That’s thanks to local printer Karen Weeks, the maker behind our Explorer Series coffee bags.
Karen describes her design style as a balance, “between what I would call handmade, but also ‘Chosen’ – with an intentional feel.”
Karen achieves that style by first hand drawing the design, then tweaking details, planning size, and experimenting with colors in Photoshop. Afterwards her design gets transferred to a woodblock via a laser cutter, that will then leave an impression of the pattern on the paper. Each color of the pattern represents one time through the press. For the bag’s text, Karen typesets the individual letters(the movable metal type).
After mixing and preparing the colored inks, she applies it to the roller of Heidelberg Windmill letterpress. When the woodcut is aligned and the press is turned on, it will individually stamp the design on the paper of each bag sleeve.
You can see the impressive results of this process when you check out the recently released Sumatra Silk bag, the second of the small-lot Explorer Series coffees.
Like the first Explorer Series bag, Karen’s design for Sumatra Silk was heavily shaped by the origins of the coffee. Costume patterns from the Gayo region of Sumatra caught her eye when researching the Permata Gayo Cooperative, the group of farmers producing the beans for the Sumatra.
The patterns on the bag’s sleeves are modeled from the textures and forms of the regional dress, and the colors she chose are traditional to the area as well.
“I really like textiles. I’ve always been drawn to that – one of my other focuses in school was textiles, and then when I was living in Germany I was doing a lot of knitting and sewing.”
And that crafted influence in her work was especially appropriate for the Explorer Series project, because it’s “like all the hands that grew and worked on this coffee.”
Textiles weren’t the only influence on her style, though. Karen grew up in Louisville, but has lived all over, often in the pursuit of her art. From her first job as a professional printer in New York City, to a non-paying apprenticeship in small-town Alabama, to San Francisco, Detroit and even Germany, Karen’s clean but handmade style has developed through her exposure to the different artists she’s worked with or studied.
Even her current studio roommate, who she divides the printing space with, has shared tools and typographic knowledge that has helped her develop some of the techniques she’s used for the Explorer Series project.
“You can always learn from what’s around you. It’s about doing what’s natural in the environment you are currently in… Making [art] for other people, people you care about, is a great place to start. Making art they will love and then just keep doing it.”
If you loved her work on the last two Explorer Series bags as much as we have, be on the lookout for her designs on the next two coffees in the series.
Her personal favorite of Heine Brothers’ coffees? She’s sticking to the iced latte: “I love the Iced Latte, I’m just going to go ahead and say it. I don’t get it very often because it’s a treat, but the Iced Latte.”
Contact Karen Weeks at email@example.com for more info or business interest!