Tag Archives: coffee

The Next Generation 
of Family Farming

June 21, 2017 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

Surrounded by tomato seedlings, purple carrots, and strange-looking peppers—whatever’s freshest at Theilen Produce Gardens—Kristy Theilen is a blonde-dreadlocked ambassador for a farm that has been in her family since the 1800s.

The cheerful 36-year-old and her veggies can be found at summertime farmers markets in the Omaha area, including Saturday in the Old Market and Sundays at the Florence Mill.

From left: Kristy Theilen, Fernando Castrorena, Brennen Settles, Jacquie Theilen, Linda Theilen, and Eldon Theilen

Back in Schuyler, Nebraska, an old farmhouse anchors Theilen Produce Gardens’ home base. Kristy’s great-grandfather built the farmhouse in 1910, but it has been renovated and remodeled several times over the years.

Kristy and her mother both grew up in the home. After returning to Nebraska from Arizona in 2013, the two generations are back under one roof on the family’s 1,200-acre farm.

“When I was living in Phoenix, I came across a mask-maker who had mask-making traditions in their family for thousands of years,” Kristy says. “I thought about that—and how people in the city were surprised to hear I grew up on a farm—and got to thinking how important it is not to break that occupational chain. Farming has been on both sides of my family since forever.”

Her parents, Linda and Eldon, moved into the farmhouse in the late 1980s after they were married. “It used to be white wood panel siding,” says Linda, whose grandfather (John Bailey) built the home. Asbestos siding replaced the wood during her childhood; Eldon added the olive-green vinyl siding when they overhauled the structure.

Kristy’s older brother, his wife, and their children live on the other side of a creek, in a residence that previously housed their grandparents (near the original Bailey family homestead, which burned down and was rebuilt in the early 1900s).

The Theilen family’s ancestors by the (burned-down) farmhouse.

Her maternal ancestors in the Bailey family passed through Nebraska during a cross-country cattle drive to California in 1853. “We have a journal written by someone on the trip,” Linda says. “When they passed along the Platte River, they thought it was heaven, so they came back.”

After Linda’s father, Tom Bailey, assumed leadership of the family farm, he raised four kids in the old house. Linda was one of them. They farmed corn and alfalfa, and they sold eggs from Rhode Island red hens.

Eldon grew up on a farm north of Columbus. For the 33-some years since he and Linda took charge of the farm, they have continued the family’s agricultural tradition under their married name of Theilen.

At peak pork production, Eldon raised 3,000 hogs. Then, the market fell out just prior to the turn of the millennium. “There were so many hogs that packing houses couldn’t process them all,” Eldon says.

Today, they focus on corn and soybeans (but “mostly corn,” Eldon says). Kristy’s brother, Jeremy, helps manage the crops. Meanwhile, Kristy takes care of their smaller quantities of diversified livestock: chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, and more. She is also in charge of the garden-fresh produce, starting seedlings in outdoor greenhouses (built by her father), and caring for the plant nursery. (The nursery was an addition to the home, also built by her father.)

After a 10-month stint with the Peace Corps in Macedonia, three semesters studying abroad in Austria, and several years working as a community organizer in Phoenix and Tucson—including gardening in a vacant lot next to a Phoenix artist commune—Kristy returned to the family farm with the goal of implementing the latest sustainable agriculture trends.

Kristy and her fiancé, Fernando Castorena, have helped Theilen Produce Gardens expand into community-supported agriculture. Their CSA sells shares that entitle customers to receive weekly supplies of fresh produce and eggs, which are delivered in the Schuyler area and to farmers market pick-up points in Omaha.

“We were planning to be the world’s youngest snowbirds, but I didn’t want to leave my chores to my brother,” Kristy says, adding that 2017 was (almost) her first full year back in Nebraska, minus two months when they traveled to Arizona.

 

“These new things are all Kristy’s doing. I think they’re great,” Linda says. “I think we need to be diversified in future years with grain prices the way they are.”

Other new initiatives that Kristy has developed include programs for kids and eco-tourism: Easter egg hunts, a Halloween pumpkin patch, hosting campers from the website Hipcamp, and welcoming boarders with the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (volunteers who work in exchange for room and board, also known as “WOOFers”).

During the Halloween pumpkin patch, Linda tells real-life horror stories of the criminals hanged at the old Colfax County courthouse. Her father (Tom Bailey) bought the old jail cell at an auction to protect irrigation pumps. Now, the jail cell is a historical relic tucked away in the back of their property.

Brennen Settles

On the edge of bountiful cornfields, a tall signpost points to the farm’s various attractions: Shell Creek Path, corn maze, pumpkin patch, horses, animal barn, Bunnyville, and Coffee Quonset.

In Linda’s childhood, the “Coffee Quonset” was a storage barn for corn and machinery. She remembers playing on the piles of corn. Later, her husband built a new barn for the modern combine and larger machinery. The old barn was going under-utilized when Kristy suggested making a little shop for coffee and tea.

“These new things are all Kristy’s doing. I think they’re great,” Linda says. “I think we need to be diversified in future years with grain prices the way they are.”

Linda and Eldon tell the story of their land and farmhouse from a dining table, with a spread of fresh vegetables and hard-boiled eggs.

When they moved in, Eldon personally replaced all of the walls, installed new electrical wiring, added central air conditioning, and made subsequent upgrades to the home over the years.

Eldon has always encouraged his daughter to think outside of the box, because that’s how he looks at the world. He designed and constructed a “chicken tractor” that allows him to move chickens over cropland while replenishing nitrogen in the soil with their manure. Last year, he also hand-built their chicken “gypsy wagon,” a mobile hen house trailer.

Inside the house, he rearranged the floor plan of the traditional farmhouse. It’s now a four-bedroom home, with three bathrooms. The old master bedroom on the main floor became an office with the latest computer tech.

“In the ’80s, I had the first computer in Colfax County,” Eldon says. “I always try to stay on top of technological developments.”

Kristy’s fiancé has meanwhile brought crucial Latin cultural perspective and Spanish language skills to the family farm business.

Fernando grows vegetables common in traditional Mexican dishes—huitlacoche (a corn fungus that was a delicacy in Aztec cuisine), squash blossoms, and tomatillos—and he helps sell goats and other animals to local Spanish-speaking residents.

Before moving to the area, he didn’t know what to expect. But he was surprised by the large Hispanic population working in local agricultural industries and living in Schuyler and Fremont. He quickly found himself perfectly at ease in the rural Nebraskan setting, he says: “About 40 percent of our customers [who come to the farm] are Guatemalan or Mexican.”

Fernando’s dream is to launch a farm-to-table restaurant and/or food truck that could service the Schuyler area. His family works in the food industry in Phoenix, so he is confident that he could make it work.

The future is ripe with potential on the Theilen family farm. Who knows? Nebraska’s first farm-to-table Mexican restaurant might just sprout 75-minutes northwest of Omaha.

Kristy also has several other ideas for the future of the farm: expanding into wine production, hosting weddings, and growing their goat herd. “Wine, weddings, and goats, that’s my dream,” Kristy says with a laugh.

Visit theilenproduce.com for more information.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of Omaha Home.

Java Journey

April 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Like many who guzzle black gold, Sagar Gurung started downing coffee purely for utilitarian reasons.

The taste—he could have done without.

Sagar Gurung

“I started for the caffeine,” Gurung says. “When I took that first sip, I said, ‘What the hell is this? It’s bitter.’ I would add a lot of sugar, milk, and cream to it.”

Gurung has come a long way in his java journey. He is the founder and part-owner of one of Omaha’s newest non-chain caffeine joints, Himalayan Java Coffee House. It launched in June 2016 at 329 S. 16th St., across from the Orpheum Theater on Harney Street.

Not that long ago, what Gurung knew about coffee didn’t amount to a hill of beans. He has worked as a business analyst (currently for Valmont Industries) after earning a degree in computer science from Bellevue University in 2004. Gurung was born in Chitwan, Nepal, but lived mostly in India until he moved to Omaha in the 10th grade to live with his older sister. He graduated from Omaha Gross High School.

He took regular trips back home to Nepal, and it was during one of those trips that he went from coffee novice to coffee aficionado. The spark was a visit to Himalayan Java Coffee, a franchise launched in 1999 by Gagan Pradhan and Anand Gurung in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

Nepal is mostly a tea-loving country, but Pradhan and Anand Gurung were changing that with a concept utilizing small coffee farmers whose harvest had mostly been going outside the country. Nepalese farmers were more likely to grow millet or maize than they were coffee, which wasn’t introduced to the country until 1938 by a hermit who brought seeds from Myanmar (then Burma).

By the 1970s Nepalese farmers were beginning to pay attention to coffee as a serious cash crop. Today, it’s grown in nearly three dozen districts, thriving in one of the highest elevations in the world.

Pradhan and Anand Gurung, according to Sagar, “introduced coffee to Nepal,” showing countrymen how it should be planted, raised, roasted, brewed, and imbibed. Their efforts resonated—today, more than 20 Himalayan Java shops have been introduced in Nepal.

On Sagar’s first visit to Himalayan Java Coffee in Nepal, “I instantly loved everything they were doing,” he says. He began to lobby the duo to let him bring their brand and their coffee to his adopted homeland. He also proposed the idea to Nepalese friends who lived in Omaha, asking them to join as partners.

Finally, the founders relented. “I think they just wanted to make me stop bugging them.”

The Nepalese founders are more like “strategic partners” than they are franchisees, Sagar says, but the Omaha Himalayan Java buys all its coffee from its Nepalese counterpart.

It’s a competitive market in Omaha, dominated by national and local chains. Sagar says such competition only gave him more reason to launch Himalayan Java here. And none of the others in Omaha can offer the distinct Arabica flavor available in his store.

“Coffee has a natural tendency to embody its environment,” Sagar says. “So the taste you get is very unique to the area you grow in.”

He appears to have picked an ideal location for the startup. Customers come frequently from the Orpheum across the street, of course, but Himalayan Java also gets employees from nearby Union Pacific, First National, OPPD, other downtown businesses, students from Creighton and UNMC, and downtown denizens.

Himalayan Java offers a full complement of caffeinated beverages—espressos, cappuccinos, mochas, lattes, and more. The No. 1 seller, Sagar says, is the “Dark Roast 4.” The menu also includes sandwiches, soups, and salads.

Sagar says customer retention has been strong and that word-of-mouth marketing has helped  Himalayan Java enjoy 15- to 20-percent growth month over month. Enough that he’s had at least preliminary discussions about expanding to a second store.

He’s also heard from enough customers that he plans to introduce some home-cooking with a menu that should include Nepalese goat and chicken curry; “thukpa,” an intensely flavored noodle soup; and “momos,” spicy Nepalese dumplings typically filled with marinated minced meat.

“I want to introduce Nepali items you can’t get anywhere else in town,” he says.

For now, though, he’s intent on making sure Himalayan Java makes a name for itself with its roasts — something customers should recognize just steps inside.

“We are a coffee house, and it is a beautiful thing to walk into a store and the aroma hits you,” he says.

It took him a while to get there, but he says the taste is even better.

“Now I like my coffee dark with no sugar, no milk, or cream,” Sagar says. “I just love the way our coffee tastes.”

He’s hoping more and more Omahans will agree.

Visit himalayanjavausa.com for more information.

This article was published in the May/June edition of The Encounter.

Job Search Advice

January 31, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The wage gap is closing, in large part due to women who are no longer satisfied with just a steady income.

Though Nebraska is often touted as a thriving job market for men and women alike, the state has earned a C-minus grade for employment and earnings of women from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and is ranked 31st in the nation—behind Iowa, Missouri, and most of the East Coast. Women in Nebraska are earning an average of 73.1 cents for every dollar made by men. While the wage gap is closing, at this rate of progress, Nebraska will not achieve equal pay for men and women until 2066.

However negative these statistics may seem, the job searching process for women is brighter today than it has ever been. The career search and application process is changing rapidly, and women learn at a fast pace. Thanks to the availability of resources to determine salaries of others in their prospective field, women are finding the process to be significantly less daunting and more hopeful.

When engaging in a job search, an activity that local résumé writer Bridget (Weide) Brooks says is now occurring close to every two to three years in an adult’s life, women are less commonly left to guess at how their salaries stack up to those of male counterparts in the same field or wonder about the dollar value of their unique skills.

Cindy Wagner

Cindy Wagner

Career coach Cindy Wagner finds that the biggest mistake women make in their job search is to underestimate their skills, or “undersell themselves.” Wagner works with women to discover skills that they tend to disregard. She looks for the unique, and often less quantifiable, talents of each individual. As she guides a client’s career search, she starts by helping people uncover what truly drives them to seek out a new career, the idea beyond a simple paycheck.

The wage gap is closing, in large part due to women who are no longer satisfied with just a steady income. As more and more women make their way into higher ranking positions within companies, potential employees are setting higher goals than previous generations—and achieving them. Motivation to not only get a job, but to be hired by a company where their passions and talents will be utilized, is increasingly enabling women to surpass competition in the job market.

Wagner’s next step is working with clients to develop a picture of what their ideal job would look like, factoring in their individual passions to create a fulfilling career concept. Then she helps with résumé, LinkedIn profiles, and other factors in her clients’ personal branding to make sure that the materials clearly and accurately reflect the value of the individual.

A common problem faced by many women trying to create their personal brand is accounting for time outside of the workforce, often spent caring for children or aging parents. Taking time off to care for children can be especially problematic in Nebraska, which the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranks 50th in reproductive rights. Although many might consider a gap of a few years or more in their work history to be a weak point on their résumé, professionals such as Brooks and Wagner see such areas as opportunities for articulation of “softer” skills that could be a major asset for any job seeker. Companies hire employees because they have a problem, a need that is unmet. A potential employee who is able to discuss their problem-solving skills articulately makes for a strong candidate in almost any field.

Volunteer experience, work with school organizations, problem solving, and interpersonal skills can all help raise the value of potential employees. Brooks emphasizes that gaps in work history are not necessarily a weakness if workers know how to showcase that time in a clear way. While it is helpful to take a few classes or continue to work part-time outside the home, the most important strategy to rejoining the workforce is to maintain connections with coworkers.

Overall, the uncertainty Brooks and Wagner see the most frequently in their female clients stems from a lack of confidence. Women tend to be less aggressive in their job search and avoid “bragging” in their application process, which can impact a potential employer’s perception of their value as workers. Advice from a professional career coach or résumé writer can help build that confidence and show women that their skills translate to career opportunities.

With information about the dollar value of talents available on the internet, women are now more prepared than ever to use their skills as leverage in negotiation of salary, benefits, and flexibility of hours. Women are great at building relationships, especially with other women, and shouldn’t be afraid to use those connections. Brooks states plainly, “people hire people.” Research, some self-reflection, and a strong résumé can help women and their prospective employers understand that their skills are worth far more than 73 cents on the dollar.

Visit omahacareercoach.com for more information.

Bridget (Weide) Brooks

Bridget (Weide) Brooks

 

 

 

Top Ten Networking Tips

by Bridget (Weide) Brooks

Person-to-person networking is the single most effective way to find a new job, according to a survey conducted by Right Management, with 46 percent of jobseekers identifying networking as the reason they found their most recent job. Here’s 10 easy ways for women to build, nurture, and grow their personal network.

1. Don’t wait until you need a job to build your network. You should be constantly building—and strengthening—your connections with your network. Do something to build your network each and every day, whether that’s sending an email to someone you haven’t talked to in a while or identifying someone new you want to meet.

2. Don’t think of networking as some big, scary thing. It’s talking to people. It’s asking them for help. It’s offering help. It’s about cultivating relationships, not doing some forced, fake thing.

3. Identify who is already in your network. Take out a sheet of paper and make a list of all the people you know: friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents and relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, your community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.), alumni connections, and your doctor, financial adviser, attorney, etc. Your holiday card list can be a good starting point for identifying who is already in your network.

4. Remember the principle of “Six Degrees of Separation.” Research shows that you are likely six people away from the person you want to reach. There’s fun in figuring out how to get to that person. A practical application of this is to look for the person on LinkedIn and see who is connected to that person that you already know. Reach out to your contact offline (not on LinkedIn, but by phone or in person) and ask if they can help you connect with that person.

5. The power of the network is not just the people you know—it’s the people those people know. What if you can’t find a contact in common? Don’t be afraid to ask your network to help connect you with someone who has the information or resources you need. A very practical way to do this, for example, is to send a group text message or Facebook Messenger message that says, “Do any of you know someone who works for ABC Company?”

6. Give to get. Be the person who reaches out to your network of contacts regularly (at least a couple of times a year) to see what they are doing, to acknowledge those efforts, and to offer to provide assistance (should they need it). Segment your list of contacts into a “to do” list of check-ins. But make sure you are focusing on them when you make contact, not on you. You probably know someone who only contacts you when they need something. Don’t be that person.

7. Make time to get out and see people. The most powerful networking contacts are in-person, one-to-one interactions. If possible, arrange one to two coffee or after-work happy hour meetings with someone in your network each month. Also, when possible, attend networking events (for example, those hosted by a professional organization). If you can’t do that, network where you already are: your child’s soccer game, your neighborhood grocery store, and even at sporting events.

8. Network online. Participate in an online community. This can be a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn, an alumni site (like Classmates.com) or your trade association’s website (which might have an e-list or message board to connect members). However, remember that online networking is not a substitute for in-person networking.

9. Be very specific when you activate your network. Identify the specific need you have, and then contact people who are in a position to help you reach that specific goal. You’ll sometimes see someone post a public request for help finding a new job—but more often, these types of requests are made individually and not as a broad “call for help.”

10. Once you build it, use it! Women are extraordinarily talented at creating small, powerful networks—we just need to do a better job of using them!

Beansmith

October 23, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Beansmith Coffee Roasters’ immaculate bar still feels brand-new—it just opened this past spring—but its original wood floors, exposed brick, and some of the design details resonate of a much earlier era. The Old Market building Beansmith occupies at 1213 Harney Street dates to 1880,  says owner Chris Smith. He’s the Smith in the cafe’s name, but another Smith was the building’s namesake.

“Its first owner was George Warren Smith, and it was known as the Smith Building. So we thought it was pretty appropriate that Beansmith should be one of its tenants,” Smith says. “We feel really honored to be part of the heritage of the building.”

The history of Beansmith itself starts 30 years ago, when Smith’s degree in electrical engineering helped pique his curiosity about coffee.

“Engineers in general are curious as to why things work the way they do,” he says. “That ultimately brought me to the point where I wanted to own and operate my own coffee roaster. I had more ability to source exactly what I thought would be great, and those elements—why coffee could taste much better and what’s making that happen—brought me to where I am now.”

Smith’s original foray into entrepreneurship was a drinking water company, which led to providing water for coffee machines, which brought forth the idea of a coffee wholesale business. Smith still operates the La Vista roasting facility he launched in 2006.

“That was a good place to start because it allowed me to see how a variety of different shops and stores operated. It also allowed me to see what worked and what maybe could be better and it allowed me to see how people were reacting to the coffee,” he says. “I had been to Kansas City, Minneapolis, and of course larger cities like San Francisco and Chicago; the coffee scenes in those cities were vibrant…I thought to myself, ‘Gosh, Omaha doesn’t have anything like this—why not?’ So as I became more proficient in roasting and experiencing all these locations and takes on coffee, I really started to develop my vision for what we could do here in this area.”

A coffee bar was the natural evolution of that vision, Smith says. “I realized that for us to really have better controllability of our own brand and who we are, ultimately we needed to be serving people our own coffee. We have some great relationships with a variety of shops that serve our coffee and we want to continue that, but we also felt like the best voice for our own coffee was us actually serving it and presenting it to those people interested in specialty coffee.”

Eventually, Smith hopes Beansmith leads Omaha in becoming known to specialty coffee enthusiasts everywhere.

“We can not only just educate, but share what we know about our coffees…I do see more community coffee shops beginning to spark up that are on that same trek in terms of trying to up their game in terms of quality and knowledgeability,” he says. “I think that’s really good for Omaha because that means Omaha is in for the treat of a thriving specialty coffee community.”

Beansmith1

Weekends are for Waffles

May 29, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article was originally published in May/June 2015 edition of The Encounter.

In a society were the graphic tee is king, it’s only natural to spot one reading Weekends are for Waffles. Even with the growing population of millennials living downtown in the Old Market, NoDo, Little Italy, and surrounding areas, it’s proving to be a lot more than just designer-tee-wearing hipsters and your typical waffles and syrup. If you’re looking for a way to spend your weekend morning, it’s clear downtown boasts some great mid-morning eateries that will excite even the crankiest morning person.

Waffles, yes. Bloody Marys and Mimosas, yes. Poached eggs on a bed of homemade corn beef hash, yes. And of course, a group of your closest friends for a good gossip session called ‘brunchin.’

This easy-to-follow route for your downtown brunchin’ crawl is not your typical Easter or Mother’s Day brunch, which the urban dictionary defines as a breakfast and lunch usually occurring around 11 a.m. for snobs who like tea and jam. Brunchin’ is just an excuse for anyone who wants a cocktail before noon when it’s not football season in Huskerland.

The queen of the world of brunchin’ is the Bloody Mary. Whether you are working through a hangover or just like to drink you vegetables, this cocktail is a sure-fire thirst quencher and hangover mitigation device. Almost any restaurant hosts their own version of this popular drink, but Stokes Grill & Bar at 11th and Howard allows you to build your own. The buffet line features a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar with different tomato juices, spices, vegetables, pickles, shrimp, and even bacon. Yes, we said bacon. Squeeze in a lime, head out to their patio and lounge in the sunshine on comfy couches, and wait for your order of the chocolatiest chipped pancakes this side of the Missouri River.

If fruit juices are more your thing, J’s on Jackson at 11th and Jackson runs a weekend special of $4 mimosas and Bloody Marys if you have a group. The special runs all day long. Bring your pooch because their patio is dog friendly. They will even bring your furry friend their own bowl of water!

A favorite of soccer fans is Wilson & Washburn at 14th and Harney. Opening at 10 a.m., the owners are aware of the time difference between

the United Kingdom and the central United States and will air almost all of the English Premier League soccer games with a newly developed brunch menu. (Yes, sure, Americans and fans of sports involving the arms are welcome, too). The smaller menu consists of a few traditional items, but with their own funky twist. It’s your choice if you want to pair the smoked peanut butter and berry-compote-topped French toast with a hot French press coffee, or, one of their brunch cocktails. We suggest the Dirty Wicked, a cold brew coffee with bourbon, simple syrup, and bitters that will have any brunchin’ patron cheering. If you’re not in the mood for something sweet, try the hangover-slaying, homemade corned beef hash topped with two soft poached eggs and horseradish aioli.

Wheatfield’s Eatery and Bakery at 12th and Howard is a natural stop for a brunchin’ crawl. They offer a large, basic brunch menu. Perk up with a creamy, whipped-topped, hot hazelnut latte. This is a great meeting place with early-bird specials starting as early as 6 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday morning. Pair your coffee with eggs, eggs, and more eggs. Not for the small stomach type, the Grandma’s Scrambler is ham, eggs, and potatoes scrambled with a drizzle of Hollandaise sauce. Did we mention it comes with a very large side—Ron’s Large Hot Cinnamon Roll?

If you’ve done the downtown brunchin’ crawl right, your stomach is about to burst, but your once-throbbing head isn’t. What better way to get a proper late start to a weekend day?

Brunch1

Deprivation Blindspot

May 20, 2015 by

This article appears in the Summer 2015 edition of B2B.

Which of the following is significantly correlated with ethics?

Chocolate

Vegetables

Caffeine

All of the Above

In a recent survey, most people responded “all of the above.” I picked “chocolate” because I think chocolate is associated with everything that is worthwhile in life.

But, bizarre as it may sound, the answer is….. caffeine.

Why?

The Huffington Post reports that professors at the University of Washington, the University of Arizona, and the University of North Carolina have identified what we can call the Deprivation BlindSpot. The more sleep deprived, the more likely we are to be blinded by the desire for quick solutions, the need to fit in, and other psychological tendencies that lead to unethical decisions.

“When you’re sleep-deprived at work, it’s much easier to simply go along with unethical suggestions from your boss because resistance takes effort and you’re already worn down,” says David Welsh, an organizational behavior professor at the University of Washington. “However, we found that caffeine can give sleep-deprived individuals the extra energy needed to resist unethical behavior.” (Note: You might think so, but Welsh’s study was not funded by Starbucks.)

If there is any truth to the claim that caffeine can help us resist unethical behavior, it’s worth implementing a workplace policy that provides free coffee and other caffeinated beverages to all employees.

And it’s reasonable that other practices can also protect us from the Deprivation BlindSpot. First, let’s make sure we take breaks. No more working straight through the day, getting up only once or twice, and eating lunch at the desk.

Second, managers and supervisors can walk around, talk to employees, watch their body language, and ask questions. This practice can help us identify each other’s deprivations. It also helps create a culture of care and respect.

Third, schedule decision-making meetings and high-pressure tasks at the beginning of the day, when even the most exhausted employees have their best burst of energy.

Finally, napping is not just for kindergarten. Employers can promote napping. Google and other tech companies are known for it. Progressive companies are building nap pods and separate rooms to invite employees to nap. As long as employees perform, they can take as many naps as they want.

In what ways do you see yourself or your employees being tired at work? Have you witnessed workers making not-so-great-choices because they’re tired? What do you do to help yourself and them overcome the Deprivation BlindSpot?

 

 

King of the Road


April 22, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are many reasons a person might pop in at Sapp Bros. Travel Center’s Apple Barrel restaurant over a Saturday noon hour. Crosswinds, after all, blow in almost any direction.

A pair of overall-clad old-timers with wives in tow. A young couple in matching camo attire. Doting grandparents dining with their favorite 5-year-old. Local mechanics on lunch break. A freshly scrubbed and combed 40-something trucker, devouring content on his smartphone as ravenously as his dish. A pair of Southern female truckers, convening their convoy-of-two for a respite of hamburger steak and chit-chat.

“I know why 94 was closed back there,” one trucker proudly says, almost conspiratorially, to another in a deep Southern accent. Grey wisps overflow her Georgia Bulldogs ball cap. A pen and tire gauge sit abreast, clipped to the pocket of her blue t-shirt.

Waitress Crystal flits from table to table, cheerily taking orders and topping off coffee; never seeming rushed, but totally on top of everything. The aesthetic is carefully curated retro, with vintage pics of the Sapp brothers and other family hung alongside classic gas pump globes. This location, opened in 1971, was the first of a now 16-strong collection of Sapp Bros. Travel Centers stretching from Pennsylvania to Utah.

From our cozy booth, an interior window perfectly frames a huge blanket on the wall, one adorned with a black bear, turkey, and deer. The buck stares in through a single pane from the convenience store—which offers much more than its urban counterparts. In addition to the usual grab bag of snacks and sodas, the Travel Center at I-80 mile marker 440 stocks all the trappings of an auto parts store, plus sunglasses, hats, neck pillows, audio books, mattresses, Harley gear, naughty mudflap gals, maps galore, and, as anywhere in the region, abundant Husker paraphernalia. An “As Seen on TV” store beckons from across an adjoining Subway shop.

Need a quick haircut? How about a new tat? This place is a city unto itself and also boasts a chapel, TV lounge, service station, showers, game room, laundromat, and more.

Back at the Apple Barrel, my companion orders a perfectly cooked Whiskey Steak & Eggs with hashbrowns and toast (subbing for sold-out homemade banana bread), while I conquer the King of the Road Chicken Fried Steak Skillet with two scrambled eggs and a biscuit. Dashes of hot sauce, salt, and pepper elevate it to quintessential diner fare done just right.

The open road itself is as iconically American as eateries like this, representing generations of journeys, but also the promise of where we’ll go next. A vast atlas comes alive with movement, inspiring possibility and enabling independence; each interstate a throbbing vein, each back road a
supportive capillary.

Sapp Bros., with its colossal, iconic coffeepot water tower is a prairie oasis for many wayfarers. Its cadence acts as the beating heart of Americana, nestled right here in
the heartland.

Full of coffee and comfort, we exchange goodbyes with Crystal. Folks continue moving throughout the roadside retreat, some arriving on 18 wheels, some on merely four, but all finding proper fuel for their rigs and for themselves.

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Rachel Tomlinson Dick

April 20, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Is there some state law dictating that baristas must be among the most interesting people on the planet?

When not slinging brew at Blue Line Coffee in Dundee, Rachel Tomlinson Dick can be found on stage at The Waiting Room, Slowdown, and other indie-fueled venues. She plays in the Omaha band Hers and with the Portland-based Manic Pixie Dream Girls. The 27-year-old also volunteers with Omaha Girls Rock, teaching guitar riffs accompanied by a steady backbeat of girl-power mentoring and advocacy. That’s when she’s not working as an apprentice stitcher with Artifact Bag Co., the local outfit known for the finest craftsmanship in waxed canvas and leather goods.

“I would never survive in the cubicle world,” she says. “Tried it for awhile. Time moved too slowly. I need to be more active,” she adds while simultaneously juggling beans, bran, and bagels. “Most baristas are really creative types, and half the fun of being here is the interaction with people who are motivated by their outside work in the arts, culture, and more.”

And as for the other half? That would be the people on the other side of the counter, she says. “I open the shop on many mornings, and that means I get to help people begin their day,” she says. “It’s early. They’re just starting out, not sure which way the day is going to go. Good? Maybe not so much? I get to give them something that is seemingly so small and insignificant, but coffee makes people happy!” 

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Très Johnson

February 4, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Très Johnson is pouring water in a slow, circular motion around a paper filter resting just inside a glass jar. Inside the filter, coffee grounds are mixing with the water, tiny bubbles forming on the surface of the gritty liquid. The glass chamber below collects the drippings of fresh, dark coffee.

At 1010 S. Main St. in Council Bluffs, (drips) coffee shop serves only pour-over coffee.

Johnson had wanted to open a coffee shop almost since he managed one back in 1995. Unfortunately, “the cost of the machinery prohibits just jumping in,” he says.

He and his girlfriend, Amber Jacobsen, took a trip to San Francisco about a year and a half ago. There, they visited Blue Bottle Coffee, which does pour-over coffee—Johnson’s first taste of it.

“It was the best cup of coffee I’d had,” Johnson says. “And I realized it took a smaller amount of equipment to be able to make it. You just had to boil water, have the filter and the stand. And I actually use glass Ball jars instead of a stand.”

Re-inspired by this method, Johnson opened (drips) on July 1, 2013.

This particular brew is Nightingale Blend, roasted by Beansmith Coffee in Omaha, and prepared in a personal pour-over, which has four drips. He also uses a Chemex frequently, with a single drip.

“I do have some French presses and an AeroPress,” Johnson says. “But I’ve found that the pour-over just tastes better. The people that insist on French press have tried the pour-over, and now they don’t insist on the French press anymore.”

A coffee shop is the perfect place to be on a day like this—cold and rainy. Amber is doing a puzzle. Two locals are enjoying their pour-overs and accusing Amber of cheating by looking at the photo on the puzzle box.

(drips) is located in a mixed-use space occupied by artists, including low-income artist housing. The coffee shop definitely has an artsy feel, probably because Johnson is both a painter and a DJ.

One half of the wall space displays Johnson’s art. The other half is space for rotating guest shows.

For Valentine’s Day, (drips) will display the work of approximately 20 local artists in a show called “Lovesong,” named for The Cure song. A Brian Tait show will open mid-February.

The Cure is already present in lyrics painted onto Johnson’s pieces. He often uses stencils to inscribe lyrics from bands like Depeche Mode and Joy Division—words that “people from the ’80s, if they know the song, they connect with.”

He describes his style as “heavily influenced by street art, and then some post-World War II art thrown in.”

“When I’m tired of painting and waiting for paint to dry, I produce music,” he says with a laugh.

He DJs a set every Sunday night for an online radio station, lowercasesounds.com. “Then that’s what I listen to generally throughout the week when I’m painting,” he says. “I listen to it over and over again, because I usually listen to newer music or music that I just picked up. I listen and paint.”

Johnson describes his sound as “deep house and ambient.” He DJs Silicon Prairie News events, like Big Omaha, and he has recently released EPs on the label Deep Site Space.

“There’s always been a combination of the music in the art,” Johson says. “They’re both something that I let myself go into. I don’t really sweat it. I just let it all flow.”

Culprit Cafe sticks to the basics.

January 29, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Espresso and bread might not sound like much of a restaurant menu, but for Culprit Cafe owner Luke Mabie, those are the only two things he needed.

When designing the menu for his new restaurant, now open at 16th and Farnam streets, Mabie turned to the basic elements of a traditional bakery and cafe.

“My palate is always looking for more with less,” says Mabie. “We wanted to bring everything back to its original element.”

While simplicity reigns supreme at Culprit, that doesn’t mean customers get just a cup of coffee and a slice of bread. Rather, Mabie aims to focus on perfecting the simplest elements of Culprit’s variety of drinks, sandwiches, and baked goods.

Culprit was inspired by Mabie’s love of classic bakeries, as well as his experiences in New York City honing his craft as a pastry chef.

“Too many people focus on having that one recipe where it’s just like, ‘Oh yes, I have this thing, nobody else has this,’” says Mabie. “You come to realize that there’s never going to be a recipe that is so special or stands out so much that everybody’s going to be jealous of it. Because it’s all about the experience as a whole.”

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Owner and pastry chef Luke Mabie is all about more taste with a simple menu.

 

You aren’t going to find novelty drinks and secret menus at Culprit Cafe—what you see is what you get, and Mabie makes sure to keep Culprit’s offerings simple yet satisfying.

Take, for example, their cappuccino. Culprit sells their cappuccinos in one size only. As Mabie explains, a cappuccino is meant to consist of one-third espresso, one-third foam, and one-third milk. If you make cappuccinos bigger, the espresso can be overpowering, so Culprit keeps their cappuccinos at their original 6 oz. size.

This thoughtfulness shows up everywhere on Culprit’s drink menu. All syrups are made in-house, so that “the customer has a closer relationship to what we do,” says Mabie. On a recent visit, the vanilla latte and drip coffee were surprisingly smooth and not too bitter, perfect for both the coffee addict and the casual sipper.

While Mabie enjoys coffee and knew he wanted it to be a fundamental part of his business, he actually had no experience with it before opening Culprit. So he took the same approach that he does to baking and focused on the craft. Mabie traveled around the Midwest, tasting different coffee roasters, eager to educate himself on coffee as much as he could, before settling on Broadway Cafe and Roasting Co. in Kansas City, Mo.

Broadway account manager Brian Phillips worked with Mabie, and was impressed by his dedication to educating himself on coffee.

The open-face veggie sandwich pairs well with a salad of candied walnuts, feta, and balsamic reduction dressing.

The open-face veggie sandwich pairs well with a salad of candied walnuts, feta, and balsamic reduction dressing.

“When I got the phone call from Luke, I could tell that he was really passionate about coffee, but didn’t have the technical vocabulary,” says Phillips. “But I knew right away, when he was talking about his work, with the way that he makes bread, there was a lot of crossover.”

A quick glance at Culprit’s bakery display emphasizes the work Mabie puts into his classic baked goods. Pies and cakes at Culprit aren’t just served as slices from an hours-old display but rather as individual portions. The apple brown butter cake with a honey cinnamon buttercream frosting was basic yet satisfying, just like the rest of Culprit’s menu. Containing the perfect ratio of cake to frosting, the cake wasn’t loaded with the sugars and sweeteners found in many foods nowadays.

The bread at Culprit is just as much of a labor of love. Mabie bakes his at 3 p.m. every day, so that it’s fresh for customers who come right off of work.

The bread is more than just an accent on Culprit’s sandwiches and salads. It’s the foundation for which Mabie provides lunch fare with a variety of flavor profiles and textures, to please everyone from meat lovers to vegetarians. Once again, it’s back to the basics for Mabie.