July 18, 2018 – Earlier this month—when the bottom fell out of a deal for Cat & Cloud to acquire Captain + Stokerand Captain + Stoker suddenly closed—co-managers Tyler Ellis and his fiance Kelsea Richmond were too rocked by the news to talk about it right away.
“Not right now,” Ellis wrote via email. “It happened so fast. I’m pretty emotional. Lemme slow down.”
After they had some time to process, Monterey transplants Ellis and Richmond expressed awe at how much they clicked with their newfound coffee-and-community existence.
“I am simply going to miss working at Captain + Stoker,” Ellis said. “I was connected with so many customers, our employees, everyone involved. I was myself every day, and I’ve never felt I could be so comfortable in any other job. When it comes down to it, I am going to miss surrounding myself with such amazing people and the energy that was in that building. We had our ups and downs, we didn’t do everything right, but in the end we created something incredible.”
He added this note for his guests: “We miss you already, we cannot thank you all enough for believing in all of us. You came back time after time even though we never had anything perfect. We had different shaped bread every week, coffee would run out occasionally, but you kept coming back. Thank you so much for your love and understanding.”
Now the latest drip in the Captain + Stoker drama has them ecstatic that they don’t have to say goodbye after all.
Thursday, July 19, Captain + Stoker reopened with Richmond, Ellis and Ellis’ brother TJ—himself a barista—at the helm, after crafting a deal with the founders that gives them ownership and creative control.
C+S co-founder Peterson Conway has been candid about what he wishes went differently with the Cat + Cloud acquisition-that-wasn’t, and his role therein. He is also quick to celebrate what he sees as a uplifting conclusion—a “comeback story,” to borrow his parlance—in the young and turbulent tale of the 398 E. Franklin coffee shop.
“Kelsea and Tyler are high energy—they have worked their butts off for this,” he says, citing how Richmond was painting the walls and Ellis was trucking down tables from San Francisco before the spot opened. “I remember us all standing around the newly arrived roaster wondering how we would ever commission it and suddenly it fired up with a roar, and Tyler jumped out from under it with this big grin. Honestly, they had more ownership over it than we did.”
Richmond elaborates from there. “We are young and don’t have a gillion dollars, but we have a plan and are going to make it work.”
For a business that struggled to keep things in the black, making it work looks like this: pared-down employee roster and operating hours to trim labor costs (with hopes of widening both later), more time on site for the two new owner-operators, and a regularized coffee roasting program to make sure single-origin enthusiasts always leave with a bag of beans. The fact that steep opening costs have been addressed also helps.
Another avenue that will drum up intrigue is a push for what Richmond calls “more pop-up artsy stuff,” including music, video, art, craft and tasting events. She welcomes any potential collaborators to message her via email@example.com