4 Min read
Veteran owned business
AVAILABLE ON PODCAST
Spicy Rooster shirts were sold out of the sizes needed. My cousin Priscilla and I bought the last on the shelf. A red shirt with a Sriracha motif, the tee had the hot sauce’s trademark cock, except it is brandishing a rifle; the encircling Chinese characters were replaced with symbols of a grenade, claymore mine, night vision goggles and the like. I’m probably calling these the wrong names, but you get the idea. On the back was a white outline of a claymore mine with the initials BRCC, for Black Rifle Coffee Company.
The outpost, as the coffee stores are called, is the company headquarters in Salt Lake City. Founded by veteran and former U.S. Army Green Beret Evan Hafer in 2014, the mission is to serve “coffee and culture to people who love America.” The building was located off the freeway with signage large enough to get Priscilla’s attention. We pulled into the compound, because that’s what it looked like, a massive white building with several steps leading up to black doors. My husband, my daughter, and I weren’t sure if it was open to customers but signs noted two flavors for sale; one was Camo Latte.
The main floor was filled with merchandise, from BRCC mugs, coffee bags, and tee shirts, to a seating area with chess board and recent issues of Coffee or Die magazines. I’m not a big coffee drinker but my husband is. I ordered a cappuccino and read about the Ukrainian soldier on the Russian front. The line for coffee was five or six people deep and the checkout line was longer. You ordered first then took your gear and coffee to pay.
Who were these people at an industrial outpost where sugar packs, creamer, and stir sticks were arranged at the bar in green ammo cans? Short hair, beards, wearing trucker hats, they were the kind of people who didn’t miss much and looked comfortable in their skin. If I had to guess, they were veterans, police, first responders, the folks who spent some time on this side of a firearm. Men and women.
Colt, yes that’s his name, gave us a tour. He grew up in Connecticut and had been working at the company for a few years. He took us through the offices into the distribution area with pallets of beans, told us the volumes they handled, the quality control on sourcing and selection. The graphic department designed outlandish and irreverent teeshirts, hats, gear and coffee bags, like the Escape Goat and its image of an armed goat-headed man with biceps and this blurb.
Your tastebuds are being held hostage by dangerously bad coffee. Now only the world’s deadliest goat can save you from flavor prison. . . . Serving premium coffee to people who love America. [Flag Image with caption Veteran Owned]
Illustrated comic style designs filled the wall of the art studio. Black beard, Sasquatch, war dogs and K9 heroes, special issues. The art was fantastic, top notch. Colt guided us through the facility where folks were producing gear, sewing labels onto hats, roasting the beans, and preparing product for shipment.
The company employs forty percent veterans. In 2017, when Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 refugees, BRCC created a meme responding with a pledge to hire 10,000 veterans in the next 10 years. It went viral and the company, sold out of absolutely everything. Maybe that’s why Colt shared this story. When the U.S. was getting out of Afghanistan the owner learned that one of his Afghan friends had fled to the states. He called him up and said to come out and bring family and friends; the company had jobs for them. I saw them working on the floor and a woman in hijab smiled at me as I walked by. BRCC wasn’t a bunch of heartless white dudes with guns and gusto; they believed and bled for freedom not just at home, but for all people. The woman’s smile caught me off guard. She seemed to say to me, I have a place here and I make a difference. I smiled back at her.
Outside, Colt showed us the company van with the logo DO EPIC SH*T across the top. It was parked next to the employee practice range. A life-sized target in the shape of a moose, a boar, maybe a deer stood at the end of the open area, stuck full of holes from archery practice. Employees get a compound bow at the end of two years, Colt said. Two bow techs were working in a large shed outside where the gym was set up on one end for employee use.
The place was immaculate, the quality control room tidy. We walked past a team working on flavors or new product concepts. Folks nodded at us but were engaged in their work. Colt said that after a 12 hour day he may be tired from being on his feet all day, but he believed in what he was doing and enjoyed meeting interesting people. He told us about the special edition coffees, such as the bag designed for Hurricane, one of the most decorated police dogs. My daughter wanted to buy stickers but they had sold out. He suggested we sign up online for BRCC news and notices, because they sell out fast.
I had left my backpack by the chess table and hadn’t realized it until I was outside. I mentioned this to Colt and we both laughed. The Outpost is probably in one of the safest places in the state, the mission of service deeply woven into its culture.
We develop our explosive roast profiles with the same mission focus we learned as military members serving this great country and are committed to supporting veterans, law enforcement, and first responders. With every purchase you make, we give back.BRCC mission statement
When we returned to the BRCC show room, my backpack was where I had left it, on the stool by the chessboard. Priscilla and I sat down on the leather sofa and skimmed the magazine, the grind of beans and rich aroma in the air. She had found this place, wanting to take me here. My husband has been ordering Black Rifle coffee for years. The packaging was worth it and so was the product. Hafer was more than a coffee enthusiast. He had been tinkering with coffee roasting and working out of his garage even when he was in uniform. His passion had become a full-on business and lifestyle, launching outposts across the country and going public on the New York Stock Exchange this year.
Sriracha sauce was created by David Tran, a Chinese immigrant from Vietnam who was born under the Lunar New Year sign of the rooster. The ubiquitous condiment is also called rooster sauce. The visit to the outpost was a highlight of our trip to the city. Priscilla and I are cousins who had lived in a free South Vietnam. We had escaped from Saigon before it fell to communism. We were grateful to this veteran-owned business, to the men and women who risked so much to keep America safe and to secure freedom at home and abroad. I pointed out the military symbols on her new shirt and Priscilla wore her spicy rooster tee to dinner that night.