A few days ago I told a friend how much I love my dishwasher. Not because it’s fancy, or super-quiet, or even new. As far as dishwashers go, it’s pretty ordinary. But it washes my dishes. I HATE washing dishes. And every time I empty the dishwasher, I thank whomever it was who invented that miraculous thing.
The dishwasher is just one of many modern conveniences we perhaps take for granted. Power tools are another. Recently Michael and I were assembling a loft bed for my son, and we must have drilled at least a hundred holes. I said, “Remember back in the day when people had to drill holes with that hand crank drill thing?” Of course, there are still people who appreciate the craft of old-school wood working… taking their time, using their hands and primitive tools, and savoring the hard-earned end result. I love meeting people who do things the “old-fashioned way,” because I’m more likely to pack my dishwasher to the gills and turn the knob, hit the button on the Keurig, and sit down for some online shopping. Oh, instant gratification. You’ve made us all so damn impatient.
If you can stand it, patience and perseverance usually do pay off.
Recently, Troy and Jennica Lucas invited Brandy and me to their home for coffee. If you know them, you know they’re bona fide coffee roasters. So we knew there’d be no Sanka involved. Unlike most friends who invite you for a cup of automatic drip-pot coffee, the Lucases painstakingly craft theirs from the raw bean all the way to your cup. Also unlike any of my friends EVER, they served us from their very own coffee truck.
It started as a hobby in 2002, Troy and Jennica roasting their own beans in hopes of finding a good cup of coffee. It was then that the idea of starting their own roasting company began. But baby Quinn arrived in 2003, and the idea had to remain a hobby for the time being.
Everything made from scratch takes a little longer, and in 2007, Lucas Roasting Company was born, and since then this family of four has been working hard to turn their caffeine dream into reality. Now six years later, they roast and sell several varieties of coffee, from Brazilian to Nicaraguan to Indonesian and more, plus flavored blends, online and at various locations throughout the valley. They even have a Halfway to Heaven blend — the Steel Wheels signature blend — which will be offered to hordes of concert-goers at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival coming up July 12 – 14!! And served straight from their new coffee truck. :)
The day we were there, Troy and Jennica showed us the new truck and their roasting facility and told us their inspiring story while their two kids — Kade and Quinn — played with our four. I’ve never, ever been inside a coffee bean roasting room, and let me tell you — it smells GREAT in there. There were sacks upon sacks of raw coffee beans and this big Deidrich roaster… bags and scales and everything in between, and it wasn’t until we entered that room that I realized just how hard these people have worked to achieve their goals. Here’s this family, living in a little community, running a business from their home. Troy calls it a “small family business,” and maybe it is when compared with large, national or global businesses. But the “small family business” is the one that has more to lose. More invested. More blood, sweat, and tears. And therefore, requires more bravery. Maybe I’m getting a little away from the story here, but standing in the roasting room was humbling and inspiring, and really brought to my full attention the devotion and sacrifice required to do what they — this family of four — have done.
And they’re just regular people (ha ha). At one point, Troy was making us a couple cups of coffee using the Clever Dripper… a one-cup-at-a-time brewing system that produces a great cup of coffee with none of the Keurig trash… and as he explained the process, I could hear Jennica addressing one of the children: “What’s wrong with your face? …Pull up your hair… You look dirty but I don’t see any wounds…” A family business indeed.
After Brandy and I got our coffee fix, Troy and Jennica had all the kids line up outside the truck and place their orders, which ranged from Italian root beer and grape sodas to a delicious caramel Java Blender.
Over coffee I got a bit more of their story. Troy came here in 1997 with the Brethren Volunteer Service to work on a project at Brethren Woods in Keezletown. He’s also worked for Habitat for Humanity, the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, and the JMU coffee shop, Taylor Down Under. At some point he injured his back and ended up at a chiropractor where Jennica worked. After a couple months of her healing touch they were engaged, and not long thereafter they tied the knot. Jennica’s from New Hampshire (in fact, she and Troy lived there for a bit before returning to the valley), and she currently works for the Park View Federal Credit Union.
And little by little, with the same patience required to brew a great cup of coffee, they have built their life together, a lovely family, and their business. It’s taken eleven years to go from a coffee hobby to a mobile full-service coffee company… but it’s better to gain strength by climbing a long, sometimes steep hill than to be a flash in the pan. They’re a committed bunch. They know how to go the distance, where others who need instant gratification might tire out. It’s the same concept as instant coffee: sure it’s fast, but it’s just not satisfying.
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