When we started Taproom in April 2014, Jared Karr was one of eight baristas on the opening crew. Jared had been a barista for just a short time, but knew he wanted to be in the coffee industry for the long haul. In his initial interview - while sitting in our half-finished space next to construction rubble - Jared was honest with me about his desire to open his own roastery, and that he wanted to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible wherever he worked in the meantime.
I took a shot on Jared and hired him, aware that it would only be a matter of time before he would resign and head off to do his own thing. I know I could have viewed hiring Jared as a waste of time, or even as shooting myself in the foot, if he were to eventually become competition for me in the Atlanta coffee scene.
Over the course of a couple years, Jared and I would have many shifts together - tasting hundreds of espresso shots and learning about extraction, discussing all the joys and challenges of small business ownership, and delighting in the occasional prank (ask him about how he got me to believe all my full-time staff was quitting on me, or how he realized a spent espresso puck looks like a brownie but doesn't taste like one).
Jared and I also became good friends over time. We attend church together, he helped me build my deck at my house, he's babysat my kids, and my wife and I even did his premarital counseling. It's not every day that people successfully bridge the gap between personal and business, but we seemed to healthily navigate that dynamic throughout Jared's tenure at Taproom.
With what seemed like minimal input from my side, Jared grew in experience and made steady progress in growing his coffee business from a dream to reality. He went from roasting coffee in a WhirleyPop, to roasting on my own dinky home coffee roasting machine, to graduating to a small commercial coffee roaster and securing his first regular accounts. When the time came to make East Pole Coffee Co. official, it was no surprise to anyone that Jared was on track for success.
Jared turned in his resignation when East Pole was growing from side project to sustainable main gig. It didn't take much for us to realize a Taproom-East Pole partnership made complete sense, and in March 2017 we announced the switch to using East Pole for our core coffee menu.
When Jared was recently recognized as an Atlanta Rising Star by StarChefs, I got to publicly share a few words at the honorees dinner as Jared's mentor. Personally, I don't claim the title "mentor" with Jared - I'd rather not view our relationship with that measure of formality. We're friends and brothers in the journey, not mentor-mentee.
I continue to cheer on Jared and East Pole in their glowing success in the local and national coffee scene. Last week, Food & Wine listed the "Best Coffee in Every State" and I smiled as I saw East Pole named as Georgia's top coffee company, with not a whisper of mention for Taproom. I predict that it'll happen over and over for years to come. It is an honor and privilege to be a part of Jared's life and career!
If you want to celebrate East Pole's success with Jared and hundreds of other people, attend their annual "From Atlanta" party, April 6th at 7pm the East Pole roastery & bar location. You can also say hi to Jared and co. at Taproom's 4th anniversary bash on April 26th.