Paul Brueggemann is no stranger to the Springs — he’s been here 20 years — but his borderline obsession with the art of brewing coffee is still relatively new. He started working at Loyal Coffee in August 2018, and this week was promoted to assistant general manager of the company’s Downtown location.
“I got into coffee because of a really good friend of mine, Seth Enos,” Brueggemann said. “He taught me about the science of coffee — why different beans taste differently, and it really fascinated me. … I’ve always enjoyed coffee, but the cup that really changed my mindset was about five years ago in Seth’s apartment. He made a pour-over for me. I think it was an Ethiopian coffee and it made me realize two things: This is amazing — and how do I do this at home?”
That coffee was the catalyst for Brueggemann’s start in the business. He began applying for coffee jobs soon afterward, landing at Loyal — a café, he says, that “really allowed me to enjoy the craft.”
Loyal was still pretty new at the time — it opened its doors in 2016 — so Brueggemann had the chance to grow along with the shop.
“I found out very quickly that coffee is very people-centric and I really enjoy that aspect of it,” he said. “It’s actually the main reason I continue to pursue it. … I like what Loyal Coffee is doing — they’re really community-oriented and they take really good care of their employees, which I think is admirable. [I enjoy] just being a part of that kind of machine that is serving the community. I really like the way that Loyal is doing that — so jumping into this management position, I hope to help progress that.”
Brueggemann spoke with the Business Journal about his love for his craft, his vision for Loyal Coffee, and what motivates him.
How would you describe the atmosphere at Loyal Coffee?
They’re very welcoming. They are very community-oriented. Right when you walk in, you feel like you’re welcome. There is almost a living room atmosphere there — especially Downtown, since it’s so small. You feel like you’re walking into a really nice kitchen in somebody’s house. That’s a huge draw I think, and that’s what I feel when I walk in.
Of course you make espresso and drip, but what other drinks do you make?
We do things beyond just coffee. Obviously we do the pour-over, which is a made-to-order cup of coffee that’s dialed in specifically for the origin of the bean, how small or how big the beans are, and all of those different aspects. We fine-tune those so it’s a perfect cup every time. Besides that, 90 percent of what we make, as far as drinks, is made in-house. We have a tonic water, which is made from rose, hibiscus, lemongrass. … There’s also lemonade, we have a sparkling tea, we also have cocktails — and I don’t think a lot of people know about that. We have two cocktails on tap right now. We have a sparkling Negroni and an Old Fashioned, as well as three different draft beers. We have canned beers, we have wine — we have a lot more than you might expect if you go into a shop and just want coffee. We have the whole thing.
Do you serve food as well?
Yep! We have a whole menu that was created by our chef, Jacob [Cheatham]. He’s been there since the beginning making our menu. We are pretty famous for the toast that we make. The soft-boiled egg on toast is very popular, but we also have peanut butter and banana toast, and ricotta apple toast which is very nice. On the not-toast side, we have a sweet potato hash, which is phenomenal. And the pastries come in fresh every day.
What does the future for Loyal Coffee look like?
We just opened up our North Colorado Springs shop last year and … from there, we dream about doing more shops here in the Springs and potentially elsewhere. As far as within the café, I think the future is just doing what we’re doing — and that’s serving the community and creating that kind of atmosphere for people to have community and enjoy their time in the shop.
Does Loyal run workshops or events?
Actually, before — I don’t know if you’ve heard of it … this pandemic — every Saturday we would have a public cupping where you come in and Bevan [Cammell], the roaster, would teach you. You’re tasting the coffee, you’re looking for the specific notes that the coffee might have, you’re also smelling it — you’re just learning all those things about coffee and in that, he might teach you how to brew specific coffee. [We have some] other things down the line, but during the quarantine, they’ve actually had a couple of brewing classes that they’ve been doing on Instagram Live.
How has COVID affected your ability to serve customers?
We’ve tried really hard to keep the business flowing. One way is that we introduced curbside delivery, which has been really helpful, especially during the mandated quarantine time. People still use it now, which is awesome. But we haven’t changed how we serve people — besides obviously wearing masks and gloves, wiping down the tables after each guest has used it. We always want to maintain that level of warmth and welcome that we have. I think that’s one of the reasons people have been coming back to Loyal is that we foster such a welcoming atmosphere. I know I’m saying ‘welcoming’ a lot, but that’s just how you feel when you walk in the place. We try really hard to remember the people that we’ve seen before and strike up a conversation — really make people feel at home.
What motivates you in your work?
I think it comes back to what I was saying before: I want to make sure everyone is heard and everyone is seen as they walk through the door. There have been a few times where I’ve seen posts on Instagram when some people have walked through our doors and they say ‘Oh, Loyal made me feel seen.’ And that’s really important. That’s what motivates me — making sure that our guests are seen, especially during this time. We had the election, which had a lot of anxious people coming in and they didn’t know what they were going to do and they didn’t know the direction the country was going. Also, during the pandemic, it’s been hard for a lot of people and just making sure people are understood and seen … Even though people have different views on certain things, that shouldn’t matter when it comes to humanity. We’re all still people.
What would you say to members of the Starbucks cult? What makes independent coffee shops better?
You know, I don’t know that I would say better — I would say different, because there are some generational gaps between coffee lovers. We like to break it up into waves in the coffee community. There are the first, second and third waves. So that first wave is that Folgers, that ‘Just get me my damn coffee and I’ll be OK for the rest of the day.’ There’s the second wave, which is your Starbucks, your Dutch Bros and stuff like that, where for people every day, it’s their routine. It’s what they are used to.
But then you have your third wave, which is your Switchback [Coffee Roasters], your Building Three [Coffee], and Loyal Coffee, where we take it to that next level. It is your every day. It is your ‘Hey, get me through my week or my day’ — but it is also making sure that we are taking care of the farmers and all those people who are processing the beans; also making sure that we have that dialed in, that perfect cup of coffee that you can enjoy whether you’re a fan of the first wave, second wave or third wave. Does that make sense?
And I am not, for the record, saying there is anything wrong with Starbucks or Folgers.
You’ve talked a lot about making customers feel good. How does Loyal keep its team feeling good?
They’re really accommodating — and there’s no micromanagement. I think that can really tie a team down when that happens, because it can tend to stir the pot a little bit. That doesn’t really happen at Loyal. They’re very trusting with us. We’re free to do what we feel is right in the moment, as far as taking care of guests — and I think that helps with morale, and helps people feel like they’re actually part of the team and able to help.
What do you do in your free time?
I take care of my daughter. I guess that can’t be really ‘free time’ a lot of times — but I spend a lot of time doing that.
And when I’m not doing that, I really like to draw. That’s one of my biggest passions in life. I’ve drawn ever since I can remember — it’s always been fun for me. I draw comic book characters; I used to draw a lot of animals, and I actually picked that up again recently. That’s been a lot of fun, putting my own style on them. And I’ve always dreamed of doing illustrations for children’s books.
What else do you want people to know?
Shop local! That’s one of the main things we can take away from all of this stuff going on. … The local scene does need help.
It doesn’t matter if you buy from Loyal or Switchback or your mom-and-pop shop down the corner, we like to say… if one of us is doing well, we’re all doing well. You know? We all are rising with the tide and we’re all in it together.