My son Ransom was born while we were renovating Taproom’s commercial space back in 2013. With his arrival, we became a home of two stay-at-home-parents, four young kids, and a “business baby” on the way. I knew then what my priorities were in starting my shop: Get things sustainable, and be a loving husband and father.
As I worked at getting Taproom off the ground, I always had this ideal dream in my mind: I’d come into the shop early in the morning before sunrise, fire up the machines and make myself a cup of coffee while setting up the bar. I’d maybe watch the sunrise slowly brighten the cafe and have conversations with customers as they came in and out, or even sit and chat if they were hanging out a while. I’d serve lattes and espressos and hand out croissants and bagels during crazy rushes, and then wind down and do some administrative work before kicking out in the afternoon and going home to help my kids with homework. I’d have a great staff I could trust to take care of the store and serve our regular customers, even on nights and weekends when I wasn’t there. That was the dream. And three years in - I’m proud to say - that’s become the reality.
It hasn’t been easy. We had our fair share of trouble from the start - from zoning and permit issues, to an over-budget build out, to untimely employee turnover. Starting any small business is hard work, and Taproom was no exception. But I think a secret to our success has been that our business has always been about the people and about fostering community, using coffee and beer only as means to an end. We’ve worked hard at building a foundation of solid business principles and high-quality products and service, always within the context of building community and quality relationships.
I always prioritized family, and I think that’s what made it work. I pictured the Kirkwood families that would walk through Taproom’s doors as customers, and thought through what would have to be done to serve them well, with excellence. And I pictured my own family, and thought through what it would take to not only pay the bills but also free up my personal time so that I could be present during my kids’ childhood.
Something people ask me a lot is if there will be a “Taproom 2”. Right now, the answer is no. I like the balance I get to have with work and home. Yes, Taproom is doing great and it would be a fun challenge to start another location. But the truth is that it would take away from my priority of family - even for a little while - and that just doesn’t sit well with me. For now, we’re going to focus on keeping our “business baby” healthy, and to maintain that great balance with home life.
God’s been good to us. And even if it hadn’t worked out with the business, he’d still be good. I’m thankful for the ways he’s refined and grown me in the process of small business ownership, allowing me to love my family well and to serve other families well. And even if it were all lost tomorrow, it’d still be worth it.
- Jonathan Pascual
Q&A with Jonathan Pascual
1. When you mentioned starting Taproom, you said you had a "fair share of troubles", do you have a piece of encouragement or advice for someone who is running into similar issues trying to get their own business off the ground?
Two things: (1) Write a business plan. It's the life and death of your business. The exercise of thinking through every single aspect of your business will help you organize well and plan for possible hiccups. (2) Picture your end goal. It's like I already shared - visualize what you want your business to look like and what your personal involvement would ideally be, and remind yourself of that picture constantly until it actually happens.
2. In balancing family and work, what has been helpful for you to find this balance?
Learning how to say no. It may be a question of working overtime, taking on more debt, expanding the business, taking a work call while at home, etc. I might not always have the option to say no. But when I can choose family over work and it's not going to put me out of business, I've learned I have to put family first.
3. You mentioned Taproom being a place to foster community. Was this the main motivation in opening a neighborhood coffee shop or what lead you to open Taproom? (And we are so happy you did!!)
Fostering community is certainly a noble motivation. But honestly, I just started out like so many other people thinking it was a stinkin' cool idea if one day I could own my own coffee shop.
4. What are you most excited about for the future of Taproom?
I'm excited for when the business is healthy enough to pay every one of my baristas sustainable wages on which they could all support themselves and a family if they have one. We're already making strides towards that - I have one salaried manager, I've been able to do modest hourly pay increases across the board, and within the next year I've promised my staff I'll work towards health insurance stipends and even some travel perks for full-time employees.