Secret of Success: Think of Family | by: Jonathan Pascual

Jonathan Pascual, founder and owner of Taproom Coffee in Kirkwood || Outlander Photography

Jonathan Pascual, founder and owner of Taproom Coffee in Kirkwood || Outlander Photography

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.

I knew then what my priorities were in starting my shop: Get things sustainable, and be a loving husband and father.

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.

But I think a secret to our success has been that our business has always been about the people and about fostering community
Blume Photography

Blume Photography

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

Outlander Photography

Outlander Photography

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.

The Story Of Marchet Sparks

Marchet Sparks, owner and founder of Le Petit Marche

Marchet Sparks, owner and founder of Le Petit Marche

A hotplate, 2 electric skillets, a home-use 12-cup Mr. Coffee pot and a Foreman grill were all part of the humble beginnings of Le Petit Marche, a neighborhood market turned Atlanta destination.

On the eve of its 9th anniversary, the little market remembers the not-so-distant past of nearly going out of business and shyly welcomes the stream of recognition and accolades. Owner, Marchet Sparks, a Los Angeles transplant, recalls the day when her bank account was a shocking $181. "At this point, I literally lost everything and had to move from home-ownership to renting a room from a friend for nearly 3 years. I settled into a long partnership of depression and alcoholism all while suiting up and showing up for work everyday." After many crucial sacrifices and adjustments, Sparks shifted her focus from mostly retail pantry fare to what was keeping the lights on: her small kitchenette serving tasty lunch sandwiches.

Even while struggling, she held to her dream that the market had great potential and with strong community support and the addition of breakfast, the concept began to stick. "I have an affinity towards Kirkwood and nearby areas for standing by me in the early years. They believed in me and saw the enormous efforts being made by a close-knit family determined to survive."

Sparks is not only surviving but thriving with 2 expansions under her belt and a Westside franchise on the way. "It amazes me to this day how far I've come. Now, nearly 4-years sober, I am proof that adaptability, belief in oneself, support from family and friends, patience and a little faith can turn things around."

With Mom's homemade soups / baked goods and with Pop greeting customers with a sweet genuine smile, a dining experience at Le Petit Marche is like snuggling up with your favorite blanket. It's familiar, it's cozy, it's home.

Q & A With Marchet

1. Can you tell us a little bit more about your relationship with your amazing parents? Did you get inspiration to open Marche from your Mom's homemade recipes?

My parents are my main source of inspiration. Happily married for nearly 50 years, they taught me how to stay the course, to be flexible. Since my earthly beginning, they have always been supportive of my endeavors no matter how wild or crazy!  They taught me the art of compromise and above all else, to keep the faith. My grandmother was completely illiterate and could not read or write but she carved out a living as a cook and passed that knowledge down to my mom an ultimately to me. I credit these wonderful people for shaping my life; a direct reflection of Le Petit Marche.

2. What is your one piece of advice to someone who is a small business owner or aspires to open a small business?

The best advice I can give to someone starting a small business is to be willing to learn and not assume to know everything. Be discerning all while letting others help you. Be open to advice. Pay attention to what works and build on that! It may take you in a different direction than you anticipated but the ultimate goal is to have a successful business and to have a balanced, happy life, right?!?

3. Lastly, do you have any more information on the westside franchise? Potential location and opening date?

A Westside franchise is in the making off Northside drive near the new stadium. We are hoping to be open in a year. Stay tuned!