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The time they take with each order gives Kolsto and Schroeder a minute to ask questions of their customers. Today, someone wonders aloud what was the last "real" action movie. Someone suggests Liam Neeson's Taken, and the shop's other coffee drinker puts down his iPad to excitedly interject. The pour-over method all but forces you to fill the time with conversation. That, Kolsto says, is the soul of Oddly Correct. The coffee is the excuse to start talking, a perfect impetus for human interaction for a self-prescribed "extroverted introvert" such as Kolsto.
Kolsto grew up in Mokena, Illinois, a quaint city of just under 19,000 people 35 miles southwest of Chicago. A man wearing a Mohawk, flannel shirt and combat boots gave him a passport to escape from suburbia.
"My first cup of coffee was my first taste of counterculture," Kolsto says. "I had a strangely euphoric experience at a Starbucks in [nearby] Naperville. The guy who handed me my latte had rays of light coming out of his head."
He started working at Starbucks in 1995 and enrolled at Northern Illinois University to pursue a degree in art. The coffee job stuck, but art school didn't. Kolsto took a job as an apprentice roaster at Digital Java, a Chicago coffee company that specialized in dark roasts. His life changed dramatically when Krispy Kreme purchased Digital Java in February 2001, less than a year after the doughnut juggernaut went public. Kolsto moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to manage roasters at a new facility and he became the company's coffee buyer.
"Every country I went to was the most beautiful place I'd ever been," he says. "I was bringing back 40,000 pounds of coffee at a time and getting my mind blown."
While his travels took him to coffee farms in Guatemala and Ethiopia, Krispy Kreme was beginning to struggle stateside because of overexpansion. In an increasingly corporate environment, Kolsto felt constrained. Sketching in his notebook and rock climbing in the hills of North Carolina helped pass the days between coffee-buying excursions.
He had no reason to expect that he would be moving to Kansas City when he attended a conference of the Specialty Coffee Association of America in Charlotte in 2006. There, a Parisi representative invited him to tour the coffee company's new roasting facility. After seeing what he calls the city's "gem-y underbelly" of craft producers like Christopher Elbow, Kolsto accepted a position as a roaster for Parisi.
"Kansas City is aggressively supportive of local proprietors, and that was attractive to me," he says.
Parisi had just begun to roast and bag its own coffee after decades of distributing specialty coffee for brands such as Lavazza. Over the past five years, Parisi Artisan Coffee has exploded: The company says it expects to roast just under a million pounds this year. Only blocks away from the Roasterie plant, Parisi hopes to fill the void left by Folgers.
"Folgers spills more coffee than we roast in a year," says Scott Presnell, Parisi's director of marketing. "But the aroma of coffee downtown is something we're going to miss. We hope people will just be willing to drive around the corner down I-35."
Roasting is a solitary exercise in precision. The beans must roast at specific temperatures and rest for exact amounts of time to ensure consistent flavor. Answering the extroverted side of his personality, Kolsto moved into sales so that he could talk about the product he'd had a hand in creating. And while selling to restaurant owners and chefs, he discovered that these interactions meant as much to him as the relationships he'd built with small growers when he worked for Krispy Kreme.
He wondered what it would be like to serve as the sole bridge between producers and consumers. In April 2009, he left Parisi to find out. By the end of that year, several of his Parisi accounts had followed him.
"We were sorry to see him leave," Presnell says. "We appreciate it from the artistic side. He has a different focus in small-batch, micro-lot coffees, which is fantastic."
Kolsto didn't want just artistry, though. He set about inventing his own corporate culture.
"It was then that I decided that if I couldn't find a company that I agreed with 100 percent in terms of ethics or beliefs, I would create one myself," Kolsto says.
Oddly Correct roasted its first batches of coffee in a Raytown garage, where a friend let Kolsto store and run his 2.5-kilogram roaster, which had been purchased in the parking lot of a Wyoming gas station in late 2008. He began delivering to Ethos, a now-defunct coffee-delivery service in the Crossroads, and the Higher Grounds coffee shop in Grandview.
Six months later, his operation had grown enough that he could spend $250 a month to rent a space behind Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club. In those days, it was just Kolsto and the pigeons out back. But that gave him time to begin to develop the look of Oddly Correct, using a letterpress machine to create the bags that featured his own art.