Page 4 of 5
"We didn't have accoutrements like heat back then," Kolsto says. "But all your favorite businesses start out of garages, basements and trunks of cars."
His first big order — 200 pounds of coffee — took 20 hours to roast. Life then was marked by "squares" — check boxes each signifying another 3 pounds that he had finished – and drawings on his shower curtain about the future of his business. The Filling Station began carrying his coffee (alongside the Broadway Roasting Co.'s espresso). Then the Brick, Aixois, Mud Pie, Succotash and the Soho Café signed up.
The new orders meant a new space, a studio in the Crossroads that he shared with illustrator Jeremy Collins. Less than a year later, Kolsto needed more room. When he discovered that the former King of Kash location was available in his neighborhood, he decided to turn his shower-curtain drawings into reality.
In front of the chalkboard at his Main Street shop, Kolsto admits that he has no set business plan for Oddly Correct.
"I'm on my way, and I know it has to do with coffee, art and people," he says. "I'm not a long-term planner. I don't know what the next thing is going to be. I just want to have fun doing it. I'm just going to geek out and get people excited."
His entrepreneurial spirit coexists with his desire to build a community. He lives less than a mile from his shop, so he's never that far from his two kids, both of whom are younger than 4. Kolsto is running both a business and a cooperative; he doesn't so much take on partners as draw in true believers. One of the latest examples sits in the glass-domed pastry case on the wooden counter: black-pepper-lime, coconut-curry and coriander-cherry shortbreads from Soho Café & Bakery. The flavors were designed in discussions with Soho owner Jamie Friedrich, a former Parisi customer who now uses Oddly Correct beans in her shop.
"If we just sent these out into the unknown, it would probably be too much for Kansas City," Friedrich says. "But sending it into Gregory's shop? It's probably just right."
Each of the artifacts in the shop has its own tale that helps unlock the mystique of Oddly Correct. The bicycle tires on one exposed brick wall are spares, in case the delivery service breaks down. Kolsto or Schroeder makes as many as a dozen deliveries on Fridays to homes in adjacent midtown neighborhoods. The stands to hold the Clever dripper were built by local blacksmith George Rousis of Organic Iron Concepts.
"You see the unfinished potential that's there in the shop. It's got room for growth and it's kind of organic, and you don't know exactly how it's going to come out," Rousis says.
This is not the carefully planned unplanned-looking aesthetic of Chipotle. It is a raw space with exposed ducts and a single red-leather executive chair. (The latter is from Urban Mining Homewares across the street. Schroeder went over with a few cups of coffee and returned with the chair.) The business takes in art and artists like stray puppies.
"Phase one was getting this open. Phase two was getting proper lighting. And when we get the cash, we'll get an espresso machine," Kolsto says.
For plenty of business owners, this would be a disquietingly erratic approach. But the aesthetic works for one simple reason: It's a physical extension of Kolsto's belief that everything should be designed to complement the coffee experience in some way. He wants to translate the beans of Costa Rica and Ethiopia for folks who have never had anything other than coffee from a can. He pulls up a picture on his iPhone. It's a shot of the back panel of a Ronnoco Coffee delivery van.
"It's says 'hand-crafted coffee.' We're going to have to change that," Kolsto says pointing to the same words on his bags of beans. "Maybe we'll just stick with the donkey and the [tag line] 'Don't half-ass your coffee.' "
On a recent Friday at BadSeed, Oddly Correct is serving Harrar, an Ethiopian coffee that Kolsto recommends black because of its "peanut-butter-and-jelly aroma and slightly fruity flavor."
Colleen Murbach, a regular, waits in a loose line by the wooden bar for a cup.
"Gregory is the new kid on the block," she says. "His process is totally different from anyone else. It's usually so satisfying. I don't need a second cup. It's not just the coffee; it's the experience."
After Murbach leaves, Kolsto is even more earnest than usual for a minute.
"There is a dynamic beauty in what natural coffee can taste like when it's fresh and served with as low a pretense as possible," Kolsto says.