After five long years, I've decided to hit "pause" on Latigo...
Let's start with the name. In the back of my mind (before I launched a coffee company), I always knew that I wanted to name an eventual business Latigo. Famously referenced by Gary Busey in Point Break - this is a place where I've spent countless hours on a stand-up paddle board, roaming around and looking for waves. It's far enough north of Los Angeles (the city) where it truly feels like you're "out there." That's always been the draw of Malibu - and the Santa Monica Mountains at that.
Beach sports aside… there's also the canyon, one of the best road cycling climbs in SoCal. So, whenever I think of the word Latigo, I think of adventure - a break from the routine, and a chance to recharge. Only after I launched the business did I also realize that it means "lasso" or "whip" (most commonly referred to in the equestrian sense) in Spanish. So that was also neat.
C-O-F-F-E-E. A fascination of mine for most of my living memory. I made the quasi-rational choice in 2012 to leave a perfectly great job at a Santa Monica-based startup to fly out to Hawaii and live/work on a coffee farm for a short bit. I wanted to completely immerse myself in the origin of it all - touch it, smell it, and taste it. The actual place (Big Island Coffee Roasters in Mountain View - on the Big Island) came to my attention by way of Good Land Organics in Goleta, California. At the time, GLO was the only farm in the contiguous USA growing coffee. This was a partnership that the owner (Jay Ruskey) made with UCSB in an effort to see if coffee could in fact become a commercially viable option for growing in this state. This project did, interestingly, lead to the spinoff of a California collective of coffee growers (Frinj Coffee) and a collaboration with Blue Bottle's limited release series. This video is pretty neat about it all.
I'm forever grateful to Lindsey McManus Mesta (pictured above in 2012 on the sample roaster) at the Goleta farm for pointing me toward the Hawaii experience - and of course, to my hosts Brandon and Kelleigh at Big Island Coffee Roasters for looking after a wanderlust-y 24 year old (... and teaching me all that they knew about coffee and small businesses). Each day after picking coffee on their small farm (which would typically all be soggy-wet from the day's rain), there'd come the wafting smell of coffee being roasted in their barn-like garage on a Diedrich IR-12. It smelled like fresh baked bread… and whenever I saw that little plume of smoke rising (and smelled that smell), I knew it was time to wind down the day. Those were special days.
It's not all the time that we get to decide "how" and "when" things end in our lives. Usually, the Big Endings are thrust upon us without warning - like the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job. So it's been particularly meaningful to have spent these past several weeks reflecting on how best to wind down my little endeavor - and do so in a manner that's up to Latigo standards. The kind words, love and encouragement that so many of you have shown in response to the news has been overwhelming… and so freakin' appreciated. When launching a business (which feels like five minutes ago… not five years ago), I definitely didn't have any concept of what an end might look like. Yet here we are - and instead of sadness or remorse, I'm filled with something else entirely.
There's no fun in going through the reasons why - it's a mix of personal, financial, and frankly a lack of emotional commitment to the brand that I've been trying to revive (with mixed success) for the past two years. Which is all… ok, in my opinion. The mentality I had in the early days (2016-2017) has simply faded over time… leaving me with an incredibly fun/useful creative outlet that doesn't really stand on it's own as a business. It's been really difficult to want to part with it for the sheer fact that I've been lucky enough to have a platform - a place where I could ramble, share some beans, make a Spotify playlist, and occasionally host events (although the pandemic didn't help that much). All these things are great, but are not the underlying hallmarks of a sustainable business. I know that now.
The people I met over these past several years solely due to running this company … that's what I'll be taking with me. So many of you have made such a radical impact on my life - maybe we met at a Patagonia event, or a trail running meet-up, or along PCH after surfing at Latigo. In expressing my gratitude to so many of you individually, I've been even more "wowed" to learn of the impact that I apparently had in your own lives. Like the handful of y'all that started families along the way, and had a bag of my beans on your kitchen shelf to help power through the sleep-deprived days of parenthood. Maybe you changed jobs, or started your own companies along the way as well - and had some extra creative ju-ju to expel with a freshly caffeinated brain. It's so cool to learn that my own little "thing" helped bring some occasional delight into your routine.
I hope I'm wrong about one thing, though. My fear is that by ending Latigo, I'll lose the "voice" that I've been consistently crafting over the past sixty months. I've loved writing the Coffee Thoughts rambles and opening up about what's happened in my own life along the way. Am I a "writer" in the traditional or professional sense? No… I don't think so. But I'm definitely somebody who loves to share a perspective, and curate an experience. Having hard deadlines (i.e. - a coffee to ship every two weeks) forced me to actually sit down and do the writing, even when I really didn't feel like it. An empty page can be a scary thing… until you start writing.
It's my utmost hope that the community here can live on past the physical bags of beans. I know that's probably an unrealistic expectation - but maybe it's not. While I might be off social media game (buh bye, Instagram), so long as I have a wee little email channel & occasional guest posts around the interweb, I plan on sharing some continued (sometimes coffee with a splash of outdoorsy-related) content with y'all.
A short story to end with, then...
In October 2017, I hosted the first Latigo Campout. It was the last night, and we had all gathered around a campfire to listen to some live music from the wonderfully talented Erisy Watt. The campfire cast a flickering light on the Martian-like boulders around our site in the Alabama Hills at the base of the Eastern Sierra. I was a little drunk at the time - but the good kind, like on Thanksgiving with family after several glasses of good wine. I looked around at the hushed faces as everyone fixated on this beautiful, never-happening-again performance. It was so damn special, and such a unique thing that I think we all registered in that particular moment. As a fairly soft guy who will cry at the end of most movies, I fought to hold back some tears as I realized that that moment was the most proud I'd been of anything. Of simply creating a space for people to enjoy themselves and experience something real, even if for a short while.
The next day, we drank some damn good coffee and went about our own micro-adventures before heading home. The night before was a moment stuck in time … that, in my own wishfully psychedelic view of "how the universe works," perhaps still lives on somewhere. The campfire is still going - and we're all still a little drunk, experiencing something truly special.
Viva Latigo! 🧡