In this blog series, we offer you behind-the-scenes glimpses of our team members and the many unique viewpoints and experiences they bring to our company, our coffee, and the Kaldi’s Coffee community.
This month we sat down with Elle Miers, the General Manager of our downtown Clayton location at the Crescent. She’s been with Kaldi’s Coffee for many years, working both in Saint Louis and in former Kansas City locations. Lately, we’ve been utilizing her fount of experience in operating drive thrus to dial in some of our menu items and workflows for our new Ellisville location.
Watch our video interview with Elle here!
Elle’s career in coffee should have been predicted at a young age, based on her early love of all things coffee. After moving to Saint Louis as a small child, she would visit South County Mall with her mom to shop and indulge her mom’s love of coffee. The olfactory overload that occurred while waiting in line at Gloria Jean’s made a deep impression on her, as sugar, chocolate, and roasted coffee mingled in the air. “I loved that smell, long before I could drink it, but I did start drinking coffee when I was 12, never stopped loving it, and knew I wanted to make it my career.”
At 18, Elle took her first step into coffee culture, taking over as manager of Coffee in the Delmar Loop in Saint Louis. It was her first introduction to cafe culture and all “their characters and regulars…getting to know them after only having worked fast food before was magical.”
"I did start drinking coffee when I was 12, never stopped loving it, and knew I wanted to make it my career."
Eventually Elle moved on, Coffee in the Loop closed, and she spent years working for a national chain’s drive through operations. In 2014, with little knowledge and limited experience of specialty coffee, Elle began working with Kaldi’s at our Skinker location. “I knew I wanted to make my way down the coffee path…Working at Skinker, I worked with [head trainer] David Fasman and [eventual 2019 Coffee in Good Spirits champion] Matt Foster, who were both pretty well known in the coffee industry at the time, were deep sources of learning for me, and taught me a lot of what I know today. It was a very fun cafe to work in, I did everything but bake, and after a year I moved out to Kansas City to help run a Kaldi’s out there. Eventually, I came back to help the Crescent as their kitchen manager.”
When the pandemic hit, Elle stepped up, making her way around Saint Louis to help out at whichever cafe was in need of an extra hand. Working both on the registers and in the kitchens around town gave her a unique perspective. “I’ve seen that we have guests that come into different cafes all over the city. There’s Tommy, who I’ve seen at Chesterfield, the Crescent, Skinker. We have true Kaldi’s fans and I love seeing them all over the city, it’s like bumping into an old friend. During the pandemic, I helped wherever I was needed, but being on bar and being out front provides a great opportunity for connection.”
While that connection was still possible, it was also complicated by the pandemic. As Elle recalls, “Sometimes, I felt more isolated from customers, between the masks and the plexiglass shields, but I was happy to continue to work, knowing I was providing a getaway and a de-stressor for our regulars. I felt like I got to create moments where we could pretend together that things were all right. It opened my eyes and let me feel like we’re all active members of a community.” That passion for community means Elle’s feeling great about being rooted again, as she manages the Crescent cafe exclusively these days.
"...being on bar and being out front provides a great opportunity for connection."
The current Crescent team is pretty small; with many downtown Clayton offices still WFH, the cafe has a core of about five team members. Elle describes the team as full of jokes, camaraderie, with plenty of room for self-expression. “It’s fun working in a small team right now, we’ve really gotten to know each other well, as we almost all work every day we’re open. And the regulars, we love our regulars at the Crescent. They are friendly, steady, and very consistent in knowing what they want. It makes memorizing orders possible, and I love having a drink ready for someone right after they order it!”
"...we love our regulars at the Crescent. They are friendly, steady, and very consistent in knowing what they want."
Another plus of running the Crescent is that Elle’s had the time to work with our culinary expert, Frank McGinty, in preparation for our new Ellisville drive thru's upcoming opening. Elle says, “I’ve been cooking and tasting new food items, finding simplified versions of our current offerings, thinking about streamlined service, and drawing on my drive thru experiences…I can’t wait for our new drive thru to open. It’s a new way to get our name out there and an incredible opportunity to open the world of coffee up to new guests.” We can’t wait to share the results of all her hard work.
Opening up the world of coffee, the way it was opened up for herself, is clearly one of Elle’s passions. Welcoming and connecting guests is part of each day, but Elle also remembers what it was like to enter the world of specialty coffee, researching Kaldi’s before applying. “I googled Kaldi’s!” she remembers. “I read about the core values and mission statement, and had never worked for a company like that. Previously, I’d felt like a corporate worker bee, unknown and underappreciated. Here I feel cared about, and love that we continue to work on the culture together.”
The way Elle has examined the path she walked and now applies it to welcoming new team members and guests means each interaction is considered and helpful. Hear more of her thoughts below!
Q&A WITH ELLE
What advice would you give new baristas?
Kaldi’s has changed a lot since I started. When I first started, I didn’t think of my job as a forever career, but as I’ve continued working and seen all the aspects, I’ve realized that you can do anything here, there’s just endless possibilities.
What’s your favorite current coffee?
My current favorite S.O. is the Ethiopia Ardi. It has everything I’m looking for in a black coffee. I love brewing it by hand, and enjoy its smoothness and bright notes.
What skill have you improved the most?
Communication has been my most improved skill. I was extremely shy when I first entered the working world, and it took years to get better at open communication. Working in coffee has helped, because every customer interaction pushes us to develop our own thoughts and opinions about our coffees, and those opinions are valued here.
What would you do if you could retire today?
If I retired today, I’d go on some adventures. I love skiing, traveling, white-water rafting, hiking, and of course I’d be painting everywhere I went.
Favorite food item:
I love gooey butter cake - it’s so sweet and balances out any bitterness when you pair it with coffee or espresso - how can you go wrong?! I hadn’t heard of it before Kaldi’s, I’d never tried it before, but I was immediately hooked. The best way to eat it is to put it in the freezer and eat it straight out of the freezer (it never completely freezes and is amazing!).
Straight espresso or an Iced Oat Latte.
Favorite Coffee Origin:
It would have to be Ethiopia, because it has a lot of fruity flavors, like blueberry and citrus, which I enjoy, and they’re the oldest varietals as well as having a ton of variety.
I love the 700, always. I’m a cult follower of it, I drink it every day, I love tasting it as I dial it in every morning, something about its rich chocolatey flavors just hit perfectly for me.
My favorite place to go on vacation is British Columbia, and I love skiing on Red Mountain.
Fall. I love hoodies, I love bundling up.
Best coffee tasting note:
Blueberry, naturally in an Ethiopian coffee.
I love abstract art, photography, and painting with pastels.
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