Barista-turned-musician-turned barista again John Wicks, of Fitz and the Tantrums, opens a cafe dedicated to community engagement and social interactions.
Photos by Amy Donovan
Fitz and the Tantrums make music that you’d play during the morning rush in a café ”it’s fast, fun, and instantly likable. If you haven’t heard their music on the radio (that could mean you live under a rock if you don’t recognize the whistling in the song, œThe Walker ), you’ve probably heard their songs in a variety of different advertisements, video games, and television shows. Band member John Wicks has recently ventured beyond the music industry and recently opened a coffeeshop in Missoula, Montana called Drum.
John’s motivations behind the café reflect a classic story in the coffee industry. œBegrudgingly, I was a barista to support drumming, John shares, who opened the café this past March. He grew up in Seattle, and worked in shops all over the city, including Caffe Vita and Ladro, all the while playing drums and using his barista wages to pay the rent. œEight years ago, drumming finally paid off, John shares, and he traveled all over the world playing with Fitz and the Tantrums. However, coffee continued to remain important. œWhen I travel, I try to find the best coffee I could, which led John to opening Drum.
For John, opening a café meant both serving well-crafted drinks and creating an environment that was open and welcoming. œThe café is where you get caught up with neighbors, John observes, and with that in mind he makes customer service and engagement priority number one. There’s no wifi in the café, and baristas come from restaurants and other businesses around Missoula who John believed could provide above par customer service. John himself is a seasoned barista, and through his experiences is able to understand and relate to the concerns of baristas, and provide a space for them to excel and be conscious of the tone they communicate to customers.
Drum provides both coffee and pastries that are highly crafted and unique. The coffee is roasted by hometown friends at Black Coffee Roasting Company (although John is looking to expand into roasting next year) and the food and pastries, which are made in-house, are globally influenced. œOur food has influences of Northern Africa, Spain, and the Mediterranean, and there aren’t that many places here you could find food like this. John also draws inspiration from the many cafes he’s visited over the years, including New York standout cafe AbraÃ§o, whose owners Jamie and Liz helped John open his café ” œJamie was very open with all their secrets.
John also found inspiration from Blue State Coffee in New England. Blue State donates 2% of profits to local charities, and patrons can choose which charities they want to support by a voting system in which each transaction gets you a chip, and you can use that to vote for your preferred charity. œWhen I saw that I knew I wanted to do it in my café, and Drum practices a similar profit-based donation system. So far, Drum has supported the local YWCA, AniMeals, a no-kill adoption center and food bank, and the Open Aid Alliance, which provides free HIV testing.
All in all, Drum is meant to support and strengthen community. In the current political climate, John sees that as an important tool to bridge understanding and increase empathy. œIf we can create a place where people can come and deal with each other face to face, the more we can care about each other. John hopes that, if you’re ever in Missoula, his café can offer a welcome respite from the sometimes tumultuous and isolating world. Come sit, have a conversation, have a pastry you’ve never heard of, and find solace in the comfort that your neighbors are here to share the same collective experience of taking a break and enjoying a cup of coffee.