Service Call LLC makes functional customization accessible.
BY JOSH TAVES
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos courtesy of Josh Taves
Part three of our look at custom espresso machine shops has us headed to Middle America and the humble hearts of Marty and Tooti Roe. These two operate a series of coffee-based businesses in Kansas City, Mo., and have been highlighted before on Barista Magazine Online. Ask anyone who has competed in the United States Barista Championship circuit in the last few years, and they might know these two by a different name like “Competition Mom and Pop,” or something along those lines. Marty and Tooti never seem to stop extending a helping hand to those around them, and Marty seems to be a wizard when it comes to all things repairs, replacement, and fabrication. From motorcycles and guitars to coffee machines and grills, he’s probably tinkered with them all.
I reached out to these two with a few questions about what their shop Service Call LLC does, and Marty got back to me with some pretty cool info. Marty and Tooti opened Service Call in 2003 as a repair shop to serve their local coffee community. Because of Marty’s can-do attitude, they were willing to take on anything and everything equipment related, so when they started getting requests to rebuild some older and more obscure machines, of course he couldn’t say no. One thing led to another, and powder coating, custom functionality modifications, and minor fabrication soon became the norm. Marty mentions that modern touches to older machines like barista lighting and shot timers became desired modifications for their customers, and he was happy to oblige.
“Our list of things we have done has grown over the years,” recalls Marty. From humble beginnings as a repair shop, Service Call LLC has since undertaken an impressive amount of custom projects. “We do a ton of powder coating. That’s become more of a given thing rather than a custom thing, although being able to match colors in your café can bring a wonderful balance to a café atmosphere,” says Marty. Custom panels in glass or wood and specialized lighting and logos are now common custom features for the crew at Service Call.
One aspect of my interview with Marty that stood out to me was his pride in not only improving the aesthetic experience of an espresso machine, but also the usability and functionality as well. Marty has become known for his prowess with modifying clunky, inefficient steam wand actuators like twist knobs into joysticks or foot pedals that greatly improve ease of use for baristas. Addition and fabrication of the aforementioned shot timers and barista lighting continue to be a popular part of their repertoire. Perhaps most impressive in the list of functional modifications Marty mentions is the ability to add pre-infusion capability to machines that were previously unable to accommodate this feature.
When asked what sets the custom shop at Service Call apart from other espresso machine customizers, Marty unassumingly replies, “That’s hard to say because there are some very talented customizing people out there. But I will say we bring a ‘can-do’ attitude, ability to listen, a vivid imagination, and years of experience, but probably the most valuable asset is that we have a huge sense for not creating something cool that can’t be serviced. We understand these machines need to be tuned up and/or repaired, so we make sure that that can still be done easily and with off-the-shelf parts.”
Having known Marty and Tooti for several years now, I can attest that the unassuming humility of service follows them in everything they do. The name Service Call can be seen as a double entendre in the way that they not only mean service as a verb, but they also strive for service as a noun in all they do. Their custom machines are becoming known around the region for their reliability and aesthetic beauty as well. Be sure to check them out if you ever make your way through Kansas City, and stay tuned here for the next installment of this series, where we head across the pond to learn about By Zink Custom Espresso Machines in the Netherlands.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Taves has been working in the coffee industry since 2006 and has worked as a barista, trainer, QC director, profile roaster, and green buyer. You can currently find him (or not find him) roaming the Rocky Mountains wherever the wind takes him. He is also the inventor of the Rattleware Cupping Brewer and a 2017 United States Barista Championship finalist.