06 May The Kru-Crew Handles Covid-19
Welcome to the new normal: self-isolation, social distancing, quarantine, and uncertainty. Hopefully we can all get out of our houses and become civilized beings, again, but as we all know, this could take some time.
Time has become a funny concept for many of us who have had to switch up our routines—and our entire lives—but it seems the world is still trying to function with many people working from home and hunkering down within the confines of their personal spaces. For some of us, however, the “new normal” is certainly anything BUT normal.
As we are all aware, our favorite businesses have been forced to shut their doors—with just a few offering the solace of take-out and delivery services. Kru is no different from the others and, of course, had to close our doors to the public.
However, many of the Kru-crew have taken this pandemic in stride and used our new-found free time to our own advantages. Even though you cannot stop in and grab a cup of your favorite coffee from us, we thought maybe you’d like to know what we have been up to, as individuals and as a collective.
Kristi Brock, if you didn’t already know, is our “Queen Bee” at Kru. She is a co-owner with her brother, Ryan, and her husband, Kyle. I’m sure plenty of our customers have seen Kristi working all aspects of the café and kitchen—sometimes she’s tidying up the front of the shop at the milk bar, running food on busy mornings when the cook is backed up, taking orders and ringing out at the register, and even cooking when staffing may be low. Kristi is basically the definition of a “boss” but still never falters to treat her staff as if we were her own children (often referring to us as “the kids”).
While being busy keeping the business together, Kristi also has a job outside of the shop as a nurse. Mainly, she works at Glens Falls Hospital, managing the care of hospital staff who become ill (not entirely due to contracting the current COVID-19 virus, but could become a real possibility).
Taking the opportunity to get a unique perspective from someone who is a small business owner and who is immersed in the health crisis as a healthcare professional, I was able to ask Kristi what she was experiencing.
She expressed feeling like she was stuck in a strange “Groundhog Day” situation because working full time at the hospital has kept Kristi within the confines of a recurring loop of routine. She welcomes the regularity but definitely misses the irregularity of Kru, breaking up the routine to keep things fresh and interesting.
Another strange factor of solely working as a nurse, Kristi mentions that she almost “forgets” that we are in the middle of a health crisis and a statewide lock down. There is no “social distancing” between her coworkers and herself because they all work within the same spaces; carrying on with business as usual as they tend to patients and paperwork. When Kristi leaves for the day after her shift, she is reminded of the reality outside of the hospital.
When asked about her predictions for Kru, she is just as unsure as the rest of us how things will go. However, we have already began the soft re-opening (May 4th, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.). Everything will still operate on a “to-go only” basis for a while, and the kitchen will remain closed longer than the bar. Kristi will also bring back her staff at a slow rate—bringing on one person at a time—but will begin with utilizing her family members who are involved in Kru, first, and Luke- who has been roasting for the duration of our lock down- so that she doesn’t pull anyone from unemployment too early before knowing how business will go.
Kru may have been closed, but that doesn’t mean Kristi took any time off from the shop. She started and finished many ongoing projects, such as refreshing the paint on the walls, hounding Ryan to re-do some of the floors, deep cleaning every inch of the space, and organizing the back area since cold brew production has moved to our new warehouse space.
Outside of work and business, the biggest change for Kristi has been cooking dinner. She typically orders food or goes out to eat, but the closing of businesses has limited her choices enough to push making dinner on an almost nightly basis. There has been no word from Kristi’s son or husband on whether this is a positive change or not.
Finally, Kristi left the conversation with some wise advice:
“don’t panic and, also, probably don’t order fine dining for takeout—it’s just not the same.”
Kru Coffee co-founder and Head Roaster, Luke, has a different take on life in quarantine than the rest of the Kru-crew as he is #stillroasting for online ordering and wholesale accounts. “I do not feel like an essential worker […] But in the end we are producing a pretty essential product here and I’ve got my gloves and mask on, so I’m doing what we’re supposed to be while being away from home!” Luke has been spending a few days per week, each usually lasting around 4-6 hours, in the roastery contrary to the 6 days per week, 8-10 hours each, he was doing pre-pandemic.
On non-roasting days, he takes advantage of spending time with his partner, Kristen, and their fur-children, a cat & dog (our espresso blend, Atlas, is named after Luke’s husky). He’s been excited to also have the ability to ride his bicycle more and go on walks with his little family.
Besides having the title of our favorite roaster, Luke is also our favorite drummer. He’s been grateful to dedicate more time to working on music, especially since his bands are unable to practice and play together during this time of social isolation.
Luke has found himself feeling “invigorated AF” and excited for what’s to come at Kru. He leads onto new things on the horizon and is elated at the support from our customers. “Our loyal customers from near and far have really shown their support non-stop throughout this and it’s been unbelievably eye-opening!”
Our Vice-Queen Bee, Acacia, has been splitting her time between home projects with her husband, Dom, and practicing self-care like a boss. Renovating bedrooms with her husband, cultivating at-home spa-days, watching live-streams of music fests and concerts, and cleaning out closets- Acacia has been keeping her days fairly full.
Acacia had plans to work at an event this May, EDC Las Vegas, as part of their “Ground Control” team (a harm reduction team at music festivals started by Insomniac), but the sold out festival has been rescheduled to later this year when she has other commitments and most likely will be unable to attend.
“Live music is what keeps me energized and festivals are very important to me, so getting to see Insomniac put on ‘Virtual Rave-a-Thons’ every weekend has been a lifesaver. Other favorite d.j.s of mine have also been doing their own live streams and it’s such a breath of fresh air when you’re stuck in your house all of the time. Really livens up my days.”
Her furry family members seem to be pleased with having their humans home all day. Chai and Dexter (cats) spend their mornings snuggling with their favorite humans, while Raven (a spritely German Shepard) seems to be the one getting the most “cabin fever” since she’s used to daycare antics with her 30 or so other dog friends.
Acacia’s advice with dealing with this new way of life:
“There is this pressure that we must transform ourselves completely and come out of this with some kind of expert level of perfection. If all you get out of this health crisis is how many times you re-watched your go-to favorite series, or how long your roots grew out, exposing your natural greys, then that is totally okay! We are all humans on our very own, unique journeys and we simply cannot allow ourselves to compare to the person who maybe thrived during their quarantine. We should be happy for them while also being content with our own personal growth process. Besides, the very least we all gained from this experience is the importance of hand washing and being kind.”
Lillian (or fondly known around the shop as “Lil”) is currently navigating her routine as a full-time student at UAlbany. New social distancing rules have caused students of all ages throughout the world to finish out their school years via online distance learning. Lil mentioned that getting used to her online classes has been somewhat of a struggle because she relies heavily on the group learning style that going into class and engaging in discussions offers. She did mention that her professors have been incredibly understanding and supportive, which helps her feel less pressure while she simultaneously learns the material and navigates through this abrupt transition.
Outside of her education, Lil seems to be handling self-isolation with optimism.
She has been trying to find ways to keep busy, by cleaning and organizing her apartment, going for long drives and walks, soaking up all of the sunshine when it shows, and watching television (when t.v. becomes too mundane she switches to people and pigeon watching, instead).
As far as coffee goes, Lillian has been perfecting her pour overs every morning (currently using our Espresso 185 blend) and indulging in the newest coffee trend of Dalgona Coffee (also known as “Fluffy Coffee”). She highly recommends trying this Insta-worthy phenomenon, but make it Lil-style by substituting almond milk for the dairy portion.
I asked Lillian what advice she would give in handling our new, temporary, pandemic lifestyle and her wise words were:
“Pick up a familiar routine [to stay sane], keep in touch with each other, and wash your damn hands!”
Next, we have our youngest barista, Brooke.
Brooke has been overwhelmingly busy with her undergraduate studies at SUNY Adirondack. She mentioned that even though schooling has moved exclusively to online classes, she is not too bothered by the distant learning because of how well she adapts to change. Brooke even mentioned that her free time has given her “ample time to self-reflect, [practice] self-care by sleeping in a little, but mostly do homework.”
I asked Brooke how it seems her professors are handling an online-only class structure. She thinks that it is clear her teachers are understanding and being supportive, but also that the courses have become more rigorous in an effort to ensure students cannot cheat.
The transition initially felt like a “breath of fresh air” but soon became a blur of days melded into weeks, with most of that time being devoted to homework and studying. Brooke even mentions feeling like self-isolating has not been a big player against her mental health, but being engulfed in her education has been the ultimate strain.
Being away from Kru has also had its own side effect.
Most of the time, Brooke is around people who are not that into coffee and the kind of community that specialty coffee offers. Working as a barista gives a sense of accomplishment and belonging within an entire community that genuinely loves to learn and share knowledge about coffee.
However, Brooke has found the time to make the most of self-isolating and social distancing by learning how to make homemade pasta (um… yum!), being endlessly entertained by her cat, Stinky, watching all three seasons of “Ozark” on Netflix, and indulging in the nostalgia of the original “Johnny Quest” cartoons.
Brooke’s thoughts and advice on this new way of life:
“I think it’s just important to remember that although one situation could be easy for you, it could be extremely difficult for another; to remember that most [people] are acting out of fear and to try to be more compassionate. And, now is your opportunity to cut/dye your own hair or do whatever you’ve been too afraid to do!”
One of our senior-most members has been keeping rather busy.
Adam (known to the crew as “DADam”) is doing the dad thing, tending to the needs and wonderment of his adorable, headstrong daughter; while his girlfriend works full time as a nurse.
When he is able to get to his studio, Adam is pouring his creative talents into his main form of expertise: jewelry.
Adam is a highly talented metal smith with an extraordinary eye for detail. That keen eye plays a key role in the latte art you may be familiar with, but mainly shines in his jewelry designs. You should seriously take that quarantine online shopping habit over to his Instagram to see some of his work: @songofgomorrah
Dadam also finds the time for other creative outlets, like listening to and playing music. When I asked him what he has been up to, he simply answered with a picture of some guns and targets (all legal, safely stored, and properly used).
That’s definitely one way to get outside and blow off some steam.
Treating her quarantine a bit differently, is our next member of the Kru-crew, Katt. You may be familiar with Katt as our most “tatted” barista, who is able to answer just about any question you have on coffee.
I asked her how she has been keeping busy during the pandemic and, true to her coffee roots, she explained that she has been taking various classes through Barista Hustle, an education program for specialty coffee professionals constructed by a world barista champion, Matty Perger.
Katt has also been keeping connected with other coffee professionals, local and otherwise. She recently went on the Upstate Coffee Collective podcast as a guest for this week’s episode, and has been sharing her personal experiences as a coffee professional in the midst of a pandemic on a video series called “Coffee Break.” She also shared that she is part of a group chat called, “Throwdown: Quarantine Edition” where all of her coffee friends, across NY and beyond, share at-home latte art pictures, homemade baking “endeavors,” humor, and uplifting messages to one another.
Outside of the coffee scene, Katt has been able to indulge in watching favorite films and reading books she previously didn’t have the time to read and splitting her time in Connecticut to be quarantined with her long-distance boyfriend, William (reassuring that they only leave his house for essential grocery trips).
Katt explains that although she is an introvert at heart, this health crisis has brought upon a sense of loneliness that is difficult to ignore. Pre-isolation still offered a social life because working regularly at Kru gave that sense of routine and sociability that I think we all need in order to survive in daily life. The benefits of seeing regular customers and talking to coworkers on regular work days, and seeing friends on days off, offers a sense of normalcy and that normalcy was suddenly taken away.
In order to hold on to some sense of sanity, Katt mentioned she is keeping up with a daily yoga practice and going for walks. She says:
“Keeping my mental health in check has been honestly difficult during this time (#breakthestigma lol), so making sure I move my body enough and eat well is crucial. Also, maintaining the reality that our minds are working twice as hard during this time, [it is] super important not to be too hard on myself- that’s a huge key.”
At the very least, Katt is still able to indulge in coffee consumption. She has been able to support other coffee roasters by ordering from various shops and using their coffees for her at-home brewing pleasures. Katt usually brews from her pour over setup: a Chemex. She currently has been brewing up coffee from Bolt Coffee Co., based in Providence, RI, called “Bloom”. This is Bolt’s spring blend and offers notes of “sweet stone fruits, light acidity, but a rounded body” as Katt describes.
Katt’s recipe for these beans on Chemex:
- 21 grams “in” of medium-ground coffee (meaning what you put into the filter)
- 350 grams “out” (meaning the liquid coffee form you get when your brew is done)
- With a “Rao spin” halfway through the brewing process—”similar to how a washing machine spins to agitate the sudsy water and clothes during a wash cycle.”
Or try her “flash brew” recipe (meaning a quick cold brewed coffee):
- 21 grams of coffee “in”
- 200 grams of water “out”, brewed over 110 grams of ice
- Add ice post-brew based on your iced preferences
Finally, Katt shared some beautiful advice for dealing with this change:
“The advice I’d give to anyone right now is to remember that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. Keep your mind and body active as much as you’re comfortable with doing. Remember that it’s okay to feel however you’re feeling, and make sure to allow yourself [to] feel what you’re feeling. It’s okay to not be productive; you don’t have to write the next great American novel just because you have the time to do so now. It’s also okay to hole up in a room and be the most creative you’ve ever been- we’re all processing this in our own ways, and don’t compare your way of processing this literal trauma to anyone else’s. Have gratitude for what you can, and grieve for the old normal if you need to; because on the other side of this will be a new normal for all of us to adjust to, in one way or another.”
Our favorite beanstalk, Evan, spoke positively about finally having the time to focus on writing and recording his music the week leading up to quarantine. He has been spending his days co-isolating with his beloved cat-son, Bobo, and human roommate, Kevin, “The Cold Brew Guy.”
Evan has been using most of his creative time at his at-home recording set up, as he expected to. Whereas he has been grateful for the time to work on his musical endeavors, he misses being behind the bar at Kru, perfecting his latte pours.
Affectionately known as, “The Cold Brew Guy” Kevin has been keeping busy during his time of isolation. Having Zoom calls with friends, working on his various writing endeavors, keeping in touch with family, broadening the reach of the Upstate Coffee Collective during a time of restriction, developing a “new normal” and finding a new sense of gratitude, we can see that optimizing ample time has been less than challenging for Kevin.
During this period of developing “new normals” to routines and daily life, Kevin has experienced some adversity. “The strangest, and probably hardest part is more of a temporary normal that involves less, in person, human interaction than I’m used to, and typically thrive off of.”
Kevin is a founder of the Upstate Coffee Collective and has been dedicating a decent portion of his time on maintaining the momentum the UpCC had been developing prior to Covid-19. The UpCC has recorded and released a few podcast episodes since quarantine began. Kevin has been active in posting at-home brewing videos on his personal social media as well as the Collective’s.
“When we move past this, there’s going to be a sense of relief that we all get. Embrace that. There’s also going to be an opportunity to take what we’ve learned from this trying time, and apply it in order to better ours and our neighbors’ welfare for the future. Embrace that too.”
Jared, part time barista and full time bartender, has been spending his quarantine in the company of his canine son, Smokey.
Jared keeps their days full with hikes and walks, as well as taking advantage of downtime for video games and experimenting with beverage recipes and cooking. Jared is a regular at Spektor Coffee in Glens Falls where he has been satisfying his needs for caffeine most mornings. Although he welcomed the break in routine warmly, Jared finds himself beginning to get a little stir crazy, as we all are, and is looking forward to returning to a semblance of normalcy. Smokey, on the other hand, has never been happier to have his dad around 24/7 for walkies, couch snuggles, and doggy yoga.
We know how difficult these past few months have been, firsthand, but being able to stay calm and connected to the people who have been part of a daily routine for so long can be a glimmer of hope in such an uncertain climate. The crew has been keeping busy on our own, but the response from our coffee community has been astoundingly positive and the help we have received in the midst of this crisis will never be forgotten.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and, of course, stay roasted.
Kru Coffee at our Saratoga Springs location is open daily from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. for takeout beverages and baked goods (no kitchen until Memorial Day weekend).
Written by: Acacia Ladd-Cocca & Katt Schott-Mancini