Women of Substance. Meet Kathy Turiano and Dena Jones of Joe Bean Coffee Roasters


Tell us a little about yourself, your background and what you do.
Kathy Turiano: I'm one of the owners of Joe Bean Coffee Roasters: a bar, restaurant & roastery in the city of Rochester. I have personally had a lot of roles in the company, but currently, I oversee finances, business development, marketing and wholesale. I never imagined myself owning anything like Joe Bean. In my mid twenties, I was pursuing a career in systems programming when that path was interrupted by two things— the birth of our first baby and my husbands' decision to step into his family's advertising business. By the time I was ready to reenter the work force, the advertising agency was growing so I also joined in.

Right around that same time, my husband and I got involved in youth ministry. Our house quickly became a regular gathering place for students where we fed any and all that came in our door. We were building genuine community around food and seeing the impact of that in their lives. Eventually our decision to open Joe Bean came out of desire to take what was happening in our home out into the community.

It was really my business partner Dena (and later my son Ben), who sparked my interest in coffee, not only as a means to bring people together but also as a global change opportunity.

Dena Jones: I grew up in the service industry. My dad managed bars for a good portion of my childhood. Even every house I lived in had a bar in it and if it didn't have one when we moved in, my grandfather would build one. I remember our home bar always being full of people. I began my own career in the service industry in 2001 at The Inn on Broadway.

Fast forward to now... I spend most of my days behind the bar at Joe Bean, pouring coffee or pulling shots on the espresso machine, presenting customers with beautifully prepared dishes and carefully selected beer and wine. When I'm not behind the bar, I'm backing up my awesome team and making sure everything is in place and working well and they have everything they need to serve our customers well. Occasionally, you'll find me in the roastery, roasting coffee. I love the vulnerability of coffee when it's being roasted. It's like the coffee takes on life. You try and guide it where you want it to go, but ultimately it has a personality all it's own.

When I go home, I'm usually either "tasting" coffee my three year old son has prepared using various pour-over brew methods or looking over my nine year old daughter's shoulder as she "schedules" the baristas, bartenders and servers at Joe Bean for their shifts!

What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?
Kathy: There's a quote from a psalm that I love, “great is the army of women”. I have had the honor of coming alongside many young women to help them become women of substance, grace, passion, and depth; able to face difficult situations but still maintain a nurturing, caring heart. Being a part of others succeeding is the thing I am most passionate about. I did a Ted Talk about this a few years ago. I think the way we have impact on the next generation is by partnering with them for their good. I love being a part of people's everyday lives and especially love helping people fit into the city community. When the bar feels “alive” with people is one of my favorite moments, that and seeing friendships develop and people connect with others at our place.

Dena: I am passionate about "my people". I love the people I work with. Joe Bean was founded on the desire to build community. I have never believed that I could accomplish the goal of Joe Bean without "my people". Each of us bring something different to the table. I really enjoy watching everyone do what they do best. I believe in raising a passionate generation- a generation who genuinely care about what they do and want to share that with the world. This world would be a boring, selfish place if we didn't care about something or someone.

How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
Kathy: The initial motivator behind starting Joe Bean was to bring hospitality and community into the daily lives of young people. And although Dena and I started the business; I believe that family owned business involve the whole family, which in this case includes our husbands, kids, parents, etc. So as far as difficulties goes, that is probably the first one. In a family owned business; everything is on the line. You need to figure out how to deal with family dynamics all while maintaining a professional environment. It's tricky!

The first Joe Bean was in the Village of Webster where we overhauled an existing coffee shop. We had some success, but competing against large national chains took its toll, leading us to shut down completely. Anyone who has launched and then had to shut down a business knows that it's an incredible emotional roller coaster. You open with such high hopes but slowly that hope gets crushed by reality. The shifting and rebirth of our business came out of two somewhat unexpected events. A local businessman, whose daughter was broken hearted when we closed, offered us a great amount of assistance. And secondly, my son Ben, who was in culinary school at that time, decided to join the business. Both of these things led to a new direction in coffee roasting, our move to the city and the creation of Rochester's first “third wave” coffee bar.

So I would say the second major challenge we faced was the decision to go on with the business. There is a business concept called, “Slow Death or Radical Change”, implying that if a business is not growing- you can let it die slowly or you can choose to radically shift it. Since we chose the latter, we needed to uproot everything we knew and basically start from scratch.

The third big challenge was in bringing something new. Although there were many places doing coffee, we decided to focus on the new coffee revolution that was happening across the country. Some people loved it, others did not and sometimes that second group was very vocal about their dislike! Learning to accept both public praise and criticism is definitely a skill we've learned along the way. But enough people supported our new direction and eventually it took root, creating a new coffee movement in Rochester.

Dena: Joe Bean began as a desire Kathy and I shared to build community. For me personally, I was at a time in my life where I felt that what I was doing was not enough. I was becoming apathetic. I knew I didn't want that. It has not been an easy road and it has been a long road. We faced difficulties such as a lack of resources available to us and forging a path that had not previously been forged - we were doing something that had never been done before in our city. People didn't understand what we were doing at first. We have changed and evolved quite a bit through the years. Fast forward twelve years and our bar is bustling with people talking to each other and enjoying beautifully crafted food and drink together. We've met coffee farmers who have produced some of the most beautiful coffees I've ever tasted and we have the most amazing team of people willingly and delightfully sharing their passion for bringing people together over amazing food and beverage. I may feel like a crazy person more times than not but I feel full and feel like I am living a life with meaning, purpose and passion.

What is your biggest regret?
Kathy: Although every business does some things wrong along the way, we joke that for years we did everything wrong before we did anything right. But I can't say that I completely regret those mistakes. In fact, my mistakes are where I have learned the most and where I've developed perseverance and tenacity. But that said, I do wish I had learned more before opening the business. We learned a lot about the coffee industry along the way but it would have been good to do that ahead of time.

Dena: I don't feel like I've done this adventure perfectly, but I also don't like to look at the imperfections as regrets. I've made mistakes, sure. And after the fact, I always have a moment of regret, but I like to move on from that quickly and consider those mistakes lessons I've learned instead of regrets. I fear becoming too bogged down in regret will only thwart success and lead to failure.

What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you? 
Kathy: As women business owners, I think one of our greatest assets is our heart. We tend to nurture those around us with our whole being. As someone in the hospitality business, this can be a good thing. But when we give our whole heart; it's also the place where we get hit first. Our tendency is than to pull it back; to become a bit hardened. But if we do this, we are missing out of one of our greatest asset. I think the balance is really to know how to give of ourselves wholeheartedly but to get a bit more thick-skinned in the process. One of the ways to learn to do this is to be connected to and learn from other women business owners. Those relationships can be a great source of encouragement and strategies.

Dena: My best advice is, you can't do this all on your own. You may be amazing but you need people. Even if you value your personal time, your quite time, your freedom (I do) - there will come something you cannot do on your own. Create process. Don't just wing it. Everything has a process - create it, then write it down. You will benefit from it in the future. Know your numbers, know your goals. You can't reach your goals without knowing what they are.

Connect and collaborate with like-minded people - it's amazing the possibilities. Lastly, protect your heart. As women we often lead with our heart. There will be people and things that come along that can damage our hearts if we let it.

Lettering by Anna Vos of Owl Post Lettering

What inspires you? How do you recharge creatively?|
Kathy: Time spent with my two year old granddaughter is always amazing. She is creative, insightful and loving. Plus, she's right at the age where she thinks her grandparents are the best thing ever which just feels great. It's also fun to just play. Playing is one of those skills that is easy to lose but once you rekindle it, it is a source of life and creativity.

It also helps to sit at my own bar. Sometimes I can get caught up in thinking about the details for our business but forget how great it is to just be in it. I get inspired just talking to the team-hearing their ideas, seeing their vision and simply watching them work together. I also like to cook. I get local food through our Good Food CSA, so I usually spend part of a day just playing with food. My husband and I have changed our food habits over the years, so finding new ways to cook has been a challenging but exciting journey. And I really like coffee and wine (big surprise). The world of beverage continues to captivate me. I especially love learning how coffee, food and wine is seen in different cultures.

Dena: Inspiration for me more times than not comes from people. Kathy and Ben, our other business partner, inspire me. Life seems to me like a rollercoaster of ups and downs. I have watched Kathy champion her way through ups and downs in life all the while displaying immense strength, dignity and wisdom. She is a constant encourager to me and her gift of hospitality and the way she uses it is truly admirable to me and something Ben shares as well. Ben is a creative force to be reckon with. He is wise well beyond his years. He seeks quality and perfection in everything and has an intense amount of passion for his craft.

My kids also inspire me. Part of why I do what I do is because of them. I want to teach them to love what they do and why they do it. To have a passion in life and to love other people. Because they are going to need other people in their life.

What is your favorite part of what you do? 
Kathy: Working with so many great people on a regular basis. It's what I live for. I also love being a part of the rebirth of our city. And of course, I love being in coffee. It is such an honor to work with small family farms around the world; to be a part of changing the economic and social culture of the places we purchase from, and to see women taking on larger leadership roles in coffee especially at origin.

I love seeing coffee become a vital part of the local food and beverage scene as well as a vibrant community of local baristas and coffee roasters. Both of these things were goals when we moved into the city so seeing them become reality is incredible.

Dena: My team is my favorite part of what I do. I love coming off a busy service that went super smooth. There's an amazing sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that one must celebrate with a fine beer or glass of wine together!

Name some local creatives that you really admire.   
Kathy: I have the utmost respect for both my business partners, Ben and Dena. Although Ben is my son, I've learned so much from him over the years. His passion for coffee is unmatched; he is driven to perfection in every aspect of the business. He has been the driving force for us having presence in the national coffee scene which has resulted, among other things, in multiple national coffee awards. Dena is one of the most amazing people I know and the glue in our business; the one who keeps it all together. She is the peacekeeper among the team and particularly between Ben and I who often have opposing opinions. She loves the team fiercely; she pushes through adversity with a smile, and is bringing her kids with her on her business adventure.

My husband Mike is not only my coach and strongest supporter but through his advertising agency, Edgewise he has tirelessly poured his creative energies into managing our brand, creating our space, building our web site, moving our things, and so much more! And although we are definitely his “worst client”, constantly asking for all our advertising needs last minute and giving little to no direction, he hasn't fired us yet.

There are so many incredible forces in Rochester doing amazing, pioneering efforts that it's hard to pick just a few. But here are some that come to mind. Jim Madison— champion behind the creation of the Rochester City Skatepark, Chris & Vicki Hartman—incredible couple who are carving out a whole new local food system, Lisa Barker—who is planting seeds (literally) with inner city students to help them understand good food & entrepreneurship, and Chef Jeff Christiano—whose long standing vision to launch a student led restaurant just came into reality.

Dena: The creatives I admire the most are right in my own kitchen, bar and roastery. Christin, our chef, Jim our director of beer and wine, Adam our bar manager and Janine our head roaster. Each of these people exude immense passion for their craft. They have an endless drive to continually further their knowledge and desire to share their craft with others. They each create dishes, and coffee, select beer and wine and coach people with intention and thoughtfulness. They evoke feeling and create with joy and appreciation for everything that goes into what they create, serve and do. They are authentic and do everything with people in mind. They think about our customers and what they like best and they know what they like best. They are about service and experience, not transactions. They persevere and have a heck of a lot of talent!