10 Questions with Doug Baker
-written by Nat Richmond
To be a Coffee lover, one must truly appreciate the subtle nuances that go into every brew. Doug Baker, Head Roaster of North Edge Craft Coffee, understands that there's an art to balancing these nuances. With his company, he is determined to bring greatness to the coffee world. I was able to learn quite a bit of Doug's journey and can honestly say I am truly excited to watch him take off and grow even more successful.
The Coffee market is such a big ocean to dive into. What Inspired you to start North Edge Coffee?
North Edge was created on the shear fact of wanting to be our own, local Roastery. Being a sister company of the already well-established Mill Creek Coffee Company, the opportunity came from there. We Knew we wanted something new, something trendy, something that was already enough work for a whole separate business and turn it into something that we could jump headfirst into. The inspiration came from the timing and opportunity, really. The inspiration is the best part, the fun part, being able to roast and offer specialty coffees from all around the world and provide them to our entire local area and country wide.
Describe your passion for coffee! What’s the Art behind a good cup of coffee?
My passion for coffee came at a crazy time in my life. I was in-between jobs, struggling to figure out “me” and what inspired me. Before all this I was honestly your regular coffee drinker. I wasn’t as educated on the coffee business until I came to work part time at Mill Creek Coffee co. It was then when it hit me, as I learned more and more about coffee, “wow, this is actually really interesting, I NEED to learn more about this”. The rest is history. Once I got a taste of all this, I never looked back, never looked for a different job, I knew I found my passion and quite frankly, it found me. The Art behind a good cup of coffee is never simple, but also super fascinating. It’s all about “hand crafting” and it’s all about keeping it that way. I don’t come in and push a button on a roasting machine and it just do what I want it to do, I must control the machine, control gas pressure, control airflow and heat. Every coffee is different, every roast is its own. Everyday is different and I love it for that alone.
What has been your experience with starting a business in the City of Erie?
My experience with this is really an interesting one. I can’t take all the credit as North Edge was founded first by Anita Rose, Owner of Mill Creek Coffee co. She had the vision and she has all the coffee business knowledge (30+ years of it to be exact). It just so happened that her vision and her ambitions were exactly aligned with mine. It’s a crazy rare thing to see or even describe but it’s amazing. Starting a business in Erie is seriously one of a kind. It takes true grit, patience, sleepless nights, Etc. We live in a city where you truly have to work your heart out for your passion. It’s a beautiful thing to be apart of. I really know now what real hard work feels like. Having a business in Erie has made me a better person, a better father, a better spouse, a better friend, the list goes on and it’s shaped me into what I am today.
Describe the process of building your business. How many cups of coffee goes into creating the “right” blend?
Well, the best phrase I could use when describing the process of building a business is “you don’t know until you try.” You’re going to have failure, you’re going to have some really tough times but once you get a go at something successful, it’s honestly addicting. Just keep holding onto that dream and vision. The number of cups that go into a blend is never the same. It could be one cup because I just simply nailed it! Or it can be dozens. I always want it to be perfect and not perfect to me but perfect for the account or customers desires. To know a blend is good is to put yourself in the consumers shoes.
How was your journey at The Lab?
My Journey to the Lab in New Jersey was so awesome! It was a “coffee nerds” dream course. They really know their stuff over there at Royal Coffee. I suggest any new roaster to go and learn all that they can from them. We did it all from coffee plant all the way through to the cupping process. I drank A LOT of coffee. That might sound like an awesome thing until you’re tunnel visioning with over caffeination. It was an amazing experience.
I read that you are also a Motacross Racer. Is that a sport that you currently still participate in? How did that chapter of your chapter shape you?
Oh man, Motocross. That will forever be apart of me. I started riding when I was literally 4 years old. Other kids were getting on their first bicycles, learning the ways of being on 2 wheels, when I was jumping dirt bikes on home made ramps, making tracks in my local countryside home area of Wattsburg, I had a knack for it a very young age. This quickly turned into competitive racing all around the tri state area. I did this until I was about in my early 20s. I always chased that dream, constantly tried to stay “in the ranks” as we call it. But let me tell you, It’s the toughest sport on the planet. I’ve went through more injuries and near death experiences than I’d like to admit. At this moment in my life, I’ve stepped away from it. I do participate a little here and there for fun, I like to stay involved. I’ve been fortunate enough to say I had that in my life and always will somehow. That big chapter of my life shaped me in so many golden ways. Physically and mentally. I’m now a Dad so that keeps me busy (and injury free) but she even at 2 years old shows love for it like Daddy did when I was her age. Who knows, maybe that world happens again but passed down like my father did and his father to him. Not anytime soon though! Let’s try soccer or dance classes first.
Any 5-10 years ambitions that you’d like for us to share?
5 – 10 years, that’s a very interesting thought. I’d love to see North Edge take off to a point where I have it envisioned for. I’d love to see it become something so great that my kids will want to keep it going if they choose to. I invasion my next 10 years to be a big happy family, a striving business and with enough happiness knowing I created profitability to not only my own family but to current and future employees and to the local Erie area.
What inspires you as a business owner?
Striving to be a business owner is like anyone else’s true ambitions. To create something you love, mold it the way you want it to be, make something that benefits my family and something they are proud of me for, etc. What strives me the most, and this is how I feel now, I never want to feel like I’m “working”. I want to feel like I’m doing my hobby and doing it with good intentions. I feel that is very much where I’m at now. That to me is the best feeling in the world and that’s very inspiring in my book.
How do you overcome adversity? Are there any books that you’d recommend?
Overcoming adversity seems to be a challenge we will always have, right? I came into this business on literally pure luck, right place at the right time and that creates some questions sometimes. I overcome it by refusing to give up on all this. You know it’s meant to be when you end up on the 40 under 40 honoree list and you know it’s meant to be when I get featured from Erie Arts and Culture. I simply remind myself of these accomplishments. I’m a firm believer of 2 nd chances, falling down before you can get back up. That will always make me a better person and will always shape me in a way to overcome any questioning of being mentally prepared. If I can do it, so many others can. All you got to do is cease your moment (great phrase stollen from the Disney movie, Coco). Some good books to suggest (I promised myself I wouldn’t say any Star Wars books. For now... hit me up personally for those) I always like reading into business books or entrepreneur books. Anita gave me a book on business called “Traction” by Gino Wickman. That’s been a very interesting read.
Any final thoughts?
I look forward to answering anyone’s questions about coffee, coffee business or just about life in general. I’m always available to lend a helping hand or collaborations to almost any capacity. Thank you, Nat and Erie Arts and Culture, for the feature! You all are great!