As Colectivo turns 25, we’re taking time to acknowledge what’s most important to us. Alongside creativity and coffee, that includes our truly closest community: the people who work here.
From the first coworker hired by the three owners to our current roster of 600 Colectivans, the combined effort of many, many people has made us who we are today. While most of these people have moved on — to other coffee companies; entirely different professions; far-flung geographies; and extraordinary, independent pursuits — all have left the impact of their hard work behind them.
… And some have stayed around!
By the end of 2018, Colectivo will have 24 coworkers with 10 or more years of service. We want to thank these individuals for the ways they’ve shaped all aspects of our company. In our cafes, roastery, warehouse, bakery, service department, office, and delivery fleet — and often moving between various positions over time — these long-term coworkers continue to define what we do every day.
Their journeys have been as interesting as ours, so we asked them to contribute some memories to our anniversary celebration. Here are a few of their answers:
How were you introduced to Colectivo?
“I was a friend and then a business partner of Paul’s from the mid 1980’s and remember him talking about the coffee that was being produced by the Fowler brothers elsewhere in the warehouse/office complex we used. (I knew Ward as a boy in Shorewood, too.) Paul joined them in the coffee biz and I stayed in our Milwaukee memorabilia biz in The Grand Avenue Mall.” – Kevin Callahan, Senior Designer, 20 years
“I lived in Madison prior to moving to Milwaukee, and was a regular at Mother Fool’s on Willy St., which served Alterra Coffee. When I moved to Milwaukee, my roommate happened to work at the Prospect cafe and helped connect me with a job opening.” -Ramie Camarena, Communications Manager, 12 years
“I worked at Phase II around the block of the Prospect location when that location opened.” – Al Hildebrand, Shorewood Cafe Manager, 10 years
“I was walking down Prospect and there was a now hiring sign for the warehouse in the front door.” – Jason Ploetz, Warehouse, 17 years
What was your position when you started? Where are you now?
“I was hired as a wholesale sales rep, [and started as a] cashier/bar back at Mayfair Mall kiosk during the holiday season. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by a group of talented people on a daily basis. I love being part of the coffee community. I am always learning and thankful to be working in the culture we have.” – Christy Rodriguez, Sales Representative, 19 years
“I helped them early on with some of their first t-shirt and cap designs back in 1993/4 and was officially brought on board the first business day of 1999. I started working as the only delivery driver, working less than 40 hours a week.” – Kevin Callahan
“[I] oversaw production on the savory side. We were in charge of making and distributing all savory product. There were two deliveries to the [Lakefront cafe] that we took by van. Eric would take orders over the phone. 10 lbs of cooked bacon was a lot!” – Matt Post, Troubadour Bakery Operations Manager, 12 years
“I was one of four bag writers. Like actually writing the name of the coffee on every single bag. I was trained under Dennis. Anyone remember the great calligrapher Dennis?” – Dave Sedlacek, Warehouse Coordinator
Please share your favorite memory.
“Working busy summer shifts with Taylor Van Serke (R.I.P.), Fernando Hernandez, Nicole Steil, Ryan Carderella, Courtney Mueller and rest of the crew of 2008, [and] all the strange encounters I had with interesting customers.” – Josh Beier, Bay View Cafe, 13 years
“Musica Del Lago nights were always the best. The whole staff was very close, so we would all hang out outside for a few hours after the cafe closed. More recently, I will never forget the times I’ve spent with some of our coffee producers, especially the great people of the Chirinos Cooperative.” – Cody Kinart, Sales Representative, 10 years
“Ricky finishing my wedding cake by hand because the roses he had put on it had smudged during transit. He was using a plastic butter knife and spoon and was dressed in a suit and tie. Only a few years before, he was making smoothies and doing dishes. My other favorite memory was when Eric and I played snow soccer with members of the bakery and cafe in the field across the street from the Humboldt.” – Matt Post
“My favorite memory with the company would definitely be the amazing customers I was able to help every day for 7-8 years at the Grafton cafe, getting to know a lot of them personally, and always talking Brewers with them too. My family and I would go to Spring Training for the Brewers every year, and one older couple would always meet up with us at a game and have a beer with us. Truly special moments shared together.” -Richard Reif, Logan Square Cafe, 10 years
How did working here impact your life?
“I met my fiancé Courtney Mueller at Lakefront. We’ve been together for eight years, getting married in September.” – Josh Beier
“Realizing how important and rewarding it is to always; take the high road, be humble, and be nice.” – Leo Lettow, COO, 12 years
“Working in cafes sharpened my work ethic; Training made me more of a teacher; being a Sales Rep has made me more of a listener. Socially, I’ve made life-long friendships; stood up in Alterra-couple weddings; and have earned the title “Uncle Cody” to kids of friends that I’ve met here.” – Cody Kinart
“Good and bad, highs and lows, I’ve seen it all here. But the largest impact has been my relationship with my boss. Leo and I have been through a lot in the last 10 years. He’s helped me out so much in my professional career as well as my personal life. We’ve butted heads and almost shared tears. I’ve had Leo over for dinner… twice! Understandably we have had differences in opinions but overall we see eye to eye and are a great team. No matter the situation, I can always count on Leo to be calm and collected and help me out. He’s been a very important part of why I have remained at this company and I am so grateful that he’s my boss. Cheers Leo!” – Dave Sedlacek
What is your favorite food item and/or drink from back in the day?
“Ethiopian Harar coffee and the chipotle grilled cheese.” – Jason Ploetz
“PORK BURRITO!!!!!” – Al Hildebrand
“Tangerine Ginger tea and Cowboy Cookies.” – Leo Lettow
“Toasted sun-dried tomato savory scone with butter.” – Ramie Camarena