Seattle Coffee Gear People: Nick Buxton
The first in an ongoing interview series with the passionate people behind Seattle Coffee Gear, we start with Nick Buxton – Business and Purchasing Analyst and problem solving extraordinaire. Nick has been with SCG for six years, operating in different roles throughout that time. “My first position was at this dishwashing station. I’d wash all the parts like the brew groups and whatnot and put them back on this parts tray. I did that job for officially five days.”
We returned with Nick to the dishwashing station where his time with Seattle Coffee Gear began. Conveniently positioned one building over from his current office, Nick continues to spend time resolving issues in the warehouse.
A Colorado native and baseball enthusiast, learn more about Nick in the interview below!
Were you familiar with coffee or in that world at all before you started at SCG?
Not at all! You know what, it’s kind of funny. At my other warehouse we had a Mr. Coffee in the break room. Then we had the cans of Folgers pre-ground – you know, the five pounders. And we had a lot of creamer and sugar as it turned out. I wasn’t so big into coffee but I’ve always been into spreadsheets.
You’re a baseball guy. Did you play growing up?
Yeah. I played all the way through high school in Colorado. The varsity team I was a part of was undefeated league champions. We lost to the team that went on to win the state tournament. But yeah, we were a good team.
I love baseball. It’s one of those things that you can tell I’d like it because there are a bunch of stats. The MLB has a fantastic way to collect and measure information to tell you who hits a curve ball better in a night game if the humidity is “x”, right? So I’ve always loved that. But one of the more fun parts about baseball in my opinion is the players’ ability to deal with failure. If you think about it a player that has a .300 batting average is a good, quality player. But that tells you they fail seven out of ten times. So almost all of the baseball players are really strong mentally, are quick to adjust, and never get too tied down just because they are so used to failing.
It’s a great team sport. You only come up to bat one out of nine times. Even if you’re the best hitter ever, you are only up one of out of nine times.
As a numbers person it seems like you would’ve excelled in math as a student. Is that the case?
I like to say that I’m great at real world mathematics. So I do everything up to about college algebra. When you start dealing with “Negative I” and all of these crazy physics concepts – that was a little above me. But mapping out rates and thinking about math for real world problems has always been something I’ve been pretty good at. Statistics was a pretty fun course. You know standard deviation is something I use in my day to day. Inventory planning is always something fun to consider.
Honestly, my dad is a big numbers guy, so growing up he really hit home a few concepts. Namely numbers, baseball, and academia were the biggest things for him. I remember being younger and my dad would sit by my bedside. Instead of reading me a fairy tale or a story, he would make me do my squares! I’d say, “one squared is one, two squared is four, three squared is nine” and I’d go up to twenty squared as a five year old. And so numbers have always been my thing. They’re just very familiar for me.
You have a way of breaking down ideas like few people can. It seems like any time there’s a numbers issue the first thing to do is take it to Nick.
Well, ya know, it’s been six years of me doing this. When you get to focus all day on the numbers side of things of things that sell, things that are returned, and coffees that are expired you kind of come up with a good business philosophy of what’s going on with a company.
When you explain where you work and what Seattle Coffee Gear does, what do you tell people?
I tell people that SCG is kind of at the front of the specialty coffee world in a lot of ways. We have such a dedication to fresh coffee and that gives us a really good presence in the coffee industry at large. I tell people what I do is “buy the stuff.” I buy the Rockets from Italy. I buy the coffee from roasters. I buy the brushes from Pallo. I buy the chemicals from Urnex. I buy the stuff! But then I also tell people the fun part of my job is analyzing what sells and what happens with things.
You can gain and kind of glean really high-level concepts of consumerism from just watching sales and understanding what marketing or our retail locations are doing. Often something will just be said in a video that will affect sales. Gail is so awesome at this – she’ll just mention a coffee and we’ll see sales triple for a good week or two. It’s really interesting to me to see that stuff.
If you have all of the pieces together for your inventory planning you can prepare for questions like: what do you have on hand? What have you forecasted to the vendor? What do you know is coming in? What do you know is about to sale? What do you know marketing is about to do? What do you know our inventory is about to take out? You have all these pictures that really help you know what to do but it’s still never the whole picture because at the end everybody is a human that has a choice to make. Whether everyone is going to buy coffee today is not up to us. Is that person who normally buys coffee every two weeks going to buy coffee today? I don’t know. It’s no guarantee.
I wonder what the American economy would do if every US citizen made a conscious effort to not purchase anything on one day. I just wonder what that would do to the kind of people like me who forecast and analyze things. I wonder what we would think. I know I would scream and be pretty freaked out. (Laughs) I’d probably wonder what is happening in the world, obviously. But it’s interesting to me that there’s always the chance of choice.
Like you said, you’ve been with the company for a long time. You were young.
I’m still young! 33.
Well yes, but you were YOUNGER! How do you feel like you’ve changed in the process?
Oh man. A lot. I mean, obviously my Excel skills have changed. My data skills have changed. A lot of what has changed though for me in general is just understanding things like seasonality and how these are actual factors in the real world. I think one of the most fun things to talk about is weather! You have people who forecast weather and people who forecast inventory. And they’re all systems about what is going to happen next. You have interrelated variables like stock and all these others things that are connected. And if you change one of them it affects the whole system.
Just like in weather, if the barometric pressure goes lower or the wind gets higher here that might cause other things to occur. And in three days you were thinking it was going to be sunny but indeed it’s going to be rainy.
So that’s one of the things I love, and I definitely didn’t have that perception on anything like forecasting.
So there’s got to be a story with your mug…
So we used to have a gal working here named Kat – she did the videos amongst other things. She was really a great person who I enjoyed working with. Her and I had each of these cups. We used to every now and then clink them and throw it up on social media. Often that other hand was Kat’s. So Kat was pretty famous for not actually being on camera in any of the videos – I was in a couple. I dunno of they’re still up there.
But anyways, they’re just beautiful cups that we both thought were really cool looking. They hold a lot of coffee, which is great.
So I love the Moccamaster, I use it every morning…
Is that how you brew at home?
No. My girlfriend and I use a Bonavita 5-Cup. We even have the glass carafe, which makes a huge taste difference. For those that don’t know thermal and glass, glass gives you a better taste while thermal certainly retains more heat. So it’s up to you what you need more. I’m for the taste.
In the morning I pour my first cup of coffee from the Mocca into this mug and because the mug is tall and kind of narrow I can stretch my pour very tall to make this cool effect. If you had a wide cup the backsplash would go everywhere, but because of its shape the backsplash just goes against the walls of the cup. It just looks cool.
Before Seattle Coffee Gear you were drinking Folgers. Now you have this incredible wealth of coffee at your fingertips. How has your perspective on coffee changed?
I think the biggest thing I recognize with coffee is the global impact of it. We don’t grow coffee (in the US). I mean, we do in Hawaii – Kona and whatnot. But for the most part coffee is sourced and exported. The green beans come in and the roasters buy the green beans. Then the roasters sell them and I buy them for us. How my perspective has changed on it is you just really learn to appreciate how far humanity has come in general to be able to do this at all. We have these great, delicious cups of coffee at our fingertips. I can do a pour over on a Hario or brew an espresso on a Rocket or make a Moccamaster pot. Any of that coffee, any of those methods – I find that I just really appreciate that we have the opportunity to do that.
I definitely had no idea that coffee was such a thing when I was drinking that Folger’s from a Mr. Coffee. Really all I wanted to do was try and wake up. That’s what we were all trying to do.
I actually send my family good whole bean coffee for Christmas just to remind them just how delicious coffee can be, because it’s different. You know, you can always have coffee that will caffeinate us, but so many people just don’t realize how great coffee can be. But boy do we have great coffee here.