For Roasters & Retailers

The phoenix of Bald Guy: Coffee business retooled to focus on education, industry

In this time of increased emphasis on doing business locally, Bald Guy Brew is thinking global – by inviting aspiring roasters from around the world to train in Boone, North Carolina.

Bald Guy Brew has settled into a new home at 714 Old U.S. 421 S. in Boone, near the intersection with Roby Greene Road, where owner Don Cox is beginning to lead classes at the Coffee Roasting Institute Blue Ridge Campus, a Premier Training Campus of the Specialty Coffee Association.

“It’s the first Premier Training Campus in North Carolina,” Cox noted.

According to its website, the Specialty Coffee Association is a nonprofit, membership-based organization that represents thousands of coffee professionals, from producers to baristas all over the world.

“Achieving SCA Campus accreditation is a prestigious designation that requires demonstrating compliance with standards for education excellence,” the association states.

The setting for such trainings is a former Hollar and Greene Produce Company warehouse, a fact that Cox finds fitting given his close associations with the agricultural side of coffee. Cox has long maintained a close relationship with the farmers from whom he buys coffee beans and has visited their farms to learn more about their operations.

In 2018, Cox also plans to begin offering classes at the location, which will be open to the public and include such topics as roasting, brewing techniques and the supply chain of coffee.

And although the hours have yet to be determined, Cox does anticipate having limited “coffee shop” hours open to the public, perhaps on weekends, and is open to hosting small special events at the space. That’s not to say that the new Bald Guy Brew location is only open during those specified times – though his hours at his various locations in Watauga County over the years have varied, Cox has always had an “open door” policy – but it’s recommended to call or message the business first.

Cox said he’s in the shop most days from 8 a.m. until noon.

In addition, Bald Guy-roasted coffee can be ordered and shipped via his website at, including options for subscriptions.

The new offerings are part of Bald Guy Brew’s continuing reincarnation since a devastating fire at the business’s Valle Crucis location in August 2016.

The Valle Landing fire – set intentionally by an arsonist who earlier this year was sentenced to prison – claimed a young woman’s life, injured others and destroyed everything in and around the building, including approximately $100,000 in Bald Guy’s equipment and the multi-colored van that was often seen at area events, including the Watauga County Farmers’ Market.

After the fire, Bald Guy’s friends and supporters – even farmers in Costa Rica – rallied to raise money to help the business rebuild, and Cox has gradually been working toward that end. In addition, multiple area businesses have chipped in to help get the new location up and running.

“It’s been a humbling experience,” said Cox, adding that he was honored to know that Bald Guy had touched so many in the community.

During the downtime after the fire, a longtime friend at the San Francisco Roasting Company sent Cox to attend a Q Grader course. Presented by the Coffee Quality Institute, the Q Grader is “the only internationally recognized certificate system for Arabica coffee cuppers,” it states.

Q Graders are recognized as coffee cuppers that can objectively assess coffee quality; identify, quantify and articulate coffee characteristics; detect coffee defects; and communicate coffee characteristics using common industry terminology.

With multiple exams, the course has a 20 percent pass ratio, but Cox passed, and his friend encouraged him to pursue a trainer’s certificate.

After more training and visits to labs across the country, Cox was awarded the certificate in the spring, and the buildout of the warehouse took place this summer.

Since then, Cox has been outfitting the space with a number of roasters and other equipment, and SCA trainings have already begun, with students from Colombia and El Salvador learning how to roast or how to address quality issues.

Cox serves as an instructor at the SCA’s Blue Ridge Campus as well as the Nevada campus, and could potentially teach in South Korea as well.

2017 also marked Bald Guy’s return to the Watauga County Farmers’ Market, with his cargo bicycle replacing the former van.

Since Bald Guy started in the Boone area years ago, several other coffee shops have moved into the market. With his return, Bald Guy is taking a different approach.

“The phoenix of Bald Guy has been more within the supply chain,” Cox noted.

“It’s been a long row to hoe,” he said, but “the bottom line is, I didn’t want an arsonist to have the last word on Bald Guy.”

Bald Guy Brew can be reached on Facebook or at (828) 414-1961. The shop is closed the week of Christmas.


By: Anna Oakes

© ©2017 Watauga Democrat – Mountain Times Publications, All rights reserved.

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