Kristy Pitchford and Chef Mike Junio – Nerdvana Coffee & Culture
Kristy Pitchford and Chef Mike Junio – Nerdvana Coffee & Culture
Show Notes & Links:
- Nerdvana writeup on Lifestyle Frisco
- Nerdvana Website
- Nerdvana Instagram
- Nerdvana on Twitter
- Nerdvana Facebook
- Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters
- Millstone Bakery
- Zakti Tea
- Madness Games
- Plan B Design Studio
- Senat (the original board game)
- Videogame History Museum
- Coffee Ripples
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco on:
Scott Ellis: Welcome to the Frisco Podcast. I’m your host, Scott Ellis and this week we are at Nerdvana Coffee. We finally have a coffee shop in Frisco Square.
I’m sitting here chatting with the founder of Nerdvana, Kristy Pitchford, and Chef Mike. Thank you guys for joining us in the show and thank you so much for finally putting a coffee shop in Frisco Square.
Kristy Pitchford: Thanks. We’re super excited to be here.
Chef Mike Junio: Absolutely. Thank you.
Scott Ellis: How long has this been coming, because I know for me it’s been waiting since about 2004. You guys probably haven’t been working on it quite that long, but when did this process start and where did you get the idea?
Kristy Pitchford: You know, funnily enough, the coffee shop concept only started this last fall in, I think it as October. We’ve been working on the restaurant concept next door at Nerdvana Food+Spirits for four or five years. We’ve been chatting about it and deciding and thinking about it and Mike moved here from California to work on this and it wasn’t until Gearbox moved into the building where they noticed there was a severe lack of coffee. We had an option on the space and we talked about it, Chef Mike and I, and we thought, you know what? We’re not busy enough. Let’s do a coffee shop. That’s kind of how it started.
Scott Ellis: Awesome. Well first of all, I think most people in Frisco know who Gearbox is by now, but for anybody who doesn’t, they are a game company that makes software and do video games. They are upstairs of the building that Nerdvana is in and if you know anything about geeks and software developers, there is just not enough coffee to keep them happy so I’m sure having this place downstairs is coming close.
Kristy Pitchford: Yeah, they’ve been great customers, for sure.
Scott Ellis: Well, they’re not the only ones that are happy you guys are here. Chef Mike, tell us a little bit about what you’re doing here. I don’t think most people go into a coffee shop expecting to hear Chef Mike or chef anybody being there so talk to us a little bit about what you got going on.
Chef Mike Junio: Well I’m active director of operations here. I make sure that we are up to par on all of our quality and services. Most of my focus is of course next door in the restaurant, but when we decided to have this coffee shop it was time for me to research what it was that the Metroplex enjoyed about fine coffee shops. I researched around, found the best resources in the Metroplex and brought them here at Nerdvana Coffee including food, coffee, tea, and juice.
Scott Ellis: Wonderful. Did we manage to pull a few people out of Dallas up into Frisco, maybe, to come take part in this?
Chef Mike Junio: Well we did. We have all kinds of great partners in this. We have Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters out of Oak Cliff. We have Millstone Bakery who supplies all of our breads and pastries. We have Zakti out of Oak Cliff who provides all of our fine teas. We try to locally source as much of our dairy and produce as we possibly can from the local farms including Burleson Honey, local pecans, all of the things that we can possibly source from local sources as close to Frisco as possible.
Scott Ellis: Well that’s good to hear because we’re all about local and supporting local any way we can. It’s why we’re here and what we do.
Chef Mike Junio: Beautiful.
Scott Ellis: Glad to hear that.
Kristy Pitchford: Well, so Chef Mike is being modest because he actually put together a phenomenal Texas toast menu which is all him. We have savory toast, we have our ham and gruyere, we have sweet toast with our almond butter and honey. Really, that’s what stands out with our food is our Texas toast menu.
Scott Ellis: Okay, so I haven’t heard about the Texas toast yet, but it sounds like we have some good breakfast sandwiches. Is that the way you describe it?
Kristy Pitchford: Yes, and lunch. They’re really hearty. It’s a thick slab of bread, whether it’s the pumpernickel or the brioche, or a cinnamon swirl toast. Then we have a variety of toppings for it. It is a robust toast.
Scott Ellis: All right. You are being modest.
Chef Mike Junio: I couldn’t say that, but Frisco has had such a wonderful reception to our toast. It caught me off guard at first. All of a sudden I was expecting to sell maybe five or six a day and it turned out right now we’re up to 30 a day and we’re still two weeks new. Our ham and gruyere with a house-made dijon aioli is flying off the shelves. Our house-made pesto cream cheese on our veggie toast is also selling off the shelves. We are really enjoying the reception Frisco is having with our toast to the point where I had to create a new one to allow people a variety. As of today, we are actually going to unveil the caprice toast which is tomato, basil, mozzarella.
Scott Ellis: Oh wow. Well I know what I’ll be having for breakfast on Saturday morning. I’ll be back. I’m glad to know that you guys have that there. I don’t think I’d heard about that before. Now Chef Mike, will you be the chef next door as well?
Chef Mike Junio: Yes.
Scott Ellis: So you’re overseeing all of that, both restaurants?
Chef Mike Junio: Yes.
Scott Ellis: Okay, well you’re going to be a busy man.
Chef Mike Junio: I am a busy man.
Scott Ellis: Not only was it welcome for you guys to open the shop here in Frisco Square, but it’s nice to see that you have really exceeded expectations. I mean, by no means do I want to sound like I’m putting a damper on what you’ve done here, but I think if anybody would’ve opened a coffee shop, people would have been happy, but you guys have just taken that to a whole different level because there’s, obviously the food is a big part of that but there’s a lot going on here besides just coffee including all the games, and we’re going to talk about that. There’s clearly a tie-in, I think, to Gearbox upstairs with some of that. The space that you’ve created, the internet. For people that haven’t had a chance in the first two weeks to come in and visit for themselves, Kristy, why don’t you just describe to everybody what they’re going to get when they come through the door.
Kristy Pitchford: Sure. One of the things that we want to do with at Nerdvana is we want to celebrate nerd culture because it’s our culture. It’s really who we are. We love whether it’s tabletop gaming or video games or sci-fi, or any of that stuff. With the coffee shop we really wanted to celebrate tabletop gaming and we’ve partnered with Madness Games and Comics and Plano and so we actually have a retail element where we sell really their favorite games and some of the things that are the most unique and interesting, things that you’re not going to find at typically the Target or a Toys R Us. These are more unique style games and what we’ve also created here, because we want to bring people together and create a community, sort of a nerd culture community, is we have a lending library where we have a lot of these games where you can come get a drink and a pastry or toast and sit down with your friends and family, pull a board game off the shelf and spend some time.
Scott Ellis: What are some of the board games people are going to find when they come in?
Chef Mike Junio: When we decided to venture into this project, I realized that I couldn’t be a noob, if you will, so I had to delve into board games and do a lot of research so that I understood what it was we were getting into. I had some amazing help from some of the guys at Gearbox and the people at Madness to really get me into the culture and what we’re doing here. Some of the amazing games that you’re going to find here at Nerdvana are going to be classics like Ticket to Ride and Catan. We highlight great games such as Small World, Splendor. We have Five Tribes. We, unfortunately and fortunately, sold out of a great game called Cthulhu Wars which is one of my personal favorites, and we have Quadropolis. All of these games are available in our library and on our retail shelves. They are all fun to play with and mixed time range of how long it takes to play, how many people can play, what age groups people can play. We have quick games like Sushi Go and Geek Dice. We have some classic games like Uno and Friskopoly.
Kristy Pitchford: Friskopoly.
Scott Ellis: Friskopoly! I think I saw that downstairs.
Chef Mike Junio: Which it seems to be one of the …
Kristy Pitchford: That was actually, really a gift from the chamber that’s been amazing and we’re actually looking to start carrying it here. So I talked to somebody to do that.
Chef Mike Junio: That’s one of the crowd’s favorites, it turns out. We have a large variety of great games and we’re planning on opening up one night a month a board game night for the public to come in and learn one or two new games that they will be taught, encouraged to play while they’re here, and just given a free lesson on how to play a great game.
Scott Ellis: Well that will be fun. I’m glad to hear that’s coming and as we’re sitting here talking about games I’m looking out the window of the podcast booth and I see somebody playing Operation downstairs. Now most of the games you just mentioned I’ve never heard of before, so I’ve got some learning to do myself, but I’m glad to hear you have some classics that I’m going to know as well.
Chef Mike Junio: We do. We have to support the classics. The demand is high. People love what they’re familiar with and one thing that we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to introduce people to a new style of game that has rose up over the last 20 years. The European-style games came out and answered to all of our old American games like Monopoly and Risk and Clue, and the Europeans answered back with a European-style game and Americans, in turn, decided to answer back to the European style games and come up with a new culture called Ameritrash. I did not coin this phrase but I surely love it. Now we have games like Cthulhu Wars where we have five inch figures with armies of 20 that fight against other five inch figures with armies of 20, and they clash. Our whole point here is to introduce people to a new style of gaming that might normally seem intimidating to the noob, if you will.
Kristy Pitchford: Yeah. I mean, one of the things that people find when they come in, especially when we have an opportunity for our staff to kind of tutorial a game for them is that the pieces may look intimidating, but there’s a lot of familiar game style. There’s a lot of familiar play and once they get in and they kind of get the rules, the get okay and then it becomes really comfortable and really fun. One of the things is when they see familiar things, like we have the Star Wars stuff which is a really robust game, but you’re familiar with the ships, you’re familiar with the … It feels more accessible and we really want to create a community of new people coming in and learning new games and expanding what they play.
Scott Ellis: Well good, so there’s a whole lot more going on here than just some coffee and food. Plenty of things for people to do, particularly around the games. If you want to learn new games, maybe there are games that people haven’t tried but they’ve heard of, they can come in and learn that. Do you have people on staff that are dedicated to teaching people these games? How does that work?
Kristy Pitchford: We’re going to have some nights where we do tutorials where we’ll have people from Madness, we’ll have our own staff doing tutorials, we’ll feature games. Absolutely if somebody comes in and grabs a game off the shelf and they’re just, “I wish somebody could just at least talk me through it.” Our staff will absolutely walk them through some of it.
Scott Ellis: Good. Good to know.
Kristy Pitchford: Yeah, absolutely.
Scott Ellis: The other thing I noticed is you guys went all out on the aesthetic and the décor. In particular, the tables that have games built into them. Now these look like they’re not necessarily meant to be played, they’re more decorative, but there are actual … There’s a table down there that’s got a setup from a classic chess match and it’s under glass, kind of built in underneath, inside the table. What are some of the other highlights down here that just kind of add to that atmosphere?
Kristy Pitchford: Well one note is Chef Mike and our dad built every single table in the shop, so every single table, whether it’s a game table or just the tables, they built every single one because, you know, not enough to do.
Chef Mike Junio: Little side [inaudible 00:12:37] just busy.
Kristy Pitchford: Right. The tables that you’re looking at that have the game dioramas and the dice and stuff, so they built and then Madness took the tables and inserted the dioramas. We have a series of Monopolies on one of them. We have Lord of the Rings Monopoly and a whole bunch of different ones.
Chef Mike Junio: Doctor Who Monopoly.
Kristy Pitchford: Then the dice one, it’s just a table full of dice which is so colorful and amazing. My personal favorite is the one that has, it looks like an old junk drawer at home where all your loose pieces go in. Your loose money and your loose tokens and game pieces, so that’s my personal favorite.
Scott Ellis: That is good attention to detail because we all have one of those somewhere.
Kristy Pitchford: Right?
Chef Mike Junio: Now the big draw to most of our big gamers is the Dungeons and Dragons table and it brings people a tear of joy, both sadness and pleasure when they see that madness not only donated their first edition Dungeons and Dragons master books, but they cut them up to put inside the table and it actually displays a game in progress. You can actually look down in the table and see what it was like to be playing that game 25 some odd years ago.
Scott Ellis: I’m guessing that is the best seat in the house.
Kristy Pitchford: Yeah. It’s pretty good.
Chef Mike Junio: It is voted that way, yes. Definitely a hard seat to get.
Kristy Pitchford: As far as the rest of the décor, we had a lot of help from Plan B. Plan B is also helping us do the restaurant. The did Whiskey Cake and Mexican Sugar, I mean, they’re a really great design studio. That’s been really great and then my assistant, John Martin, is an interior designer. He’s helped with a lot of stuff. He did the lending library. We’ve had a lot of great design minds. My husband, who is the CEO of Gearbox Software, he’s a designer as well. He actually did the vinyl piece that we have here which is, it’s actually the game Senate which is the oldest known board game out of Egypt and he took a program where he took the words, the history of, and rules and made a mosaic into the art. We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had a lot of great design minds that have been able to throw themselves into this and it’s paid off.
Scott Ellis: Well you just answered one of my next questions since we’re talking about décor and that is, what is the mosaic with all the words? I knew that had to be from something but I had no idea what. That’s an interesting little back story. I’ll have to go look that up. Anything else in particular you’d like to tell us about the shop? Maybe anything special or unique things that you want people to know?
Kristy Pitchford: Other than we’re really, really excited to be a part of Frisco Square and a part of Frisco and we’re super excited to bring nerd culture and the at Nerdvana culture here with the museum, the video game history museum, and with Gearbox here. We feel like Frisco has been so incredibly welcoming for us and it’s felt amazing.
Scott Ellis: Well, we’re glad to have you here. Glad to hear that. Chef Mike, thanks for all your hard work in helping to put this place together as well. I cannot wait to try some Texas toast. I will definitely be back in on Saturday morning. What time do you guys open on Saturday?
Chef Mike Junio: We are open 8am to 9pm Saturday and Sunday, and 6am to 9pm Monday through Friday.
Scott Ellis: Very good. Well I may be waiting at the door when you guys come in.
Chef Mike Junio: That’s how we like to open.
Scott Ellis: For anybody else that is looking forward to a visit, Nerdvana Coffee is in Frisco Square. It is in the bottom of, the first floor I should say, of the Gearbox building. If you’re not sure which one that is, it is just west of the main strip on Frisco Square, kind of behind the apartments. Between the apartments on Main Street actually. You can see it from Main Street but I think you’ll want to enter off the backside, kind of drive around [crosstalk 00:16:47]
Kristy Pitchford: We have parking, well I guess it’s the backside to us we’ll call it. The frontside, but the southside. There’s lots of parking there, yep.
Scott Ellis: Come on in, grab a cup of coffee, and if you really want to have a little extra fun, and I’ll post a link to the one I did today, there’s a little app out there called Ripples.
Kristy Pitchford: Coffee Ripples is the app.
Scott Ellis: Coffee Ripples.
Kristy Pitchford: Yep. What it does is you can order a foamed drink, whether it’s a latte or a cappuccino or even our decadent chocolate, you can ask for it with the phone. If you’re going to get it rippled, you just tell the barista, “I’m going to get that rippled,” and you can actually print a picture onto your beverage and it’s really, really cool.
Scott Ellis: It is cool. I was looking at my coffee and I’m staring back at myself. I’m having a little bit of a Hannibal moment wondering if I should drink my coffee. It was very good. That’s a neat little thing. Coffee Ripples there’s an iPhone app. Is there an Android app for that as well?
Chef Mike Junio: Absolutely.
Scott Ellis: There is. Very good. Everybody can go out and put your face on your coffee.
Kristy Pitchford: That’s right, whatever you want.
Scott Ellis: And online, where should people go to find you online?
Kristy Pitchford: Our website is nerdvanafrisco.com and you can go there for now. You can see the coffee shop. We’ll be posting progress about the restaurant as we go on that site as well.
Scott Ellis: Very good, and what about social media? Are you guys on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?
Kristy Pitchford: Absolutely. We are NerdvanaCoffee on Twitter, we’re NerdvanaFriscoCoffee on Facebook and we’re NerdvanaCoffee on Instagram.
Scott Ellis: All right, there you go. We’ll link all this stuff up in the show notes. Guys, we finally have a coffee shop in Frisco Square. Thank you so much.
Kristy Pitchford: Absolutely. Thank you.
Scott Ellis: Thank you guys for carving out a little time to join us and everybody out there listening, we will talk to you next week.