Pirzad: Tailored Coffee is not just another hipster café
A few months back, I came across a Buzzfeed list that I couldn’t refrain from, as it usually goes for me and most other Buzzfeed lists (and quizzes). It was a thoughtfully sculpted rundown of “24 Things You’ll Find In Every Hipster Restaurant.”
My intentions with reading this particular listicle was to gawk at each item and connect them to a place I know, expecting to touch on some key Portland and Eugene spots, since the hipster culture has existed in our cozy corner of the U.S. for some time now.
One place that instantly came to mind as I scrolled from one trendy cliché to the next was Tailored – a minimalist café in Eugene’s 5th Street area that opened a couple years back. I was amazed at how many items on the list matched with Tailored’s aesthetic.
“A name that doesn’t give any clues about the type of food they actually serve.” Check.
“Old-fashioned light bulbs.” Check.
“Exposed air-conditioning ducts.” Check.
“Random framed photos of Edwardian people.” Not check, but there is a copy of a signed photo by Steve Martin on display – so, still hipster?
“Menus printed on ‘distressed’ paper, and then stuck to a clipboard.” Check and check.
And lastly: “Overly loud music that in no way fits with the theme of the restaurant.” True – this is another checked item for Tailored, since the only tunes I’ve heard being played are of the hip-hop or rap genres.
This aspect of the clean-cut café is what inspired me to learn more about the origins behind this coffee roaster.
After meeting with Tailored owner Brian Sung, I realize that his café is not just another Pacific Northwest stereotype, and that Sung and his employees contribute something to the city of Eugene that no other business does.
Early 2014 is when Sung’s vision for Tailored started to brew. His parents, who are both restaurateurs, influenced him. His mother’s business, Brails on 17th and Willamette Street, motivated him. His lasting passion for coffee mobilized him. And it was Sung himself and the things he finds comforting that laid the foundation for the Tailored that came to be.
“Coffee was kind of a hobby at first,” Sung said. “And then, I had my parents who have always been a big influence on me. Everything I’ve learned about the service industry growing up, is from them – managing people, dealing with customers, the sense of pride that you have over the product that you make and sell to your customers. Basically, I’m just trying to do what my mom does, but putting my own little spin on it.”
Sung grew up between Eugene and parts of Washington. After having received a business management degree from the University of Oregon, he put his knowledge of both commerce and coffee to work by starting Brails Espresso – the café located just adjacent to Brails Restaurant. This experience is what Sung leveraged into a Kickstarter project two years ago for his own trademarked coffee roasting business.
On February 13, 2014, Sung and his Tailored team set a $3,500 goal, and almost exactly a month later, they successfully raised $3,522 with a total of 29 backers.
And with that, plus a prime Eugene location, a reasonable aesthetic vision and a determined group of people, Tailored came to fruition.
Sung based the design of his café on what he said, “is how my wife and I would remodel our own kitchen at home.”
Similarly, the offbeat, but tasteful music that the joint bumps is, “exactly the type of stuff I or other workers would listen to on our own,” Sung said.
From Kanye West to Simon and Garfunkel to Erykah Badu, records from Sung’s personal collection, along with some owned by Tailored manager Matt Pierson, line the café’s highest shelf, displaying their seasoned taste in music.
“I think my generation and the current generation are more hip-hop influenced than in the past,” Sung said. “Some people don’t always like the music we play because it is different – if an album isn’t completely appropriate, we’ll change it out – but we just wanted to create a workplace that didn’t feel like work, essentially.”
Tailored Coffee Roasters is the child of a number of influences. The main ones: Sung’s way of life and his passion for quality coffee. Also up there are the people Sung learned from, as well as those he serves. With a client base regularly ranging from high school students to senior citizens, Sung and the rest of the Tailored team have captured the pallets of many in Eugene.
“I think we are very honest with who we are and I’ve never tried to be like anybody else,” Sung said. “People might not like the vibe or the color scheme or the aesthetic, or they might love it. But I think it’s the service that we provide that sets us apart; we really focus on being friendly and welcoming. We’re a different café; we may not be as fast as something like Dutch Brothers where they just bang out drinks. We take time. We want you to come in and hang out. We want customer-to-customer relations. And, we strive to break the hipster stereotype with the service we offer.”