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Getting Mighty Crowded

Evolution of Volta, Pt. 5

Things are moving much faster now. The plumbing has been replumbed and inspected. The entire electrical service has been rearranged and relocated as necessary. Sheet rock work begins today. The crew at Meta-Res sent along a projection of the bar with the final casework in place, and we're already assembling the kits.

As a point of reference, check out M'lissa's original sketch from last fall.

Sunday morning meetings with our contractor, Fredrik Wetterqvist, and Meta-Res' Stephen Bender have been key with moving things along as we brainstorm on design, materials, and construction. As a collaborative endeavor, the entire build-out process has been a very rewarding exchange of ideas and pooling of talent.

Janet and Stephen

Fredrik and Stephen plot out space for the Cirqua

The Neighborhood

People have been asking about the neighborhood around Volta. Here's a quick guide to the surrounding area...

The view out of the front door, at the Market Street Pub and 1st. Street:

Our building. Brophy's Irish Pub is on the left side, Volta has the center two doors, Casino's Pizza has the small space on the right. Two of the largest bars/night clubs are a half block to the north; we have at least 18 bars within a block and a half.

American Apparel took over the old Rice Hardware building for their first Florida store; it's a half block away on the other side of the street. The new county court house is a half block south. Most of the people working at the court building already park in our building; apparently all will be parking there (and walking by our shop twice a day) soon.

The only two dedicated coffee spots downtown are five blocks away, and across the street from each other. Neither shop has the same sort of focus that we'll have on our coffee and tea.

A high-end/high-rise condo was slated to go in across the street from the shop, but it was caught out by the housing crunch. The owners have cut the size in half and are supposedly trying to re-launch the project.

A second high-rise student apartment complex is going in on the other side of our shop.

What housing crunch? Another massive student apartment complex a block and a half from our shop; this one covers four blocks. Shands at AGH hospital is another block west, the UF campus is 11 blocks west.


Looks like Hoshizaki has taken a corporate stance against ad-hoc latte art competitions at barista jams...


From the first days of planning the Volta menu, we've been working with the local grass-fed, quasi-organic diary to use their amazing whole milk products as the foundation of our drinks. Over the summer, when we were gathering the numbers for our business plan, the dairy's owner was seemingly excited about working with us. Our wholesale half-gallon cost was very much in-line with what we expected, about a quarter below the retail price of a half gallon of Organic Valley. Last time I checked in with the dairy's owner, he was on board to work with us and would even be able to deliver on his way to the local farmer's market. Unfortunately for us, three events coalesced that will probably prevent us from using his milk. First, we've seen a dramatic spike in the price of milk across the board. The retail price of a gallon of commercial whole milk was pushing up towards the price of the local product, so the local guy started to adjust his price upwards. Next, the demand for "pet-quality" raw milk, available from him at the farmer's market, has shot through the roof. Since he gets at least a two dollar a gallon premium for the raw milk, it's a win-win for him: he doesn't have to bother with low-temp pasteurization, saving him time and money, and he's making more money off of the product that he'd have to otherwise divert into a lower profit item. Finally, he's hitting the limit of production for the size of his herd. He's selling everything he's making, with a big chunk of that going through direct sales at full retail.

At the moment, full retail is $10 a gallon.

My cost would be a few bucks lower, but still double the current price of commodity milk. And the local milk isn't even organic. It is a wonderful product. It makes the best ice cream that I've ever produced. But by the dairyman's own admission, he even if I wanted to pay full retail he couldn't sell me enough milk to keep up with my demand. He's already shorting one of the local groceries he sells through when the demand for the raw milk spikes. I'm hoping he'll come around and want to work with me, but the position yesterday was that I shouldn't count on using his product except for limited and occasional offerings.

Unfortunately, north Florida doesn't have a single local organic dairy with commercial production and delivery. We have no other local option. Not that we don't have dairies, but we're surrounded by commodity dairy farms: thousands of cows in close quarters, with acre-wide lagoons of manure that leach into the local ground water and pollute our springs. Even if I wanted to use that product, I couldn't. All the milk is collected and mixed for commercial distribution on the national level. Looks like we're going to be using OV, although a local food activist is suggesting that I check out Publix organic for a non-UHTP alternative.

Mossy Oak Moss Eater

Major spring storms are blowing through town today. With tornado watches in effect and gusts of 50 mph, the oak trees are throwing blankets of Spanish Moss across the pasture-- much to the delight of the cows. I was surprised to sea that the moss was like cat nip to the cows until I read that it was traditional cracker fodder for cattle during the winter.


Finally. The city building department comes through with all of our building permits. The real work begins tomorrow!

(random and anonymous fireworks image)

Kind Of Blue

Still on hold while waiting on the "fast-tracked" building permit. Of course, the person holding up the application in the process is named (and I kid you not) Mr. Starbucks. The paint crew is ready to get started, so they went ahead and gave the exposed concrete a wash with the indigo blue tint. Color tests for the walls (drawn from the colors in James Hoffmann's espresso macro photos and my tea photos) are spread around the room.


I won an auction on ebay for a vintage Hario 2-cup vac pot; my plan was to keep it on the bar to use as a reference brew for dialing in the Clover. Unfortunately, the USPS decided to use it as a football. The largest pieces of glass left in the box:


The soffit that drops down with lighting over the bar has been framed out, and the AC vents were resized and repositioned. That's probably the last of the significant work in the space until the middle of the week. Tomorrow we finalize casework design; hopefully the modular kits for the casework will also go into production next week.

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