Eric Harry Nicol loves coffee and has dedicated nearly a decade of his life to it. Originally from Arizona, Nicol worked at several cafés and coffee roasters before helping Blue Star Group develop and open The Principal’s Office at the Ivywild School last year. Nicol, 27, now works as bar manager, overseeing quality drink creation and customer service. He took some time this week to tell the Business Journal about his passion for coffee and cocktails, being a Colorado Springs transplant and what sets the Ivywild’s offerings apart from the rest.
Can you tell me about your professional background?
My background, as far as work goes, has mostly been in coffee. I started in coffee when I was 18 at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, which is a company out of California, but I was working in Scottsdale as a barista. The reason I got into coffee was an interest in coffee houses and cafés. I like the vibe of them and the culture that surrounds them and I really didn’t want to work a job that I didn’t like. I then worked for a company called Extreme Bean in Tempe, helping with roasting and mostly doing barista work. Then I moved out here because I had a friend living here at the time, wanted to get out of Phoenix and wanted to see Colorado. So I started working for Colorado Coffee Merchants in 2008 as a coffee roaster. … I left full-time there, right as I started talking to Joe Coleman about this project (Ivywild). I stayed on working part-time while they hired some more people and was also working as a bartender for Blue Star while we were developing the coffee and bar side of The Principal’s Office.
How were you involved with that development?
Originally I was brought on to do just the coffee piece, not everything. Bristol Brewing and the bakery were the main components of the school back in 2012. Joe wanted to do coffee, and I was introduced to him through a mutual friend. It originally started somewhat as consultation and the possibility of working there when we opened. Then I started bartending, started showing up to more meetings and also started developing the drink menus after only a couple of months. We didn’t really have anyone else to do those things, so I stepped into that position and it just sort of developed from there.
What is a typical day like for you here?
I’m involved with the Old School Bakery and The Meat Locker a little bit in terms of front-of-house management and overseeing that, but in general I am the bar manager for The Principal’s Office (scheduling, developing the menu, training, ordering products). The beginning of the week is usually catching up on emails and ordering stuff, and toward the end of the week I’m mostly behind the bar.
How would you characterize the young professional environment here?
I would say it’s good. … It does seem like younger people here are trying to get involved more in things like music, art, food, beverage, restaurants and trying to develop that side of Colorado Springs more. I would say that it is good and definitely getting better.
How do you view Ivywild’s role in that?
Ivywild has been a great little community space, between the event center offering music, Bristol and The Principal’s Office offering some music and other things like that.
What are some of your goals for The Principal’s Office?
We’re really trying hard to provide quality and efficiency, and that’s what we’re working on now. We’re trying to develop even more synergy between the bakery, the deli and The Principal’s Office and enable people to be able to experience that all without too much confusion.
This is a unique business model. What is competition like?
I do think there is competition as far as the coffee side of thing goes, but I do think this is more of a destination for people. It’s not a place to get coffee quick in the morning … we have more coming to sit down and work, or hang out and have meetings. In the evening, if Bristol is busy, we have a propensity to be busy, which is nice because you might think we would compete. … It is actually a huge benefit having the other businesses together in this space. So it’s not your typical type of competition.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
There has been a really great development of that craft coffee piece in Colorado Springs over the past couple of years, which has been an awesome thing to be a part of. Some people might argue, but I think that we’re better off because of it. n CSBJ