Blueprint Coffee was opened by a group of coffee professionals and advocates in 2013. These founders (literally "members" in legalese) have been at the core of Blueprint's vision AND day-to-day operations. Instead of trying to create a homogenous "about us" story, we thought it would be better to introduce you to each one of them personally and provide some insight into how they shape Blueprint.
Meet Mazi Razani: roaster and self-claimed “utility guy” of Blueprint’s ownership team. We spoke with Mazi about his journey into coffee, small business ownership, and how he spends his time outside the cafe.
When did you first get into coffee?
I actually worked at Kayak’s, I want to say in 2005, before Kaldi's owned it. It was the summer between high school and college, and my brother worked there and got me a job. I worked there two more summers after that.
What did you do after working there?
After college, I worked as a bank teller for a year and I hated it. Then I decided I wanted to get out of the country to travel. I had traveled before, and it was one of the best experiences I'd ever had in my entire life, so I was like, "let me go do this again." I still had no idea what I wanted to do after getting a degree in sociology. I went to Ethiopia and came back and was like, "I kind of miss having conversations with people, meeting people, and working with my hands," so I went back to Kayak’s.
How was it transitioning back into Kayak’s?
Kevin (Reddy) was the manager there, and I had a recommendation from the owner of Kaldi’s. I worked there a couple years at least. I think I left for a period of time to travel again and then a went back and Kevin took me again, thankfully.
How was it working with Kevin?
We were pretty good friends by the end of the Kaldi's days. He had mentioned to me that he was thinking about leaving to go open his own cafe. I remember the statement being something like, "It would be really cool if we just had a group of friends that all owned a cafe."
So you just jumped right in?
Actually, at the same time my family had been talking about investing some money in a wine bar or something. So I was like, "This opportunity arose," and I basically asked my family for a loan knowing that it was going to get paid back. In the process, I found out who else was going to be involved from Kaldi's and was like, "Holy s***, these people are the best in their respective jobs. Ain't no way this is going to fail."
What were your hopes for Blueprint at the start of the business?
Oh man. We ended up building the space out a lot ourselves, doing the actual labor, so early on I wanted to see a physical space that wasn't just the shell we started with. It was really cool seeing it actually come together. Honestly, early on I guess what I wanted was to stay open. You hear all the stories about business owners that fail within the first year and the success rate of businesses and stuff. That was probably as far as I had gotten at that point. It was a very new position for me to be in, so there's been a lot of
learning in the past three and a half years.
Once you got past that first year, what changed for you?
It started off slow, but I learned how to roast coffee when we first opened. I didn't actually get into it until after the first year, when I was allowed to do more with it, and had a little bit more experience. I was just learning how to roast and trying to absorb as much in that area of the business as possible.
You used to work front of house, and now you spend a lot of time roasting. Do you prefer roasting?
I do now. That's kind of the joke, I think just by the nature of my personality, but I learned how to roast because I didn’t want to be in the front of house all the time. I still definitely enjoy the one day that I still do that. It's fun, it's a nice balance, but I definitely prefer roasting at this point for sure.
When you think about all of the owners, what roles do you think you fill best?
I've always considered myself kind of the utility guy. I fill in wherever it’s needed. I like to think that even though I don't work in the front of house a lot, I know it like the back of my hand, so I can just be plugged in when I’m needed there. If I have to roast or the delivery guys out of town, I'm covering that too.
What do you do when you aren’t at Blueprint?
When I'm not at Blueprint I usually find myself hanging out with my bro at one of his venues on Cherokee Street (Blank Space, 2720/RKDE). My roommate Radames is a really good DJ and he has a monthly night at Blank Space, which is always a good time. Otherwise I’m playing pool at RKDE. If I'm not out, I'm most likely messing around making beats in my bedroom. Radames and my brother actually got me a DJ controller for Christmas last year, so I've been dabbling a bit with that as well. Still have a lot more work to do in that realm!
How long have you been making music?
I probably first started messing around with GarageBand towards the end of high school. Then I dabbled throughout college, but there was plenty of distraction there. Right after college I started to mess around it with it a lot more.
Are there any intersections between coffee and music for you?
I find that I give up less easily when I'm super caffeinated. It's like if I don't feel inspired when I start, then I might after 10 minutes be like, "What am I doing?” But I've noticed when I'm caffeinated that's less likely to happen.
What would be the ideal place for Blueprint to be in the next few years for you?
South City, because I've recently moved there. I'm buying a house around there, and I generally like to spend most of my time that I'm not at work on the South Side.
What kind of space does St. Louis create for Blueprint, and the coffee industry in general?
Geographically, it's very spread out, so there's plenty of the space. People in the Midwest are also nicer for sure. Everybody in the coffee industry in St. Louis really gets along, rather than having super competitive attitudes about things. It's just very approachable even though it doesn't seem like it should be, given the nature of the industry. All the people that I know that work in coffee are incredibly nice people. We’re very supportive of each other, which is kind of St. Louis in a nutshell.