Article by Jim Baker | Photographs by David Weaver
It is no easy thing to enter and succeed in the crowded coffee shop market of the early 21st Century, but that’s just what Michael Vaclav and his wife Alison have done with their four Medici locations.
They began planning their first shop in 2004 and opened in 2006 on West Lynn. Since that time, coffee has evolved from a mere caffeine boost to a beverage one looks to for flavor.
“Customers now want their coffee and espresso to taste like it smells,” explained Vaclav. “This is still a young industry and it is now very much tied into the foodie culture. The old days of getting a caffeine blast from Folger’s or Maxwell House have given way to more refined tastes. So, our coffees contain subtle flavorings like caramel, chocolate and fruits.”
Greater emphasis is now placed on quality ingredients, too. “There is more interaction between growers and retailers than there ever was before,” said Vaclav.
While Vaclav is dedicated to the craft of coffee making, he knows there is much more to a building a successful coffee shop than providing great coffee.
“I love creating spaces for people,” he said. “We like our customers to intermingle. We set up our shops to engender interaction between the customers and as well as with our baristas.” Interestingly, Vaclav feels each of their locations has a unique vibe.
"All of our shops have distinctive atmospheres which our staff and customers bring to life," said Vaclav.
Medici’s staff are part of the quality equation as well. In order to become a barista, staff usually spend two to three months as a cashier while learning the nuances of coffee preparation. Because it is both art and science, Vaclav and his baristas are constantly talking shop, discussing such particulars as ideal temperatures and viscosities.
So that they can stay focused on the coffee and espresso, Medici turns to local, outside providers for its food: The pastries are provided by Texas French Bread and the sandwiches they serve are prepared by The Green Cart.
When the Vaclavs needed financing for their latest endeavor, the new shop at 1100 South Lamar, they turned to Amplify Credit Union.
“Amplify recommended a consolidation loan and then made it so easy for that to happen,” said Vaclav. “In our earlier endeavors, I had to go to various sources for lines of credit, but with Amplify, I was able to get it all at one time. It allowed us to hit the ground running.”
The good news for Austin coffee drinkers is that more Medici locations are on the drawing board and the good news for Medici is that Amplify Credit Union will be right there to help make them happen.