An interview with Miracle and James YoderApril 20, 2018 1:24 pm
“Not just passionate about coffee” was Miracle Clark-Yoder’s reaction to why they are so involved in the small business community.
Miracle and James Yoder, of Not Just Coffee, care about their staff, their city, and the success of their shared business—maybe in that order. They are not your typical business owners. Ask them about ‘investment’ and they will tell you ‘return’ comes in many forms: hosting fun, collaborative events, employee satisfaction, and improving the local business climate and culture of Charlotte.
James was recently honored as Charlotte Agenda‘s ‘Small Businessperson of the Year.’ I sat down with James and his wife and business partner, Miracle Clark-Yoder, to talk about their meteoric rise in the Charlotte (not just) coffee scene.
What do you order when you want Not Just Coffee?
James: A cortado—it’s almost a running joke with my staff. It’s absolutely my go-to. It’s a good way to taste the espresso and taste the milk: the honey, caramel notes. It’s pretty incredibly different, distinctly creamier, richer.
Miracle: I actually really like variety. So I don’t necessarily have a go-to drink. If I haven’t tried something in a while, I will.
What was your reaction when you found out you had won Charlotte Agenda’s first ‘Small Businessperson of the Year’?
James: I was, uh, yeah, floored! Extremely excited. Huge honor. The response has been insane.
In the Charlotte Agenda article, you mentioned your role (with 45 employees and 5 locations) “shifted from ordering and production to management.” What has that been like for you?
James: Pretty much everything was hands-on for the first year. I would do payroll, I would do ordering, hiring, opening, closing. In year two, we started growing and expanding. For the first two years it was just three of us. So relinquishing things like ordering and scheduling was huge and it freed me up so much as we grew.
Miracle: (laughing) It was also very hard for him to let go of those things.
James: For sure. But I still stay very involved in a lot of the details. I think our business, our brand, is so driven by little nuances that are so important to our success and our growth.
How does having your spouse in the company help with that transition?
James: Having Miracle, just within the last three years, come on-board in a much more active, full-time role has been huge. It is a much bigger task than when I was doing it. Payroll, dealing with the numbers— she communicates almost 100% with the accountants. My role now is much more dealing with communication now. I don’t love emails. I haven’t met anyone who does.
You buy your coffee from a North Carolina roastery (Counter Culture), you get your dairy from Homeland Creamery, a North Carolina farm. How have you developed those relationships and what do they mean to you?
James: When we started, we knew that we only wanted to feature the best quality we could find.
Miracle: And ones that could be sourced locally.
James: As soon as we moved into 7th Street (Public Market), which was about eight months after we had been open, because we were at Area 15 first, that’s when I met the people from Homeland Creamery and that seemed like an instant fit. We want to make sure it’s really great quality—and where we can, local. But I think something like dairy, when you think about a latte, that’s most of what’s in your glass. So getting a good quality milk is hugely important.
Favorite food in The Market to eat with coffee?
James: She likes variety, remember? (both laughing)
Miracle: Saturday night we came up for a meal right here at Zia Pia. Always enjoy Orrman’s; and the sushi is great (Bonsai Fusion). I think it’s just fantastic—the quality in The Market.
Not Just Coffee is involved at pop-up events around Charlotte all the time: Latte Art Showdowns, Atherton Jazz Night. Why is it important to you as a small business owner?
Miracle: They’re a lot of fun! Community has always been important to us. Sometimes we make money, sometimes we lose money. But I think it’s important for our brand and development.
James: I love throwing events. But like Miracle said, I think it is an important part of being an active business in your city’s culture, right?
Miracle: And it can bring attention to other small businesses. To the tune of The Market and Center City Partners, we’re just amazed and grateful for how supportive the whole process of being a small business in The Market has been. As a female business owner, I’ve never felt like there was any more or less recognition given to James than myself.
If someone approached you who was looking to start a new business, what advice would you give?
Miracle: You better be really passionate.
James: Being open to pivoting, changing directions is really important.
Miracle: That sounds like flexibility, James (laughing).
James: Doesn’t mean I need to order anything other than a cortado.
Take James’ advice and try the cortado. Better yet, grab an almond cake or ricotta cheesecake at Zia Pia Imports + Italian Kitchen beforehand and enjoy them al fresco on The Market’s patio. In the next Charlotte Center City Partners newsletter, we will do just that—as we dive into Chef Majid Amoorpour’s pastry case at Zia Pia.
The recurring ‘In the Market’ section will focus on a new vendor or event from 7th St. Public Market.