by Eric Ginsburg
Brandon Swiderski flips up a metal panel on the floor behind the driver’s seat of his truck, revealing grass below. Yellow and blue wires ascend out of the exposed engine, and cracks radiate across a portion of the front windshield. Tires and other debris clutter the back of the bluish grey 1956 Ford Boyertown Vanette truck.
It’s pouring rain, and Swiderski is standing inside the 12-foot-long truck parked his friend Roy Nilsen’s backyard amongst a bounty of other fixer-uppers. As time allows, Nilsen is helping Swiderski repair the truck that the two men found in Hickory.
When it’s done, Swiderski says as he gestures, there will be a long window along the right side of the vehicle, and another one cut in the back. He already has a color palette picked out and some ideas where he’ll park it, but more importantly, he has a name for his first venture into self-employment: Framework Coffee.
Swiderski is approaching five years as a server at Sticks & Stones in Greensboro, a gig that has served as an avenue for getting to intimately know a cross section of the city. His girlfriend, who is moving here from Charlotte, has a nickname for him because he seems to know someone everywhere they go, and is inclined to chat them up: Mr. Rogers.
Swiderski considered pursuing his vision of a coffee truck on the West Coast, but despite his love affair with places like San Francisco, where he first learned to appreciate pour-over coffee, he wasn’t sure he’d have the means to pull it off, and the market might be over saturated anyway. But here, Swiderski realized, he has already put effort and care into developing relationships, and he could take advantage of that network to lift him off the ground.
It will be a while until the hulking truck — which looks like it could star as an anthropomorphic evil villain in a kids’ movie or an alternate Batmobile in a throwback flick — is operational. He’ll probably need a loan, rather than chipping away at the cost periodically as he’s able to save up, Swiderski says. But in the meantime, he’s set up shop sans truck at the Corner Market in front of Sticks & Stones and at the National Folk Festival.
His friend Jay Bulluck, who runs Local Honey hair salon, invited Swiderski to set up in his lot for the festival. Swiderski wasn’t sure he felt ready to make his debut, and without the outfitted truck, he needed to borrow equipment. But over several rainy hours on the Saturday of the folk fest last month, Swiderski was so busy he only had time for a quick bathroom break and to snack on some French fries.
The Framework Coffee truck will likely include drip coffee, but Swiderski wants to focus on pour-over, a method that allows carbon dioxide to escape and avoids over roasting or burning beans, he says.
“You’re getting all of the flavor profiles that are supposed to be tasted,” he says.
Pour over isn’t a rarity on the national scene, though nobody is really dedicated to it in Greensboro, at least commercially, Swiderski says. Some people think that signals that the city isn’t ready for a coffee purveyor focused on the style, but Swiderski sees it as an opportunity.
“I’m going to make the market for that,” he says, adding that as he’s able to convince people to sample it, building a base isn’t too challenging. But he wants it to be more than a niche market or a novelty.
His timeline can be somewhat unpredictable; two weeks after he started looking for a truck earlier this year he had found and purchased one. Other aspects take longer, but Swiderski is eager. Pointing to a jagged lightning bolt surrounded by what looks like a cog decorating the truck’s steering wheel, Swiderski says he can’t wait to add the image to his extensive tattoo collection.
Coffee isn’t the thing, just what he hopes will be his full-time next chapter. He imagines he won’t spend decades on the truck, instead viewing it as a piece of the picture. Kind of like the tattoo, finding its place among the other facets of what forms Swiderski’s identity.
The time-intensive process of retrofitting the truck has its own perks, he says — the effort and time required make Framework Coffee a more significant and meaningful venture. There have been investment offers, but Swiderski wants to maintain control over his first solo enterprise.
That way once the truck is ready, the future might be uncertain, but it will be up to him.