Downtown Reno, 89501
Sometimes, all it takes to turn your life around is a good cup of coffee.
Watson Meyer is a 20-year-old barista at Hub Coffee Roasters, a popular family-owned coffee house overlooking the Truckee River. He’s a full-time worker who you might very well see during weekday afternoons, chatting with customers and knowingly recommending a tasty brew. All over Reno you’ll find coffee spots, be it national chains or smaller local outfits, staffed with a practical, youthful crowd. However, the coffee grind isn’t just a fleeting little odd job for Watson. This is his passion and career, and more than that, his direction.
“I believe 110 percent in Hub. I support them in all the actions they’re doing,” Watson says. “The owners are amazing people, and so I can see myself supporting them and helping them as much as I can, since I love what they do and I love being part of what they do.”
According to Watson, Hub Coffee Roasters is a participant in a larger coffee movement that emphasizes quality and authenticity; leaving behind artificial syrups and focusing on fine roasting and well-sourced ingredients in cooperation with local farmers. Following several others, this “third wave” of coffee represents the perfect conduit for Watson’s passion.
“I live for craft. You can do this with beer; you can do this with anything, really. You can make it into an art.”
Why not beer, though? Apparently, there’s the issue of wiggle-room.
“Everyone and their grandmas are opening microbreweries,” Watson says.
The homespun beer market is well-populated with many people taking all sorts of risks and helping to diversify beer products. Watson feels that the coffee scene, though thriving, still has more maturing to do, and has untapped potential for improvement.
“I would love to be part of that and make it a better thing.”
Watson’s penchant for craft is further reflected in his hobbies. In his spare time he dabbles in construction, building a variety of items like a walking stick and a cone lamp. Eventually he hopes to start working on a boat, a project that will surely take considerable amounts of outside time and planning. He also does freelance typeface design for musicians, although his involvement in the cultural arts definitely does not stop there.
A peek inside Watons’s downtown apartment, located just west of and in eyeshot of the University of Nevada, hints at savvy awareness and further participation in downtown Reno culture. Vinyl records line the stairwell, peering down over at the guitars and amplifiers propped up below, with bicycles resting under worn-down cloth banners of coffee distributors.
Strike up a conversation with Watson about the town’s merits and he’ll be quick to point out its hardcore music scene, its bustling art community and fantastic museum, and an overall movement towards creativity. A musician himself, Watson is the bassist for two separate bands, Loose Cannon Mariachi and City Wolves, the latter of which he hopes will go on to record and perform in San Francisco. Started in January of this year, City Wolves has performed three concerts.
Despite its claims to a rich culture, downtown Reno faces what is hopefully only a temporary issue regarding exposure and getting the word out. Watson feels that Reno suffers from its association with Las Vegas and continues to have its reputation threatened by merely being seen as its bastard child.
“There’s so many things that when you look at them they’re absolutely amazing, but no one knows about them,” says Watson. Just give it some time and keep on pushing the music and getting the names out, and people will know. They’ll be like, wait a minute, Reno is awesome!”
Watson’s extensive Reno involvement betrays an interesting bit of trivia — he hasn’t even lived in town for a whole year yet. In fact, his plans to come up were initially thwarted. If it weren’t for a particularly inspiring cup of joe, Watson may never have made it.
Hailing from Grass Valley, California, Watson lived in the same house for nearly his whole life. Although his parents divorced, they still found time for the youngest of their three sons.
“They both have been very very good parents as I grew up, teaching me things that I now thank them for,” says Watson. “ I can’t say enough good things about them.”
Although well-taught in such valuable lessons as “don’t jump to conclusions” and the time-honored “don’t be an idiot,” the one that seems most prominently instilled in Watson is this: “Don’t be bored.”
In middle school, Watson’s mother handed him a fateful slip of paper. It was a list of instruments. A swingdancer, Jeanette was looking to kickstart her son’s interest in the performing arts.
“They said if you choose the trombone you can be in jazz band,” says Watson. “I’m like, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.”
This little spark quickly burst into an all-consuming wildfire. By the time he was in his senior year in high school, Watson was involved in a whopping seven different bands. College was on the horizon and a career in the musical arts seemed inevitable. Armed with the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program (WUE), which offers lower tuition rates at the University of Nevada to students from neighboring states, Watson planned to join his band friends as they left their cozy little town behind in favor of a fresh new experience.
Unfortunately, Watson realized too late that he did not meet the WUE requirements. Without the discount, he could not afford going to UNR. He had missed his chance to enroll in the new semester at the local college. He lost his job because his employers expected him to leave. Basically, his life was falling apart.
“I just gave up. I let go of everything for a couple of months,” says Watson. “I was empty handed; I played all of my cards and I didn’t come out.”
In the purgatorial year that followed, Watson supported himself with a new job at a small café and bakery, although it wasn’t until he visited Santa Cruz that his situation received a jolt to the heart. In town to watch a performance from Streetlight Manifesto, Watson decided to stop by Verve Coffee Roasters, a reputable local coffee house that comes highly recommended. When he stepped inside to order, he was given quite the charismatic pitch.
“This guy was so enthusiastic about what he was doing,” says Watson. “He was like, ‘Yeah man, we got coffee. Try this coffee, it tastes like grape juice. Hot grape juice! It’s super good.’ I’m like, okay I don’t believe you, but I’m gonna taste it, I’m gonna see what happens.”
Watson was blown away — it turns out Verge was running the third wave philosophy. When Watson returned home, he talked with his father about this unbelievable coffee. It had singlehandedly raised his standard, and he found himself disgusted by the charcoal flavor elicited by standard stuff his father prepares. Something had been set into motion, and Watson took this drive and applied it to his work, becoming an authority on the café’s coffee. However, he soon realized that there was more that had to be done.
“I needed to start learning, not just teach everyone, because I didn’t know anything!” says Watson.
This desire led Watson back up to Reno for the 2013-2014 school year, to study business management in the interest of opening his own coffee shop. However, he once again found himself put off by the costs of schooling. Undeterred in his goals, Watson nonetheless declined university life in favor of full-time exposure to the third wave coffee scene through the likes of Hub Coffee Roasters. Although happy with the direction he has chosen, Watson admits that occasionally his resolve falls short, prompting him to reevaluate its merits.
Watson is satisfied with his job prospects at the Hub, and he sees himself working there for five to ten more years. He will eventually, like Grass Valley before it, move away from Reno to pursue a change of pace.