CJ De Luca started out at Death Wish Coffee Company on the production floor. Now his job has changed drastically, as he is learning and working to help get the company SQF Certified. This is just a fancy way of saying "quality control" but it is the process big corporations use to propel them further in the business world. CJ talks about the changes in his job, what he has learned since he started, how SQF will help out the company, and how he likes to travel the world for fun.
This week on Science, we break down the incredible human achievement of sending the Parker Solar Probe to the Sun. It is the first time we will be observing a star at close range, and it will become the fastest human-made object in history. We talk about some really silly products jumping on the Pumpkin Spice bandwagon and break down why our Pumpkin Coffee is different than all the rest. Finally, hear about some new products from the World's Strongest Coffee including new T-Shirts and Stress Balls.
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Jeff: We start this off every single time: the employee you hate the most.
CJ De Luca: Oh.
Jeff: Not even gonna mince words, just who do you fucking hate?
CJ De Luca: I left my list [inaudible 00:00:14].
Jeff: Oh, I like that. A list.
CJ De Luca: It's not really a hate; it's a love-hate, but I have to go with Uilliam.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, Uilliam.
Jeff: Usually the go-to is Kane.
Dustin: I think Noah gets some love in that category, too.
Jeff: Every now and again.
Dustin: I could be wrong. I could be wrong. Maybe that's just me.
Jeff: Uilliam is a punching bag, though. That's fine.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, it's funny. I just talked to him about it, too. He goes, "Oh, they're gonna ask you who you hate the most." "Oh, why would they ... oh, that's funny, Uilliam."
Jeff: I mean, it's fun 'cause we start with that question because one thing I've learned working here, and I'm sure you have, too, we're a crazy bunch of motherfuckers, but it's like one big family.
Dustin: Yeah, it is. It's like a family. You've got the ones you love. You've got the ones you hate. You got the crazy uncle doing crazy things like, "Dude, what are you doing?" It's great.
Jeff: Yeah, for sure.
CJ De Luca: Blowing stuff up in the parking lot.
Jeff: Yeah, you might here that. They are blowing stuff up in the parking lot. So, let's bring it all the way back. How long have you been working here?
CJ De Luca: I've been here for a little over a year now. I started last June.
Jeff: Yeah, so a little over a year. We'll talk about how you've seen the company grow as we go, but I'm very curious to hear, what was it like when you started? What were your initial duties starting at Death Wish?
CJ De Luca: I started on the production floor, just packing cups, then moving onto the viking. It was pretty basic. It was simple instructions and just work.
Jeff: Get it done.
CJ De Luca: Yeah. Put your head down and work. Have fun and ...
Jeff: Since then, we've grown as a company. We have a heck of a lot more guys on the production floor now, and your job has changed significantly. You are the head of what is called SQF now, part of this company. Can we talk a little bit about that 'cause I didn't even know that was a thing that existed until now.
Dustin: More than just SQF—just to interject—it's quality control.
Jeff: Quality control, yes, as a whole.
Dustin: So, if somebody gets too many beans in their bag, it's this guy's fault.
CJ De Luca: You're welcome. You're welcome.
Jeff: Talk a little bit about how your job's changed.
CJ De Luca: Swedish had approached me about starting up a quality control division, and I said, "Yeah. Sure. Something that we probably need." It kind of grew from there. We learned about this whole SQF certification and the FISMA rules that came out from FDA, and then we learned that we needed to start being compliant with these rules. Being SQF is a certification worldwide that basically says your facility is clean, you have traceability, yada, yada, yada, but it's big-time shit. You're now messing with the brands, like your Nestles, your Coca-Cola. Big brands are SQF certified, so this is a huge process for us.
Jeff: Yeah, it keeps everybody in check. It keeps our product in check. Like you said, it's something that you see normally with the big boys, and I'm gonna just say it, I think we're becoming one of the big boys. Even though there's still only 30 of us, I still think we're becoming one the big boys out there.
CJ De Luca: Oh, yeah. For sure.
Jeff: So, it's definitely needed. Does SQF stand for anything?
CJ De Luca: Safe quality food initiative.
Jeff: Safe quality food. Okay. 'Cause I didn't even know that. Literally I had no idea about this until one day we were at a meeting and they were like, "So, CJ's gonna be heading SQF," and I was like, "That sounds like fun. Is it a carnival. What is that?"
Dustin: So, that obviously comes with a handful of obstacles. I can only imagine, and I've been here to see some of it, but what do you think is the most challenging part of taking a facility like what we've done, which is pretty much home grown, and turn it into a safe, a high-quality, big boy corporation facility?
CJ De Luca: I mean, luckily, we're still kind of new, so we have almost a clean slate. We got a fresh canvas to work with. Our packing, everything that we've been doing already all falls in line.
Jeff: That's awesome.
CJ De Luca: The packing comes from good sources, we're all organic, which is great, even the new pest control provider. Things like that that have been obstacles and trying to find the right sources that'll work with us that know what SQF is and can keep us compliant. I think the hardest thing is gonna be just implementing all the rules. There's just so many rules that go with it. We gotta make sure that you're not cutting your corners, basically.
Jeff: Absolutely and it sounds like we're doing it at the right time in the business, even though we've been around since 2012. Just in the last couple of years, we really have grown into this juggernaut.
Dustin: Especially grown, but we were three people on the production floor, and now we're going to be—very soon—30 people on the production floor, so this is probably the perfect time to start implementing a thing like this when even the people who have been working here on the production floor have only been here for a short period of time. You don't have to worry about teaching the old dog new tricks. These are all new dogs learning new tricks, and that trick is being quality compliant, which is awesome to see.
CJ De Luca: Yeah. It's nice, too, that all the guys are on board. They understand what this certification will get us and where it will bring us, and they're all on board to see that growth, which is awesome.
Dustin: Yeah 'cause that can be tricky. I'm sure sometimes you have to be the bad guy, which is kind of tough. Like, "Hey, you can't do that here. You can't bring that food item in here. You can't be drinking your coffee over the coffee that you're packing," even though that seems like it would make sense, but it's like, "No, we have to fall in line here," and you kind of have to be the guy to convey that and have a team that's gonna be behind you. I'm sure that makes it a whole lot easier.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, it's definitely, definitely a lot easier when everyone is on board and they understand what we're going for. It may not be the easiest thing. It's like, "I gotta change this routine," or, "This guy is making me do things differently." To have that support, and especially from Mike and Tim and those guys, it definitely makes it easier and it's definitely a huge help.
Jeff: That's awesome. Where does this bring us? Becoming SQF certified, what are the things that we can achieve because of that?
CJ De Luca: That will allow us to get into some of the larger retailers. I know a lot of people dislike Walmart, but that's what gets us into those larger retailers, like your Albertsons.
Jeff: 'Cause they require that you're certified.
CJ De Luca: Yeah. They wanna see that you're putting out good product, your facility is safe, clean, and that they're not gonna have a risk to bring you on.
Jeff: Well, we talk about that on the show, too, speaking on the Walmart side, and we've said this to our listeners and our viewers as well. As a company, we're not going all-in on, "We're now at Walmart." We look at these things, like Walmart and Albertsons and different retail spaces that we can go into, as just extra ways that we can get our brand out there.
Dustin: Let me add this in: the move to Walmart was a little bit unconventional compared to most companies 'cause this was a push for Walmart to get small, American businesses into Walmart, and that's why we hopped on that train. It's not the giant, corporate conglomerate just sucking up everything they can; these are initiatives to give American companies a chance in America, and that's why we hopped on board. It's not because we wanna become part of this monster, and that's not what it is.
Jeff: And it'll never be that. Even our most diehard fans out there and some of the people who've been supporting this brand since the beginning have said how nice it is because you're out, and you've probably experienced this, too, you're out and you're wearing something that's Death Wish or you're drinking Death Wish and someone will inevitably come up to you and go, "What's that?" For the longest time, we'd have to be like, "We're Death Wish coffee. We're online. You can go on Amazon," that kind of stuff, but literally now, you can say, "You can go physically down the road and pick it up and try it if you want, and if you like it, definitely go to deathwishcoffee.com and go get all the awesome goodies that we make," but at least it's a gateway. It's like, "Hey, kid. Hey, you wanna try some coffee, kid?" So, that's awesome. That means that we're just becoming more of a big boy, more of an actual big-time company out there 'cause that's the goal. We wanna be the best coffee company in the world. Mike Brennan has said it a million times: he doesn't wanna be the biggest coffee company in the world. He doesn't wanna be the most lucrative, famous coffee company in the world. He just wants to be the best, and I think this is definitely what's [inaudible 00:09:19].
Dustin: Yeah, it's an essential piece, if not the cornerstone of quality. Quality is the cornerstone of being the best.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, we actually just ordered a bunch of new equipment for our QC lab to help us even improve that quality even more.
Dustin: Can you talk about some of that equipment a little bit?
CJ De Luca: So, we have some really fun gadgets coming in that'll measure water activity in the roasted beans once they're done. We'll be able to measure the moisture content of the beans before we roast them so that we can hold our suppliers in check for meeting our required specs. What else did we get? We got some stuff with blacklights. Yeah, that's always-
Dustin: What's the point of having blacklights with coffee, by the way?
Jeff: They're fun.
Dustin: It's funny 'cause I ordered this stuff. It's like, "I don't even know what the hell this is for."
CJ De Luca: Some of it I don't even know yet. Some of it I'm not sure.
Dustin: I know a lot of this came from talking to one of the biggest experts in the field, and she was like, "You need these things in your facility in order to be a high-end testing facility," and that's what we wanna be. We wanna be testing everything that's coming in and going out of this place, and that's the point of all this equipment that we're going in. Are you excited to play with all this stuff?
CJ De Luca: I'm very excited.
Jeff: Yay, new toys. Fun.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, I'm very excited. It's all been a big learning experience, too, taking this stuff on and not really having an idea of what SQF is. This was put on my lap-
Jeff: And you've never done this before, much like many of us here at Death Wish if you've ever watched these employee episodes. That's mostly what we say.
Dustin: It's a pirate ship. It really is.
Jeff: Figure it out.
CJ De Luca: It is.
Dustin: "You're manning the sail." "Well, how do I do it?" "I don't know. Man the sail. Man it."
CJ De Luca: Do the thing.
Jeff: Yeah, just do the thing.
Dustin: "Be a man on the sail and get it done."
Jeff: So, that's gotta be fun from your end, too, 'cause you're really just learning all this stuff you probably never thought in a million years you'd ever learn, right?
CJ De Luca: Yeah, I've had to take a couple classes. I've got a few certificates I can hang on the wall now.
Jeff: You yourself are certified to do these things?
CJ De Luca: Yeah.
Jeff: So that's awesome.
CJ De Luca: It's kind of scary, though.
Jeff: But that's a resume-builder even in itself.
CJ De Luca: Oh, yeah. No, for sure.
Jeff: That's awesome.
CJ De Luca: It's been a lot of fun. A lot of it is boring documentation and writing policies.
Jeff: Hanging out in John's office.
CJ De Luca: Yeah.
Dustin: No comment.
CJ De Luca: No, I love ... we're office buddies.
Jeff: Yeah, you are.
CJ De Luca: Roommates.
Jeff: Let's go back to before working here, before getting a job at Death Wish. What kind of industry were you in before that?
CJ De Luca: I was in the food and bar industry for about 15 years.
Jeff: Really? As a bartender?
CJ De Luca: Cooking, waiting, bartending.
Jeff: All of it.
CJ De Luca: Yeah.
Jeff: Front of the house and back of the house?
CJ De Luca: Yep.
Jeff: Me too, man. I've been there.
CJ De Luca: We've all been there.
Jeff: Did you know about Death Wish? I know the answer to this, but did you know about Death Wish before you applied for the job?
CJ De Luca: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Jeff: How did you ... you're from the area, you heard about the company?
CJ De Luca: Yeah. I grew up down in Burnt Hills, not too far from here, and my buddy Jay and Mike had opened Hunter's on Jay back in 2014. I was bartending there and one of the first beers we ever had on draft was the first Death Wish IPA with 80K and OSP. So, we had that on draft. We said, "Coffee IPA? This is fucking gross," but I started drinking it. I was like, "Hey, this is actually pretty good."
Jeff: Yeah, I miss those beers.
CJ De Luca: We got invited to Saratoga Beer Week Party at old Saratoga Brewing. I said, "All right. Let's go, let's go." And there was this Death Wish Coffee stand. I said, "This is a fucking joke."
Jeff: Most people think that.
CJ De Luca: "The strongest coffee. Sure, whatever." I went up and I think at the time it was just Cane, Teah, and Swedish, and we're trying all these different types of coffee or whatever you had with them. I said, "This shit is actually really good." I grabbed a shirt, I got a mug, the IPA tankard.
Jeff: Oh, nice.
CJ De Luca: I was hooked from there.
Jeff: Really? That's awesome.
CJ De Luca: It's gotten me through a lot of those long bartending nights.
Dustin: Yeah, I'm sure.
CJ De Luca: And extra early kitchen shifts.
Jeff: That's awesome. So, you then apply for the job, you get the job, your job has changed drastically since you've been here. What do you think about, in the last year, year and a half since you've been here, the growth of the company? Do you think we're growing too fast? What's your view of how we've been scaling?
CJ De Luca: I think it's been awesome to see the growth. You almost look at it and wonder, "When is this gonna stop? When are we gonna peak and stop growing?" I mean, hopefully never. It's been pretty awesome. The guys take on new accounts and it's like, oh, we're shipping here now. We gotta fill these orders. It's like, where's that place? What store is that? It is. It's awesome. The growth has been exponential. We're hired a bunch more people, even since I've been here, so it's nice to see that we're still growing and the potential is still there.
Jeff: It's crazy. I look at it like that, too 'cause I started shortly before you did. When I think back on it, it's like, oh, yeah. It just seems gradual, but then you think of all the stuff that we've done, even just retail-wise where we are now. It's like holy crap. Is there an end? Is this all a dream and the other shoe's gonna hit the ground and it's just gonna be like, nope.
Dustin: It just keeps going and going.
Jeff: It just keeps on going.
Dustin: The way I see it going is that we're gonna take on all the retailers. We're gonna take them all on and we have been. We have found ways to be able to do it, one way or the other, and we're going to do it, and then eventually, we're gonna look at the rest of the world. We're gonna look at Canada, we're gonna look at South America, we're gonna look at asia, we're gonna look at Europe. We're touching those places right now, but as soon as we've taken over America, spread. We spread and we find out ways to hit those markets 'cause the way I see it, this brand is unstoppable. It's got the look, it's got the taste, and we seal the deal and quality is that cornerstone hat's gonna make sure that we get from point A to point B without any bumps in the road, man. That's just the way I see it going.
Jeff: I mean, you said it yourself, CJ. We have so many stories of fans of this company, customers of this company that it starts off with them seeing the logo or seeing the brand and being like, "Fuck you. Yeah, right," but the product speaks for itself, and I'm very proud of that. I'm very proud of being able to work for a company, not only that I believe in and the brand, but the product itself is an actually a good product. I don't have to feel like a shill and be like, "No, really. It's good. No I swear to God." It's like, "No, really. Just have a taste of this coffee and you tell me if it's good or not."
CJ De Luca: It's awesome to be able to work for a company that you actually believe in. I can't remember the last time I had a job I was like, "I'm excited to go to work!"
Jeff: Right, especially being in the food service industry for so long. There's so many times I would wake up and go, "I have to go to work."
Dustin: I think that's one thing that's not touched on enough here at Death Wish that we see it ourselves over and over again, but it's not quite spelled out where this is a company that's now offering jobs to people that they can love their job. Usually you would have to be in a big city or a place that you might hate being to get a good job. There's just small towns littered all over where we are. We're not in the city; we're in upstate New York. We're in the mountains. It's hard to find a good job, and the only thing that pays decently to support our families is usually a bartending job or a wait job or working as a cook, whatever we can find 'cause what else is out there. What are we gonna work at a paper mill? I think that's the only other choice. So, something like Death Wish Coffee in this area offering jobs that people can not only love but benefit from. There's not enough talk about that, and your story, our story has repeated over and over again by everybody here. A lot of us have come in and we worked a simple job: packing K-cups or throwing stickers on bags. But you know what? Those who actually have skills have a place to put those skills to work because honestly, you and I can be as motivated as we want, but working in a bar or restaurant, your motivation is only gonna get you so fucking far before you're like, "I'm sick of doing this."
Jeff: Is that what drove you to apply for a job here? Were you just sick of the industry you were in?
CJ De Luca: I loved the last bar that I worked at, but I needed a change. This is offered me to be home with my family by 5 PM.
Jeff: Which is awesome.
CJ De Luca: I never had that in my life.
Jeff: Yeah 'cause working bars, you're working late, obviously.
CJ De Luca: Yeah. Coming home at two, three in the morning and getting done working. But no, it was awesome. It was a quality of life change and it's made a huge difference. Huge difference.
Jeff: That's awesome. So, let's get off of the job for a minute. Let's talk about what do you like to do when you're not working? You got hobbies or stuff that you enjoy when you don't have to think about Death Wish Coffee?
CJ De Luca: Yeah. I like to golf. I'm not very good.
Jeff: What's your handicap?
CJ De Luca: It's probably pretty high. Probably pretty high.
Jeff: Must be if you're not gonna tell me.
CJ De Luca: I like to think I'm pretty decent, but if you ask my brother-in-law, he'll tell you a different story.
Jeff: How much do you get out golfing?
CJ De Luca: I try to go once a week.
Jeff: That's awesome.
CJ De Luca: Can't always go. Upstate New York weather.
Jeff: Oh, my God. Yeah.
CJ De Luca: It snows 10 months out of the year.
Jeff: I was gonna say keep that once a week in upstate New York means you probably golfed six times this summer?
CJ De Luca: Yeah. Pretty much.
Jeff: Pretty much.
CJ De Luca: I like to travel. My wife and I have been traveling a lot.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dustin: You weren't somewhere awesome recently, right? What was it? Iceland or something?
CJ De Luca: Iceland.
Jeff: Oh, my God. What was that like?
CJ De Luca: It was fucking awesome.
Jeff: Yeah? What did you do? Just to see it? What was the "I wanna go to Iceland" moment?
CJ De Luca: I suggested Iceland for our honeymoon when we got married last October.
Dustin: Mazel tov.
CJ De Luca: She found a deal on ... we've been doing all this traveling on Groupon, believe it or not.
Jeff: Which is a great thing.
CJ De Luca: My wife found a deal through Europe, so it was like Dublin, London, and Paris, three days in each for dirt cheap. We were on the Eiffel Tower for Valentine's Day, which was kind of nice.
Jeff: This was your honeymoon?
CJ De Luca: Yeah, it was the honeymoon.
Jeff: That's adorable.
CJ De Luca: Iceland popped up later on on Groupon. She's like, "Here's your chance to go to Iceland." I said, "Fuck yeah. Let's go." We went at the end of January and it was actually warmer there than it was here while we were there, but it was awesome. It's just untouched earth.
Jeff: Did you hike around?
CJ De Luca: We did a bunch of tours. We were very tourist-y.
Jeff: Well, that's awesome.
CJ De Luca: We did all the hot springs and the Blue Lagoon and they bring you to this place where the tectonic plates hit and they all bring up ... they filmed some of Game of Thrones there and stuff.
Jeff: Of course they did.
CJ De Luca: My wife was all nuts about it. It was cool. It was very awesome to see some of the things. I did hike to the top of the waterfall and I thought I was having a heart attack.
Jeff: Oh, man. That's awesome.
Dustin: I've heard that Iceland is actually green and Greenland is actually icy.
Dustin: Is that the case?
CJ De Luca: Yeah. No, Iceland was awesome. The whole country's-
Dustin: What was the food like?
CJ De Luca: A lot of fish.
Jeff: Yeah, I bet.
CJ De Luca: Lamb. It wasn't really too different than what we have here. Beer was good. A lot of new breweries over in Iceland. Rick, from [inaudible 00:21:33] Distilling, was nice enough to give me a list of things to go check out while I was there.
Jeff: He studied over there, right, I believe for a moment?
Dustin: He's got family there.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, he's from there.
Dustin: The viking himself.
Jeff: Yeah, I know right? Crazy.
Dustin: This podcast has been brought to you by Groupon.
Jeff: Yeah, right? I wish.
Dustin: Use the discount code Death Wish on groupon.com.
Jeff: Don't do that 'cause it won't work, but man, we should.
CJ De Luca: You can try.
Jeff: So, that's awesome that you guys love to travel. Where to next? What's the next place on your list that you want to go to?
Dustin: Depending on Groupon ...
CJ De Luca: Yeah, whatever Groupon is offering.
Dustin: Use the new Death Wish offer for Groupon. Sorry.
CJ De Luca: We were in Mexico in April. I think I really wanna hit the old Eastern Block, like Poland and that kind of area. I've always wanted to do that. We'll see what happens.
Jeff: That's cool. You want to check out Asia?
CJ De Luca: Kind of.
Jeff: Kind of?
CJ De Luca: Kind of. I think that'd be very overwhelming, though. We got into France ... you're in Dublin and London, everyone's speaking English, but as soon as you get into Paris, it's like-
CJ De Luca: Yeah. I was like I don't know what you're saying. I can't read anything. And they just look at you like you're a moron.
Jeff: What was it like in Iceland? Was it all English-speaking predominantly?
CJ De Luca: Yeah.
Jeff: It's not Icelandic anymore?
Dustin: Is that a language?
Jeff: It was.
CJ De Luca: What the have, all their signs are in Icelandic and then underneath it they'll have English. All the words pretty much they stem from the same thing or they all have similar endings depending on what the word means. So, it was interesting.
Jeff: Did you pick up any Icelandic while you were out there?
CJ De Luca: Nope. I did not.
Jeff: That's great.
Dustin: Not a lick.
CJ De Luca: I did not.
Jeff: That's good.
Dustin: Have you ever had any scary travel moments?
Jeff: Like did you almost get mugged or something?
CJ De Luca: No. Everything's actually been pretty decent.
Jeff: Good, good. That keeps you going out there. My wife and I talk about it, too. I just got my passport for the first time in my life and I haven't gotten it stamped yet, so I'm itching now. We talk about ... we throw it around like, oh, we've gotta go see Europe or we gotta go see Asia or whatever, and actually mutual friends of Dustin and ours are moving to Germany, so now I literally have a reason. I can't not go and visit them 'cause I'm gonna miss them.
Dustin: Not until I go.
Jeff: No, I'm gonna go first.
Dustin: No, they stayed at my place. I wanna go first.
Jeff: Nope, I'm gonna go first.
CJ De Luca: I don't wanna burst your travel bubble, but the stamp is definitely not as cool as it seems. It's like, "Oh, what does this one look like? Oh, fuck. It's lame."
Jeff: Yeah, it's just a stamp. I get it. I'm sure after the first one I won't care as much, but I have this passport, like I said, that I've never had in my entire life and it's just blank pages and it's like, I just want one. I just want the [crosstalk 00:24:22].
Dustin: Well, when we went to the Bahamas, we were ready for the stamp [inaudible 00:24:25].
Jeff: They just looked at it like, "Go ahead." It's just like, "Oh."
CJ De Luca: Give me something. Give me something in here.
Dustin: Just spit on it or something.
Jeff: So, hopefully next year I'll make it over there. So, that's awesome. You're traveling the world. Do you golf when you travel?
CJ De Luca: I did in Mexico. My brother-in-law and I played, and I actually got heat exhaustion. I did beat him, though. For the record, I did beat him, but I got heat exhaustion. I was in bed for the rest of the day, which was our last day on the trip. I was very sick, but it was totally worth it.
Jeff: That's awesome. That's a well-rounded thing. Like you said, you had a whole life change coming here, working for Death Wish. Now you can be with your family more. You can do more trips like that and see the world like you like to do. Question we always get to on this show: through it all, through sticking around here for a year and a half and your job changing probably more drastically than most people here and doing all the stuff you like to do outside of here, what fuels you to keep doing it?
CJ De Luca: Just knowing how much this product means to so many people. You follow the community page and you see these people's stories and some of them become part of your life more than others. I keep in touch with some of the community members. I'm not as active on the page anymore, but you see what this product really means to these people. Like, "Your product got me through this." To be a part of that, to put a stamp of approval on that bag of coffee that's going to impact someone's life that much, that means a lot.
Dustin: Dang it, that was a good answer.
Jeff: That's a great answer. I don't think we've ever had that answer before.
CJ De Luca: It is. It's cool. That community is very close. Everyone is so generous to each other all the time. You see what certain people do for others and it's like holy shit.
Jeff: Yeah, it's crazy.
CJ De Luca: I wish I was that nice.
Jeff: I know. It is heartwarming to know that we're a part of that, that we're influenced by that.
CJ De Luca: When customers call up and I'll hear customer service, "Oh, hey, so-and-so." They know your name. They know who you are. That means a lot to work for a company like that.
Jeff: Yeah, I totally agree. So, you wanna ask him?
Dustin: Serious question. Uber serious. No beating around the bush with this shit, all right? Straightforward. Death Wish or Valhalla?
CJ De Luca: Death Wish.
Dustin: There we go.
Jeff: Without even a hesitation. Not even a hesitation. Lie.
CJ De Luca: I thought about that the other day. I was like, I really don't like Valhalla as much as Death Wish.
Jeff: All right. All right. I'm going to tell Zakk Wylde that specifically. He'll be at your house with his [inaudible 00:27:25].
Dustin: Actually, behind door number one is Zakk Wylde himself. He's a big guy, man. That's kind of ...
Jeff: That's awesome. That's why I like that we have these two different coffees, these two different flavor profiles. I reach for them for different reasons. I'm the same way.
Dustin: See, that's a bullshit answer, by the way. If you were wondering, that's a bullshit answer that we didn't want.
Jeff: That's not a bullshit answer. If you're putting me on the spot, it's Death Wish all the time.
Dustin: Yeah, everyday.
Jeff: But I do enjoy Valhalla Java for different reasons. I like that coffee afternoon. I like it as an afternoon coffee. There's sometimes that I've had 5, 6, 7 cups of Death Wish coffee and it's like, I want an extra cup of coffee and it's like, I should just have a cup of Valhalla just to mellow out for a little bit. That's awesome. How much coffee do you think you drink a day?
CJ De Luca: Surprisingly, not a lot.
Jeff: Yeah? Even working here? You think your coffee intake went down working here?
CJ De Luca: Yeah.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, it did.
Jeff: Mine definitely went up.
CJ De Luca: I mean, I do drink a fair amount, but it's mainly just for testing and shelf life tests and all that kind of stuff.
Jeff: That's true.
Dustin: Selfless drinking of coffee.
Jeff: Yes. For the greater good. I got a last question here, actually, unless you've got anything.
Dustin: I got something.
Jeff: Well, good.
Dustin: Well, good for you.
Jeff: I wanted to ask, then, this is kind of known, for people who follow this show, but this might be new information, within the next couple years, we're going to be leaving this space and hopefully either creating a brand-new arena for Death Wish Coffee or moving into a preexisting arena because we're basically just growing out of the space that we have. For those of you who don't know, the warehouse that we're in, it wasn't a coffee-producing warehouse when we got here, so we've had to literally craft a coffee-producing warehouse out of an existing warehouse, so it'll be great to be able to have a facility that is ours. When we do that, will it be easier or harder with SQF in place?
CJ De Luca: If we build our own, we can do-
Jeff: It'll be a lot easier, probably, right?
CJ De Luca: It'll be a hell of a lot easier, yeah.
Jeff: Let's say we have to move into a place that is an already a factory that we're going to then make our own.
CJ De Luca: I'm sure we can accomplish it. It shouldn't be that hard.
Jeff: Shouldn't be that hard? Because at that point, we will be SQF certified and we'll have all these procedures in place. I was just thinking, is that gonna be that much more of a headache for you to be like, "No, I told you we can't have all these things."
Dustin: I'm sure it's just like anything. At first, it's gonna be those things you need to walk through the place if it's already existing and be like, we need two doors here instead of one. That usual shit. But I'm sure once everything's in place and you're able to build a smoothly running, quality facility from the ground up and it's running, you're good. Not Scott-free good, but it's running and it's just small corrections after that.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, for sure.
Dustin: Is there anything that Death Wish hasn't gotten into that you think we might be missing out on, maybe a flavor of coffee, a type of coffee, maybe an industry that we haven't touched, maybe a merchandise item that maybe we haven't produced yet? Is there anything that's ever popped up in your head and been like, "Hm, Death Wish should do that."
CJ De Luca: I was a big advocate for the hockey jersey for awhile, and then we scratched that off the list.
Dustin: As in it's coming.
Jeff: They know.
Dustin: Well, scratch it off the list almost makes it sound like it's not happening. It's happening.
Jeff: Oh, yeah, it's happening.
CJ De Luca: Oh, yeah. No, it's ...
Dustin: I just wanted to clarify.
Jeff: Get ready for hockey season everybody because you'll be able to represent.
Dustin: And they're cool. They're really high quality. We went with the good one. We could've gone cheap on it; we did not.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, very excited for that. Well, I don't know. I don't know, man. That's tough 'cause we've already touched on so many things.
Jeff: Do you think we should get into golf?
CJ De Luca: I know a lot of people would love a Death Wish golf shirt. I actually made one with one of the old industrial patches and I get threats that I'm gonna get beaten up and my shirt stolen at work.
Jeff: I just think about it as that is a sport where people do like to rep things, whether it be even just Titelist or Nike or Adidas or something like that. They like to have apparel and bags. I know we did a charity thing with ... can't remember the golf company, but it was a golf bag company and we did a couple bags that basically just had patches on it, but it went over really well. People were really stoked about it. I don't know. I could see it.
CJ De Luca: Yeah, we're giving one of those away next week. I'm playing in a golf tournament on the Death Wish team.
Jeff: Oh, cool, very cool. We have a team?
CJ De Luca: We were given team, the Schenectady Firefighters Cancer Foundation.
Jeff: Oh, cool.
CJ De Luca: We donated a bunch last year, and it raised the most money out of all of their raffle items. So, it's their main fundraising source is this golf tournament. So, we're gonna do the same thing again this year. Give another bag, fill it with goodies, and then four of us are gonna go play and rep Death Wish.
Dustin: Who's the four?
CJ De Luca: Myself, Tim, Nate, and Tony.
Dustin: Who's the weak link?
CJ De Luca: I'll take that one. I'll be the wink link.
Dustin: Falling on that sword.
CJ De Luca: I'll be the weak link.
Dustin: Good man.
Jeff: I was thinking, on the golf front, it would be cool, and I don't know if you've ever seen this, Dustin, but professionals, amateurs, too, they have socks that they put on their drivers to keep them clean. Tiger Woods famously always has a tiger, like it looks like a little stuffed tiger coming out of its bag. How cool would it be to have a skully on-
CJ De Luca: That'd be pretty cool.
Jeff: Like a cool Death Wish skull coming out of your bag. I think that'd be neat. You don't care.
CJ De Luca: Wow, yeah. That'd be invigorating.
Jeff: Oh, man. Oh, God.
CJ De Luca: It's a good spot for ... I don't wanna say marketing, but a lot of times you get paired up with people you don't even know. If you're wearing a hat or a shirt [inaudible 00:33:53]. Oh, what's Death Wish Coffee?
Jeff: What is that? Yeah.
CJ De Luca: It's a good way to get the word out. You meet a lot of new people getting paired up in golf. Some good, some bad.
Jeff: I think I've said before I think that there's no end to where this brand can touch, especially in sports. I think we've done a little bit with NASCAR and with football and that kind of thing, and I think any sport I think our brand aesthetic can translate well in competitive sports, be whatever it is. Curling. No, not curling. Dustin's really, really just done with me I think. Oh, man. I love doing these employee episodes 'cause we get to talk amongst ourselves, which is really nice.
Dustin: Which doesn't happen that often 'cause usually we're running around just yelling at each other, so it's nice to actually sit down and have a conversation for a half and hour or so.
Jeff: I can't thank you enough.
Dustin: Is there any social media? Yeah, well you missed it.
Jeff: I was gonna say-
Dustin: Do you do social media at all?
Jeff: He's so mad at me.
CJ De Luca: Not really. I've stepped away from it.
Dustin: Nothing you wanna plug at all?
Jeff: All right. If you wanna follow CJ, you follow Death Wish Coffee.
Dustin: CJ, man of shadows.
CJ De Luca: I like it.
Jeff: You follow Death Wish Coffee if you wanna see what you're up to.
CJ De Luca: No, I thought about getting more into it. I don't know. I think I'll have a great idea. I'll talk myself out of it. Like, "No, that's stupid. Don't post that."
Jeff: All right. That's commendable.
CJ De Luca: I might make a triumphant comeback to social media.
Jeff: That's compensable. That's cool. Like I said, if you wanna know what you're up to, you can follow the company.
Dustin: You'll know when the time is right. You'll know it. You'll feel it in your heart.
CJ De Luca: I'll feel a beam of light. "Now's the time."
Jeff: Yeah, for sure. For sure.
Dustin: All the pictures I could take!
Jeff: Well, yeah, man. Thank you so much for sitting down and talking with us 'cause it was-