Coffee. The magical elixir. The beautiful bean juice. College students and professionals alike consume copious amounts of it. Since its origins around Sufi campfires in Yemen during the 15th century, it has been consumed by royalty and commoners alike. It has been at the center of countless numbers of meetings, treaties, business deals, Saturday morning breakfasts, Sunday brunches, and early morning meditations. Renowned martial artist and actor, Jackie Chan, once aptly said, “Coffee is a language in itself.”
One local Tyler resident, Carlos Barron, has recently decided to take that language and use it to build bridges around the city by getting people to sit down together and enjoy a free cup of coffee and all the conversation you can stand as they get to know their neighbors at local events called Coffeeoutside Tyler (COT).
Carlos Barron’s story begins like thousands of others here in East Texas. Born in Tyler in 1984, Carlos attended school locally, eventually graduating from Robert E. Lee and like so many before, started his college career at Tyler Junior College. After a couple of years there, Barron decided to finish his degree at the University of Texas, San Antonio and graduated with a bachelor of science in biology in 2009.
After a couple of moves between Tyler and San Antonio, during which he developed a love for cycling, Carlos settled in Austin around 2012 where he worked in a local cycling shop with the goal of becoming a certified cycling mechanic. During his time in Austin, life happens as it often does, and after marriage and the birth of their first child, the Barron family decided to move back to Tyler in 2015 to be closer to their respective families and begin the whole parenting thing with a support system in place. During this transition time back to Tyler, Carlos supported himself by helping out at a ranch owned by family friends as well as working part time at Elite Cycles and Natural Grocers.
At this point in Carlos’ story, a vision started to form of combining his love of cycling with getting the community of cyclers together for coffee in order to hang out and get to know each other better. The initial Coffeeoutside started as an event held in Bergfeld Park, about 15 months ago, for people to pack some camp stoves and coffee on their bikes, ride to the park, brew coffee, and just hang out.
“I really didn’t have this big plan at that time,” Barron remembers about that first event. “It really was a mess. My logistics were off, and it was just us hanging out at the park with our bikes and our coffee. It was drizzling, cold, and soggy, but at some point I stepped back and saw that as people were sharing their coffee with each other, trying new brands, new brew techniques, and having fun, something was happening beyond what my expectations were.”
What was happening at that first event was, unexpectedly, the beginnings of what would come to be known as Coffeeoutside Tyler. Barron recalls, “I had this realization that we weren’t just brewing community, we were making connections; we were making friendships; we were just having a great time, and that’s where the meaning of COT came from.”
From that first humble beginning, Carlos had this crazy idea that if you give people a venue, a reason, and an opportunity to “engage with others through communications and actions,” then good things are going to happen. Building on a relationship started from his time at Natural Grocers. Carlos tapped Porch Culture Coffee to supply coffee for these events and the idea grew to include not just the bike community, but the entire Tyler community. According to Carlos, “John and Shelly over at Porch Culture are really great people and we use their coffee exclusively out of a desire to promote local connections and networks.”
Also from that time period, Barron met Claudia Carmago and Gaby Kingry who have been instrumental in helping with social media as well as photography. Carlos states, “They have been instrumental in capturing and helping share COT’s message. I am not a photographer so having them being part of the team has been a blessing.”
Carlos will typically pair with a local business about once a month to host a COT event, and it typically coincides with an event or promotion the local venue is sponsoring. Barron will bring COT to the venue, set up his coffee, and then watch as connections happen right before his eyes.
“Each local business has their own community, their own followers, and regular people they serve. Every local business gives something to that community whether we realize it or not,” Carlos muses. “If I’m lucky, I can bring enough of my regular attendees to interact with each individual venue’s community and special things can happen. Even if it is just one new person I meet and connect with, then the day has been a success.”
Although COT events are hosted at local businesses, Barron doesn’t rely on those businesses to offset the cost of the logistics for Coffeeoutside. Carlos sees this not as a way to make a quick buck, but rather a marathon of building experiences for people and providing an intrinsic value that will make them want to come back. Part of the focus for COT is to bring people’s attention back to what’s happening in the community here in Tyler, and Barron’s hope is that by helping to highlight these local businesses and their communities, locals will start to become more engaged in what’s happening around them.
“Boy’s and Girl’s clubs, homeless shelters, and other local charities need people who are willing to engage with their community,” says Barron. “More so than just giving money to make yourself feel better, giving of your time allows that connection to be personal and in doing so, you give the people you are helping value that goes beyond just a dollar amount.”
While Carlos hopes that in the future he can combine the Coffeeoutside concept with his original love of cycling into a bike shop/coffee shop experience, for now he’s just focusing on continuing to brew his community, one cup at a time.
The next scheduled event will be on June 10th at Moss Flower Shop, 2210 3 Lakes Pkwy., Ste. 160 in Tyler, off Old Jacksonville Hwy. near FRESH by Brookshire’s, 9-11am. There will be music provided by Ian Powers, a photobooth provided by Inkredible Sounds, fresh Porch Culture coffee and, as always, the chance to step outside your own box and brew your own community.
For more info find Coffee Outside Tyler on Facebook and Instagram.