“Are you familiar with our paper?”
I’ll be saying that sentence in my sleep for the next week after my first experience manning a vendor table for Queen City Nerve. As I write this, I’m still coming down from the caffeine buzz of the Pour Coffee Festival, held at Lenny Boy Brewing Company on Sunday, March 10. This year marked the second annual Pour Fest, Charlotte’s only specialty coffee festival, featuring over a dozen high-end coffee roasters from around the region, including barista champions, award winners, coffee producers, coffee educators and more.
Before I go into the details about our first-time experience as vendors at the Pour Fest, I have to give a shout out to the festival’s founder, Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp of Undercurrent Coffee. Although I finally got to meet Diana (and even her great parents) on Sunday, I never did get the chance to have her confirm the pronunciation of that last name yet.
Diana put together an amazing event, and she made sure it wasn’t just the bougie, hipster affair that you might imagine a specialty coffee festival to be. She donated proceeds to the Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp, an awesomely named training program that provides coaching to members of the marginalized communities including LGBTQ folks, women, people with disabilities and racial and ethnic minorities. I can toast my coffee mug to that.
So where do we fit into all this?
We decided pretty early on that we wanted to be a part of the second Pour Fest. We signed up as vendors, began ordering Queen City Nerve merch, and we brought a couple hundred tote bags, about 100 coffee mugs and a box full of sunglasses and koozies. We were ready to spread the good word of the Nerve.
I showed up just as the festival started at 10 a.m. on Sunday — completely on brand for me — and found Justin at our table drinking a store-bought coffee. After giving him a ribbing for buying coffee on the way to a coffee festival, I turned around to our nearest vendors, an espresso machine dealer called VP Coffee, and got my Nerve mug filled for free. And so began a rollercoaster of caffeine madness that I’m still feeling as I write this 24 hours later.
I know it’s sacrilegious for me to say this as a journalist, but coffee is really not for me. I try to limit my intake to one cup a day. That being said, I was feeling good with my half a cup o’ joe when the people started pouring into the warehouse at Lenny Boy.
One thing I noticed as I met people walking up to our table was that, despite the amazing amounts of community support and feedback we’ve been getting since launching our paper in December, in the grand scheme of things the vast majority of Charlotteans don’t know who the hell we are.
As new people approached we hit them with our intro: “Are you familiar with our paper?” We were almost always met with “No.” And that’s all good. After months of our supporters gassing us up on social media and spreading the word, it’s important that we’re reminded how much of that occurs in a bubble, and many Charlotteans are going about their business without any care for where we came from or why we’re here.
What was so encouraging about Sunday’s event was everyone’s willingness to learn. Literally every person that I spoke to during the four hours we were at the festival wanted to know more, and almost every one of them was excited to hear about our paper. Going in I expected that most people would sign up for our e-newsletter with a fake email address (as I’ve been known to do at such events) just to get some free swag, but people were signing up enthusiastically, asking where they could pick up our papers.
It brought us back to that feeling from the end of last year, when we first announced our intentions to launch the paper, and people came out of the woodwork to let us know that this city still need a real alternative media publication — not copied-and-pasted press releases or recycled content from a Greensboro publication, but real content from real people who care.
So as we prepare for our next vendor event, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 16, we can’t wait to continue letting people know who we are and why we’re in town. See you there
Now get familiar with our paper.