10 (or so) questions with . . . Patrick Phelan
Patrick Phelan, co-owner of Fiddlehead Coffee Co.
Rochester Magazine: Is it a nightmare, with four of you trying to run a new business?
Patrick Phelan: What? No. It’s a dream come true for all of us.
RM: Do you have to say that?
PP: It’s not just B.S. It’s me and Samantha—we’re engaged. Then we have Sarah, who is married to my older brother, Sean. It’s a four-pronged ownership group. Three of us are hands-on and Sean just had really great credit.
RM: This is something you guys dreamed of?
PP: We had this dream that one day we’ll open a coffee shop. It was always a “oh, one day,” pie-in-the-sky pipe dream. I never in my wildest dreams believed all four of us would do this together. It’s the entirety of everything I’ve dreamt of. I have a beautiful bride who’s better than me at everything and who looks great in a sundress, and is my best friend. I have my other best friend, Sarah, who I’ve known since I was 12 and she’s like a sibling. And I have my brother who is like my favorite person on the planet. I moved to Minnesota to be close to them and we get to hang out all day.
RM: When you were a teen you spent a decent amount of time in bed after an injury.
PP: I fractured four vertebrae.
RM: In a wrestling practice?
PP: Yes. How do you know this stuff? Yes, a wrestling practice. I was 14. I missed eighth grade year… That injury healed after eight months of being in a body cast. Then a few years later was a perfect storm. I was dancing at my sister’s wedding and I felt a pop and had to immediately go home. … I had 14 operations on my spine. It was a solid 10 months of strict immobility. It was a lesson in patience and suffering and accepting one’s fate. It’s a chapter I’m really thankful for—the opportunity to relate to people who are going through existential amount of pain.
RM: And you were a good athlete.
PP: I was 6-foot-4 and ran the 40 [yard dash] in five [seconds] flat. I benched 400 pounds. It was really unhealthy. I played left tackle and left guard in football. Shot put and discus in track. I actually ran the hundred. I was blazing fast my freshman year of high school. I started wrestling from a young age. I had a personal coach.
RM: Are you constantly jacked on caffeine?
PP: Oh, yeah. I can do the math … About every three hours, we [taste the new brew of espresso], and I’ve already had four shots of espresso, with about 60 mg of caffeine each. That’s 240 mg, which is like a 20-ounce Red Bull, and I’ll do that two more times before I’m done today.
RM: Have you ever seen Rochester Magazine? Don’t lie or we’ll know.
PP: Of course. We carry them here. And you know I’m a transplant right? I’ve only been here nine weeks. Whenever people ask me where to go or what to do in town I always point them to Rochester Magazine.
RM: OK. That will make the editing cut. We had a Rochester Magazine meeting all day at Forager [where Fiddlehead is located] and you said one of your pastries would change my life. Which was it?
PP: At that time I was doing a French toast beignet with smoked maple sugar in a pastry that’s actually baked instead of fried.
RM: Mmmmm. Your French toast beignet …
PP: Part of the fullness of the products we make [is] so that you could consume something that is here. It’s of this place. I can give you a drink and, except for the coffee in it, every component was sourced from 100 miles from where you stand. No one else can say that because no one else is trying to offer something that is of Rochester. That’s really important to me. ... My food is about this community and I want you to be part of my community and I want to be in yours.
RM: Anything I didn’t ask that you want me to?
PP: As much as it’s great that we’re chatting about me, I’m completely into the two ladies who are in there right now holding down the coffee shop. I’ve been at the height of the mountain top of my career, making stupid money. I’ve been in a place where I didn’t know where my next meal would come from. … Sean and Sarah and Samantha and my family gave me the motivation and the rent money and the food, and we are where we are now because we take care of each other. … I walk again because my brother drove through the night to help me go up 15 steps—carried me up the stairs—so I could go home. There are so many examples of being helped by those three. And it’s because of them, the things I’ve obsessively dreamt about for the better part of 20 years can finally be manifested in the world.
RM: OK. I’ve run out of questions, so I’m going to ask some questions from my previous 10 questions interview, with Mia Erickson.
PP: That sounds great.
RM: So, how did you first get involved with the U.S. Bobsled team?
PP: Great question. Wow. It’s been like 25 or 26 years now. It started with watching Cool Runnings.
RM: Of course it did. My wife actually cried at Cool Runnings.
PP: Oh yeah, probably the part where the one guy tells his friend to look at himself in the mirror and asks what he sees. Then the guy says “I see pride! I see power! I see a badass mother who don’t take no crap from nobody!”
RM: Are you seriously quoting directly from Cool Runnings?
PP: I helped start a Jamaican restaurant. That was research.
RM: You watched Cool Runnings multiple times and memorized lines for research.