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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Zach Follett's Road to a Good Roast

Feb 26, 2016 02:00PM ● By Ronda Alvey

Filled with Joy

March 2016
By Jordan Venema
Photo: Brittany Wilbur

Barely a year after being drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2009, linebacker and Clovis native Zack Follett sustained a career-ending neck injury during a game. At the time, Follett had only ever played football, only ever wanted to play football.

“I told my dad when I was a kid that my first job would be an NFL football player,” he recalls. “I never worked before. My first job was football player.”

The injury didn’t just end Follett’s career, but led to existential questions, like “what am I going to do with my life?” So Follett, who had become a Christian in 2008, followed a friend’s recommendation to participate in a mission trip to England, exactly one year after his injury, where he taught kids how to play American football while sharing the gospel. 

On a free evening, Follett went to the British chain Costa Coffee to “spend some time in the word,” and opened to Romans where he read a verse declaring there is no condemnation for those who live in Christ. “As somebody who lived a life that had built up a lot of condemnation, I was just filled with joy,” explains Follett.  

“And I was drinking this cappuccino and was like, this is the best cappuccino I’ve ever had. This is a cup of joy.”

From that moment, Follett felt providence leading him to open a café back home in Clovis, where people could connect over a cup of coffee while experiencing the same peace and joy he had experienced.

One year later, in December 2012, Follett opened Kuppa Joy, which has been so successful that a second Kuppa Joy is opening in Fresno early this year.

The former NFL player marvels at his personal transformation over a short time. “I wasn’t just called to be an employee, but to be an owner, to be a janitor, to be all these things that I’ve never done before,” ponders Follett. For a 24-year-old, he admits that took tremendous faith.

For somebody who only began drinking coffee in college, and then only Folgers, opening an artisanal coffee house definitely took a kind of leap. “My motto,” says Follett, “is if you’re going to do something, do it right.” He attended a week-long school in Portland, Ore. – a coffee mecca in its own right – where he attended barista and business classes while visiting local coffee houses.

On the trip, Follett gleaned from the best of his experiences, and built a spot in Clovis that resembles something from the big city. “It’s not a typical cookie-cutter coffee shop,” Follett says. “A lot of people have said it feels like they’re in San Francisco or Portland.” 

With warm, reclaimed wood furniture and a brick façade, the minimalist Kuppa Joy echoes popular San Francisco cafes like Four Barrel and Haus. But it doesn’t just look the part; Kuppa Joy also brews craft roasted coffee, Seattle’s Victrola, while offering single-cup pour overs.

Follett says part of his job is educational in nature, explaining to the dark roast-drinking Clovis cowboys why his coffee costs a dollar more. “It’s better and it costs a little more,” Follett says, but the former Folgers drinker also knows that once you’ve tried good coffee, you can’t go back.

“You really can’t. Once you’ve tasted a good product you can’t drink anything else.” It wasn’t until he visited England that Follett discovered the nuances of coffee. “I saw the steaming, the tamping,” says Follett, “It was an art form.”

While Kuppa Joy offers some of the best-roasted artisanal coffee in the area, that’s just one aspect of Follett’s business model and mission. “The initial
statement is loving the customers,” explains Follett. 

Officially, the mission statement is “Love God, Love People, Love Coffee,” and while the café’s logo is a large throne, representing the seat of Christ, Follett says it doesn’t have to be an overt ministry to the people who prefer just a good cup of coffee.

Of course, Follett hopes people will experience at Kuppa Joy the same peace, comfort and joy that he experienced that evening in England. He wants to operate the best business possible, and Follett also expects Kuppa Joy to eventually roast its own beans. “But I’m more interested in making an impact in the community,” he says.

In his effort to continue bringing a cup of joy to his community, Follett is opening a second café  across from Fresno High at 1900 Echo Ave. It will have its own vibe and style, says Follett, but also its signature throne, and the same quality cup of coffee – which you can take with cream or drink black, but the joy is in every cup.

Kuppa Joy • 518 Clovis Ave., Clovis

1900 N. Echo Ave., Fresno • (559) 298-7234

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7am – 9pm; closed Sunday

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