Why a coffee shop owner describes fixing his roaster as working with 'adult Lego'
'Everyone in the café cheered'
You know a coffee shop is in real trouble when the coffee machine conks out.
Three years ago in the peak of summer, Receiver Coffee on Victoria Row in Charlottetown was dealing with its first "real big breakdown."
"Lineups out the door, we couldn't serve any espresso-based beverage," said Chris Francis, co-owner of both Receiver shops.
"Customers are disappointed, you're turning people away," he said. "It's really stressful."
Francis tinkered with the small machine and eventually got it going. "It was a huge sigh of relief. Everybody in the café cheered."
'It's gotta get fixed immediately'
Francis soon faced a bigger challenge when the giant metal coffee roaster — that looks more like a steam locomotive — stopped roasting.
"If something breaks it's gotta get fixed immediately," Francis said. "You're dealing with pneumatics, you're dealing with electrical, you're dealing with plumbing, you're dealing with wiring and programming."
Local plumbers and electricians were able to fix parts of the complicated machine, but it was often touch and go.
"So we realized we had to be the people that were called upon to do it," Francis said.
'He taught me early on'
So Francis decided he had to learn how to tackle the monstrous machine.
Francis had always tinkered with things since he was a kid. His father worked for Island Tel and was always bringing home broken rotary phones and pieces from old switchboards.
"He taught me early on the importance of being curious about how things work," he said. "When stuff breaks, you gotta be the one to fix it, so it was always important to me to carry that with me with everything I do."
Francis was also good at fixing things that were actually useful. "If our lawnmower broke, I'd try and fix it," he said. "I was a musician so I always fixed my own amplifiers and guitars and stuff, but nothing like an espresso machine."
'A lot of troubleshooting'
So he flew out to Edmonton for a five-day course put on by an Italian espresso manufacturer to learn how to fix the roaster.
"By the end of it, we had a lot of understanding of the components, how the electrical systems work," he said. "A lot of troubleshooting."
Francis is now called upon to repair equipment at other shops that buy coffee from Receiver.
"If they're selling our coffee at their restaurant, we want to support them," he said.
"Some people might see it as competition but as far as repair and wholesale goes, we don't approach it that way."
Having completed the training course Francis is a little less intimidated by these complicated machines.
"I always joke around when somebody sees me working on a machine, and they say, 'Wow, that's quite ambitious-looking,' I just describe it as adult Lego."