Rod Dirks is smiling now, but it’s been a proverbial roller coaster ride for his family and staff the past year, both professionally and personally.
Taking a breather from the flurry of well-wishers and java orders at the one-year anniversary of his business, the co-owner of Essence Coffee Roasters admitted that six months ago he wasn’t sure if this operation would still be running.
“The most overwhelming thought is gratitude,” Dirks said, smiling. “The community was there through the worst of everything. It was just amazing.”
Opening amidst a host of changing regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge, as felt by felt by business owners locally and beyond.
“We navigated the nest we could,” Dirks said.” (We) did our best to make people feel comfortable. We did not want people to feel like they’re in a pandemic … while adhering to the rules.”
Dirks and his wife Megan moved last year from a tiny town in east central South Dakota for small-town life in Sequim.
In March 2021, the couple saw their daughter Mavery Elyn Dirks born without a heartbeat for unknown reasons.
“After 38 minutes, her heart was able to be started medically,” the Dirks family posted two days later. “During that time, her little body was oxygen starved. She has multiple organs impacted by this, but the biggest damage is to her brain … there are no medical options available. We have as much time as we want with her here, but then it’s time to say goodbye.”
Mavery died on March 10.
Dirks posted on social media that he and his wife would be stepping away from the business back to grieve.
“Our employees did the best they could (and) the shop didn’t miss a beat,” he said last week.
“We’re not through that journey. We step away when we need to.”
Customers came through big time, Dirks said, dropping $50 and $100 bills in the tip jar to keep the café-style coffee shop going.
On July 22, staff joined regulars and guests in a celebratory one-year anniversary ribbon cutting at 461 W. Washington St. with representatives of the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce. Essence’s first customer (David Rivers, an espresso) was also on hand.
Dirks said the business is going well; espresso drinks were the preferred drink initially but drip coffee is surging now for some reason, he said. Fans of Essence’s coffee can find the drink at local establishments such as Shadowline Burgers & Brews and the Back Alley Café in Sequim, and Grayson’s in Port Angeles.
The business also has a signature drink now, Dirks said: a latte with raw sugar that “pairs really well,” he said.
Essence is also looking at expanding the wholesale side of things, Dirks said.
Still, he said, the heart of the company remains rooted in an idea expressed in its logo: Featuring three bold, intersecting lines that represent three principal actors — the farmer, the roaster and the customer — the design sees the point joined at a point meaning community.
Dirks noted last week, “We love it when people can feel connected emotionally.”