As I walked into Steamwhistle Coffee Roasters, across from the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly a young woman at the front counter welcomed me with a genuine smile and kind tone. I soon learned that Ky, short for Kylee, is the daughter of Tracee and Brett, owners of the often bustling café. As I learned more about Ky I was continually impressed not only by her passion, but also her authenticity and heart for those around her.
LOCAL219: How long have you worked at Steamwhistle for?
Ky Jury: Technically I’ve worked for them for six years, but four at this brick and mortar location. Before this my dad, mom, and I were at farmers’ markets selling the coffee we roasted. My mom has been roasting coffee for longer than I’ve been around, 22 years.
L219: That’s amazing. My next question is a little more personal; what do you feel distinguishes your identity from those around you?
KJ: I feel like I’m very genuinely interested in everyone’s story that I meet. I like to see how they evolve throughout me knowing them. A few customers had just started college when they were first coming in here and now one is literally working as a doctor. It’s been really cool to see the diverse group of people we get through. We truly get to be a part of their lives.
L219: I feel like in order to have that level of curiosity, there’s usually some compassion driving that interest. Are you a compassionate person?
KJ: I would say I’m pretty compassionate. I wouldn’t use necessarily the term empath, but when one of my customers’ family members passes away, I have to take step back and take a moment, because it is personal. There was one of our customers, whose father passed, and he had a great liking to one of our decorations here. So, we recently have started polishing that up to gift it to him this week. It’s a little bit of kind of a memorial piece for our customer.
L219: That’s incredibly sweet. I don’t think people would ever realize how close of a connection you could form with people coming in for a cup of coffee.
KJ: Typically, you only have these 1-5 minute periods of actually getting to conversate with them, but there’s also been those times where they’ll stay for 10, 15 minutes just to talk to you, and you can tell they kind of need that moment of a break.
L219: Who do you feel has had the biggest influence in your life?
KJ: I would probably say my mom. This was her baby and she originally started it just wanting her coffee to be a part of people’s lives. She always said she hated that people didn’t know real coffee. They didn’t know the joy of real coffee. I grew up watching her be a compassionate person, and care more about the people rather than the business side of things. She’s a very driven and compassionate person. I’d say I’ve tried to emulate as much of her as I can in myself.
L219: Tell me about a lesson you’ve learned while being in your position that you feel could benefit others?
KJ: Don’t be in a rush. I feel like I see people rushing through their lives every day and worrying about tomorrow rather than all the fun and joy they get to have today. I’ll see a group of college students come in and they’re so focused on studying which is very, very valid, but I don’t see them take a time to joke with one another or smile, which I think is one of the most important parts of life: finding the joy along your journey. It’s why I’m not necessarily in a big rush to get out of here because there’s just so much joy you can find in interactions with people.
L219: It’s interesting you say that because I feel like people will study and complete extensive coursework for positions, and think once they’re in the role they will reach a new level of satisfaction or fulfillment, but it sounds like you may have already discovered a path that has led you there.
KJ: Yeah, and you don’t want to rush out of a spot where you are content thinking that it’ll be better because the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Once you have met your goal, if it’s to be an office worker for example, you’re sitting down at that desk and then you’re like this isn’t what I thought it was going to be type-thing. You may realize, I just let all those good times pass right by me for this.
L219: What do you enjoy most about being in your role at Steamwhistle?
KJ: I mostly enjoy getting to teach people things they wouldn’t learn elsewhere, even if it’s not about coffee, but a lot of people, have misconceptions about different coffees and different roasts because of Starbucks, or Dunkin’. When somebody will ask me a simple question like, ‘what kind of coffee has the most caffeine in it?’
then I get to go down the rabbit hole of how it actually depends on how you roast it, and I get to see this genuine light of curiosity on their face.
You can learn so much more based on an interaction with the person rather than reading it online because there’s the emotion behind it. I’d say that’s definitely my favorite thing: being able to kind of I wouldn’t say educate, but interest people.
Once you have that conversation with somebody and they are talking about what they’re passionate about, you see their face light up and it’s an emotion I don’t think can be replicated by anything else because it’s a pure form of joy and excitement.