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Alumni Brew Up Success in Coffee Industry: Naysayer Coffee

June 25, 2022 - 6 minute read

Alumniweds Chris ‘11, MA ‘14, and Beth ‘13 Vecera found their vocations in coffee.

Chris Vecera ’11, MA ’14, was driving home from work one day in Orange County when he felt it was time to go all in on his and his wife Beth’s ’13 dream of starting a coffee roasting company. Within weeks, the Veceras left their jobs to move to Napa and start Naysayer Coffee, a coffee roastery and shop.

“It was what we’ve always talked about doing,” Beth says. “We met at Concordia in 2009 and have always loved coffee. We worked in and out of cafes.”

Beth and her twin sister from Rocklin, near Sacramento, followed their brothers to Concordia, where Beth studied theology. “I loved my philosophy and anthropology classes,” she says, recalling Professor Jack Schultz’s anthropology of religion class specifically. “Dr. Schultz loved what he did so much, and I think about that all the time. He was so passionate about teaching and discussing the idea of culture and anthropology and religion.”

In 2009, Chris traveled with former CUI professor Adam Lee on what became the prototype trip for the Around the World Semester® program. Chris and other Concordia students taught English in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. When he returned, he met Beth, a freshman, at a Shout! worship service. The relationship grew, including as they played Ultimate Frisbee on an impromptu club team.

Chris Vecera

By then, coffee was already in the picture. Chris worked at Peet’s as an undergraduate, then took a job at Bodhi Leaf Coffee where he learned to roast beans after he and Beth were married.

“It was always an idea, maybe even the ideal for us when we first got married,” Beth says. “‘One day we’ll have our own coffee company, and it’ll be awesome.’ He would be like, ’Let’s do it. Let’s leave our two full-time jobs and start something insane, something for which we have passion.’”

But the dream lingered in the background as they started a family in SoCal. Beth worked as a church secretary at St. Paul’s Lutheran, and Chris taught New Testament at Orange Lutheran High School. He also earned his master’s degree in theology from Concordia and served as youth director at their church.

Then came the day when the dream actualized. Beth was pregnant with their second child, and the Veceras wanted to be near family in Napa, where Chris was raised. They packed up, moved, and began building the business in earnest, extensively researching everything from roasting equipment to the local and national marketplace.

“Napa is a small farming town at its core, which is pretty cool because locals support local business,” Chris says. “We have felt that love for the last three years.”

The hardest part early on, they say, was coming up with a catchy, one-word name. They finally settled on Naysayer, a nod to the “naysayer in your head that doubts the dream.” “Sometimes a negative brand becomes the most memorable,” says Chris. “It’s hard to forget our name.”

They moved the company into a production roastery in November 2018 and launched their wholesale business in early 2019 after Chris perfected his technique on a Loring 15-kilogram roaster.

“Quality and consistency are important in the specialty coffee business,” he says.

“If something is 10 or 15 seconds off here or there, it’s ruined, basically.”

Just as they were revving up, state and local governments shut down businesses in response to the Covid outbreak, and Naysayer looked like it might live up to its name. Business stalled as wholesale accounts closed.

Coffee is a global community. It’s a pretty beautiful thing.

Quickly, the Veceras pivoted to retail and home deliveries to make money.

“It was a massive shift,” says Beth. They sold their locally-roasted coffee beans to markets, delis, and grocery stores in town, and sold bottled lattes online and delivered them to people’s front doors. The result was an unexpected early success in retail. As stores re-opened, the Veceras then built an espresso cart which brought in more income.

With the dream having survived fierce headwinds, today the Veceras are opening their first brick-and-mortar shop in a mall in south Napa. Chris’s roasts continue to sell to restaurants, wineries, and grocery stores up and down the Napa valley and to online subscribers throughout the nation.

Naysayer offers nine roasts and produces 600 lbs of coffee beans per week.

“We’re definitely growing,” says Chris. “The wholesale is back, and we’re almost done building our own shop. We love the idea of being a neighborhood coffee shop.” “And in Napa you can get lots of tourists,” Beth adds.

Coffee, Chris says, “connects to the whole world. One of my favorite quotes about coffee is that it’s the most global thing you do every day.” 

It also brings people together socially and spiritually, he observes.

Veceras family

“Coffee connects people in a low-stress, approachable way,” he says. “I like hanging out and talking with people in a non-Christianese, real-life sort of way. Coffee is a great way to start that conversation.”

He especially enjoys sourcing and sampling high-quality coffee beans, and Naysayer highlights the farmers who grow the coffee beans and tells their stories.

“It’s their product that we’re taking and passing along,” Chris says. “Coffee is a global community, from the farmers, to a processing mill in Guatemala, a truck driver in Guatemala, a ship driver, dock workers, American truck drivers, warehouses in America—all before it even gets to me. We’re all in this together. It’s a pretty beautiful thing.”

Chris says coffee roasting and teaching give him the same sense of satisfaction because both involve connecting with people in a meaningful way.

“I used to do that through teaching the New Testament, and now I do it through coffee,” he says.

He and Beth cite Dr. Rod Rosenbladt as a formative influence on them at Concordia. “That man was basically my grandpa,” Chris says with a laugh. “I’ve never met someone so cranky and loving at the same time.”

“He’s changed a lot of lives, and ours would be on that list,” says Beth. “The way the man looks at the gospel and talks about Jesus.”

Chris also cites C.J. Armstrong, his Greek professor, and former professor Korey Maas, who taught historical theology, who both “had this way of welcoming you into this conversation even though they were clearly more experienced and knowledgeable. That community conversation oriented my way of living. I definitely learned that at Concordia.”

The Veceras have two kids, 5 and 3, and attend St. John’s Lutheran Church in Napa, the church Chris grew up in.

“The only thing I ever wanted to be was a mom,” Beth says. “I loved working at the church and the coffee shop, but I’m a mom now. That’s where I find joy.”

For Chris, “Starting a business is kind of crazy, but I love what we’re doing.” And so far, the naysayers have been wrong.


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