Episode 12: Beth Katz, director, Food Insight Group

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Beth Katz has dedicated her professional life to doing work that benefits the common good.

With Durham Bowls, she’s an integral part of an innovative initiative to improve school food for Durham Public Schools. With Upstream Works, she’s founded a new and amazing way to support the building of equitable communities. She’s one of the directors of Food Insight Group, whose motto even is “Good Food. Common Good”.

Beth holds a Ph.D. in Nutrition Intervention and Policy from UNC Chapel Hill, and on top of all the amazing work she does in her day-to-day worklife, she’s also a board member at the Durham Co-op Market.

It can’t exactly be taken for granted that people want to dedicate their lives to the common good. So the first question for Beth is this: What is it about working for the common good that’s just so appealing?

Illustration: Edson Tako

Episode 11: Sean Doyle, author and lawyer

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The day job of Sean Doyle is to be a lawyer, and throughout his career he has resolved roughly 10,000 disputes. However, he is also an author within the poetic nonfiction genre, and his current book is entitled Mud and Dreams: Essays on falling more deeply in love with life.

In the introduction to the book, Sean writes:

“I passionately believe there is beauty all around us and reason for hope. I am confirmed in my faith, again and again, in the goodness of people, and that we have, at our fingertips, access to so much meaning and promise, if we would only let ourselves see.”

In this day and age of perpetual political conflict and apocalyptic stories on the news, Sean’s message is a particularly upbeat and hopeful one. In this interview, I talk to Sean about the process of writing these essays, about how his work as a lawyer has affected his general philosophy on life, and whether or not nice guys, in fact, finish first.

Illustration: Edson Tako

Episode 10: Candy Carver, artist

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Candy Carver is without a doubt one of Durham’s most prominent visual artists. Her vibrant style is unique, powerful and easily recognized as truly her own. In this interview, Candy talks about her fundamental motivation to create art at all – and ponders the classic topic of how to make a living as an artist. She shares insights into her artistic process, gives her best advice to any aspiring full-time artists, and she discusses whether or not doing commissioned work affects the artistic aspect of what she produces. 

Illustration: Edson Tako

Episode 9: Robbie Roberts (Joe Van Gogh) & Leon Grodski de Barrera (Cocoa Cinnamon) (Part 2)

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In this second part of the exclusive interview with Leon and Robbie, they share their perspectives on a variety of topics:

The so-called Third Wave of coffee, the important inspiration from Italian espresso culture, single origin coffee versus blends, and what Robbie describes as the macho approach to espresso.

They also share their impressions on each other's businesses while revealing their most favorite coffee shops in all of America.

Illustrations by Edson Tako

Episode 8: Robbie Roberts (Joe Van Gogh) & Leon Grodski de Barrera (Cocoa Cinnamon) (Part 1)

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If you live in Durham and you like a good cup of coffee, you've undoubtedly visited both Cocoa Cinnamon and Joe van Gogh.

The latter was founded by Robbie Roberts in 1991, and he now owns three Durham locations as well as one in Chapel Hill, and he’s taken over two Green Bean coffee houses in Greensboro.

Behind Cocoa Cinnamnon you’ll find Leon Grodski de Barrera and his wife Areli, and their coffee adventure had its beginnings a decade earlier. After humble beginnings in the Asheville Mall and selling coffee from a bike, Cocoa Cinnamon opened its first brick-and-mortar location in 2013, which has since been accompanied by two additional locations in Durham.

While some might expect Joe van Gogh and Cocoa Cinnamon to consider themselves each other’s biggest competitors, that really doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead there is a strong camaraderie and mutual respect between the two, and they are both in the business of serving the community through the power of good coffee and physical spaces that allow people to come together.

As such, the story of Joe van Gogh and Cocoa Cinnamon is representative of Durham at its best: A city that puts camaraderie above competition, a city that treasures that which is local and independent, and a city that loves people with interesting stories.

For this exclusive two-part interview, I sat down with Robbie and Leon to listen to *their* stories and ask them a whole lot of questions about their love of coffee.

In this first part, you get to hear about what these two coffee connaisseurs prefer to brew at home, and how they handle family and friends, who are not likely to serve them as good coffee as they themselves would be able to make. We cover the topic of the snooty factor among coffee enthusiasts, which might not be so snooty after all, and we talk about if Robbie and Leon were surprised at becoming as successful as they have, and, not least, what makes Durham so special.

Illustrations by Edson Tako.

Episode 7: Conor Oberst, singer, songwriter & recording artist

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Starting in 2013, a gloomy chapter was added to the story of Conor Oberst. All of a sudden, Oberst was falsely accused of having raped a fan at a show at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina, ten years earlier.

The interview you’re about to listen to, however, does not deal with the details of the accusation, the libel lawsuit that followed it, or how it affected the record sales of Oberst. Suffice to say that Oberst was undoubtedly innocent, and that his accuser completely retracted her story, admitting she lied to get attention.

Instead this interview, which was recorded earlier this year in Copenhagen, focuses on how to find peace in this world. Through meditation, marriage, soothing YouTube videos, getting older, and, especially for Oberst, through songwriting.

After the false accusations, the mental state of Oberst declined. In his own words, Oberst went on tour with his old punk band, Desaparecidos, to outrun the nightmare he was living in. During the tour, however, a doctor had to check in on the health of Oberst, as he was clearly not feeling well. He was diagnosed with unusually high blood pressure, a cyst was discovered on his brain, and the tour was cut short about a month.

He then returned home to his native Nebraska after having lived for over a decade in New York. Back in Omaha, he went through the therapeutic recovery process of writing the songs that would appear on both the stripped-down album Ruminations and then the full-band album Salutations. It is against this backdrop that the following conversation about finding peace took place.

Episode 6: Gabriel Eng-Goetz, founder and creative director, Runaway (Part 2)

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The second part of the interview with Gabriel Eng-Goetz, the founder of Runaway.

In this part, you can hear Gabe share fun stories about getting a visit from Chris Rock in the flagship Runaway store, about a design of Gabe's that simply turned out to be a dud – as well as what he would think of someone wearing a Runaway shirt and a “Make America Great Again” hat.

Gabriel Eng-Goetz is part of American Underground in Durham, North Carolina, also known as the start-up capital of the South. This episode of Toro Town Talks was recorded at American Underground, and it’s part of a series on the wide range of talents and businesses that occupy this unique community in downtown Durham.

Episode 5: Gabriel Eng-Goetz, founder & creative director, Runaway (Part 1)

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Gabriel Eng-Goetz is the founder of Runaway, the coolest and most visible local brand of apparel in Durham. His iconic design featuring a bull and the letters D-U-R-M almost seem like an unofficial logo for the city. Runaway is much more than apparel and its flagship store on Main Street, however. It’s a lifestyle brand that also embodies art exhibitions, concerts and filmmaking.

In the first of this two-part interview, Gabe tells the story behind his iconic design, which he was actually not fully sold on to begin with. He also shares a story of a woman going to great lengths to illegally reproduce this very design

Additionally, he gives an insight into his overall creative process – which, in his own words, is about looking at life and death from the point of hilarity.

Episode 4: Megan Hannay, CEO & co-founder, ZipSprout

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Megan Hannay is the CEO and co-founder of ZipSprout, a company that matches businesses with local marketing opportunities. She’s also a columnist for Marketing Land as well as the host of her own podcast, The Zip.

Megan is a true liberal arts major – having combined English, French and Creative writing – but a large share of her colleagues is made up of developers from the tech world.

In our conversation, she talks about what it’s like for a liberal arts major to work with developers. And she also shares her thoughts on whether or not it’s fair to demand from a job that it doesn’t bore you.

Episode 3: Kate Godly, founder & owner of Primitive Energy

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Kate Godly is the owner of Primitive Wellness, a family practice and yoga studio. One of her main focus areas as a medical professional is lactation – helping mothers with the crucial task of breastfeeding. 

Before starting her own business, Kate worked at a clinic, where she would see an average of 19 patients a day. There, she felt like she was simply sticking a band-aid on the patient’s problem, rather than giving them the best possible care.

This proved to be an all-important part of the motivation for breaking away from the traditional clinic work and starting up her own business – on her own terms. Satisfying her own professional ambitions while increasing the quality of the care she is giving her patients.

Episode 2: Adam Pyburn, motion graphics specialist

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Adam Pyburn is a creative professional with a wide range of skills. If you’ve got a project or a business that you’d like to wrap up in all kinds of cutting-edge visuals, Adam could probably do it all. But after a long time of casting a wide net to capture clients, he has decided to narrow things down and focus his business on one main thing: Motion graphics.

In my conversation with him, he talks about the process of narrowing down what services you are offering as a business, and what the benefits of such a focus can be. He also explains how he’s an avid advocate of napping during work hours – and finishing off the day with a cocktail.

Episode 1: Tatiana Birgisson, CEO & founder of Mati Energy

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Tatiana Birgisson is the creator of Mati Energy, the sparkling tea drink that you may have read about in Forbes Magazine or bought at Whole Foods.

In our conversation, we take a step further in exploring the well-known story of Tatiana founding Mati while suffering from depression. It might seem like a case of “something good coming out of something bad”, but, as Tatiana explains, there’s more to it than that.

She also talks about how running a business is a little like being back in school, what it means for your business when you’re named one of Forbes' Under 30, and, not least, what to do in an interview with a prospective employee that is both dishonest and unprepared.