Written by Paul Wolf
What do you get when you pair the analytical with the creative? The nerd with the free spirit? The left with the right?
It’s former English teacher (with a math minor) turned coffee shop manager by day and musician/label head by night, Cody Wayne Cox.
The soon-to-be 37 year-old was a barista all through his undergraduate and some post-grad school years and came by the trade accidentally. “I spent so much time hanging out at (now defunct) Gravity Coffee Shop in Clinton,” he tells.
“The manager at the time was super swamped and I was sitting out front when she said she would split tips and buy me a six pack if I would help make coffee and sweep up. After that night, she offered me a job.”
A career in education followed. When he needed a job after he left teaching, Cox sought something with flexible hours that afforded him weeks at a time to tour with his band, Goodman County.
And that path was a return to coffee – all the while dreaming of one day having his own thing, something that allowed him creative control.
But sleeping until 2 p.m., working a closing shift and playing late night open mics was too appealing. Now working at Cups, an espresso Café, Cox expressed interest to owner Janice Cameron for more responsibility one day. One day came too soon. She called and he resisted through multiple meetings.
Jackson, it seems, changed that. “As (the city) progressed, I could really see this town in general starting to make more of a serious move forward,” he recalls. “More of ‘those people’ were meeting each other and collaborating. That’s when I was like, ‘I’m in Jackson for the long haul.’ I’m going to work local and, from my teaching days, I knew I could work with ‘young people.’ It just kind of morphed.”
Over his first year as general manager of Cups’ flagship Fondren store, Cox helped streamline how vendor orders were placed, how the store worked with their own warehouse and how they sourced local pastries.
His other duties, like scheduling and payroll, visibly excite him. “Numbers make sense,” he says with a bounce and smile. “I keep a running list mentally or written down.” But the other side, more creative, is, nonetheless, a science. “I get to do some coffee science-nerd-creativity-art.”
Experimenting with cayenne or chicory to come up with Cups’ next concoction is one example. “It’s not like I have to get the A+ or the gold star. It’s more of a personal goal. It’s business but it’s this weird fog of a game as to what’s going to work.”
It’s the same “will it or won’t it” laboratory from which his music comes. He reveals plans for an upcoming album with the Vibe Doctors, “pretty standard white dude with acoustic guitar songs,” he says. “I gave the music to them and said, ‘I want you to chop it and screw it all up. Don’t just play it the way I sent it to you. Make it weird.’”
That’s a word Cox wears just fine, especially when his right brain and left brain battle in view of the unsuspecting. “People will ask, ‘Are you alright?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m fine. I just had this three lines of what might be a song going through my head and over here (he swirls his hands around the left side of his head).’ I’m trying to remember to tell my staff at Cups that this weekend we’re getting this new pastry in. It’s this very regimented and tangible thing and this other is just floating around. I’m good. I’m fine. It peaks and tickles both sides of my brain, both of them swirling at all times.”
Go-to Coffee Drink
Espresso, heavy on the pull, with a bit of cream with an ounce of cold half and half. “The animal fat goes so well with the quinine in espresso. It’s creamy, smooth and thick with some bite to it.”
Favorite Brewing Technique
Chemex. “It’s super clean and crisp, the exact opposite of espresso. You get full extraction of all the grounds and can hone in on every detail. It’s versatile, forgiving and pretty to look at. Cold, hot or whatever.”
Craziest Drink You’ve Ever Made
“In one of my former coffee shop jobs, we had a guy who would come in five minutes before we opened, and order two to two-and-half ounces of six different flavors in a 20 ounce cup, with espresso and cold milk all the way to the top. I told myself I’d try it but I couldn’t brave it.”