Bo Nelson

Co-Founder and Roaster at Thou Mayest

Bo Nelson, co-founder and roaster at Thou Mayest, talks the East Crossroads Arts District, the shop's unique name and collaboration in KC. 


Favorite Little-Known Restaurant

B.B.’s Lawnside Bar-B-Q

"For barbecue, it’s B.B.’s Lawnside Bar-B-Q for the experience." 

Favorite Place to Show Off in Kansas City

National WWI Museum and Memorial

"The National WWI Museum and Memorial for the history and the views."

Favorite KC Tradition

Family Tree Nursery

"Apple picking in Weston; spring open house at Family Tree Nursery; Mardi Gras Parade in the Westside neighborhood."

The full interview

Q: Kansas City has a ton of coffee shops. What have you found works for you to differentiate Thou Mayest from the rest?

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We have a liquor license so we can justify staying open a little later than others. We blur lines between a.m. and p.m.—you can get an Irish coffee at 7 in the morning or an amazing latte at 11:30 at night. I would also say our location in the Crossroads Arts District helps, and being part of the organic growth in the East Crossroads neighborhood.

Q: The East Crossroads has a totally different vibe than the West end of the neighborhood. What drew you to the area initially, and how would you describe it now?

We originally had no intention on being in the Crossroads—we were patient about choosing the right location. It just felt right. There was some seriously good juju and a magnetism that drew us to that space. We were originally drawn there because there were no other coffee shops and we didn't want to compete with our friends in Westport and other parts of the city. Now, the area has really come alive and our block is going to look radically different next year. The East Crossroads draws a different energy. Maybe that’s because everyone is all jacked on caffeine!  

Q: You’ve spoken a bit about the function of coffee shops in inspiring conversation and the exchange of ideas. Is this what got you into the coffee business in the first place, or was it a combination of influences?

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There is something extra-dimensional that happens in our space, for reasons I really can't understand. But it's all about connections—whether that’s neurons firing, or meeting the right person at the right time or exchanging ideas. We want to maximize those connections, because that's where change and progress happens. Great things happen over drinks. We just set the stage for that greatness to happen. And the most rewarding thing is that this happens all the time—my email is filled with stories of what I call "cosmic serendipity."

Q: The store’s name comes from a concept in John Steinbeck’s magnum opus, "East of Eden." Did you always know you would use the idea for the shop, or is it something that came to you?

That came from my business partner/brother-in-law, Bill Holzhueter. We are book nerds and that novel has been one of the most empowering and influential stories we have ever encountered. The central theme of the book is the concept of "timshel," which means, "The way is open." It's a battle cry for people to take action now, because if not now, then when? And if not you, then who? We like it because it has a deeper meaning and purpose than just a name. It’s more of a movement than anything else.

Q: The store has a really cool style and vibe to it—surfer meets outdoors meets old-school Americana. What’s the inspiration?

I raided my grandpa's fishing closet (he still hasn't realized it yet). There’s a lot of heritage in there for me, but the store’s aesthetics just kind of happened—we let the space and the decor emerge. It’s kind of mystical how it all happened but we were working with John Anderson of Utilitarian Workshop and he pushed us to think differently about style and how people interact with space.

The best description [of the store] I‘ve heard is, "If Wes Anderson designed a lodge for your plant-obsessed and stylish grandmother." Think Moonrise Kingdom.

Q: A lot’s been said about the collaborative nature of a KC businesses. Do the coffee shops in town work together or support each other in a noteworthy way, and if so, how?

Thanks for pointing that out. The coffee industry tends to be pretty territorial because while the beer industry has distributors, the coffee industry does not—we are our own distributors.  We did a "Collaboration Series" with Blip and would love to do more in the coming years. That's on the coffee roaster level. At the café level, there are "Cowtown throwdowns," which are friendly latte art and barista competitions.

About the Coffee is called "The Switzerland of the coffee world," and they throw quite a few events that help bring the industry together. For instance, "Jam Jam," which is in its fourth year now, is an outdoor concert where shop owners, baristas and roasters come together and show off their musical talent (there are a lot of musicians in the coffee industry).

Q: Speaking of collaboration, Thou Mayest has worked with other KC institutions to produce crossover creations. Are you constantly searching to work with others or is it more of a “right time, right opportunity” sort of thing?

It certainly must be a good fit and a win-win for all parties involved. We want to push the cultural landscape in KC forward. We want people to stop calling this "flyover country" and really explore the gems and talent KC has to offer. To do this, we all need to work together. We have a lot of work to make it happen and we believe when the tide rises, it raises all boats. The more we can help raise that tide, the better. We like the creativity and different ways of thinking that these other industries introduce us to.

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