A little slice of Brooklyn has found home in the Northwest Alabama city of Florence, when 25-year-old barista and proprietor Reese Shirey opened the Turbo Coffee espresso bar in the backroom at Greasy Hands barbershop. Greasy Hands is run by Shirey’s older brother, Austin Shirey, while the same space also houses men’s apparel, accessory and grooming supply retail operation called the Dixie Garage.
The intimate and highly stylized rent-sharing trifecta of copacetic boutique businesses proudly takes a line right out of the Williamsburg playbook. “Most of my inspiration comes from Brooklyn,” Reese Shirey told Daily Coffee News. Specifically, it was in the Persons of Interest barbershop in Williamsburg, as the Parlor Coffee pop-up was first popping up, that the brothers Shirey found their inspiration. Austin was working his first job out of barber school as Reese developed a love of fine espresso. A couple years later in their hometown of Florence, the pair plus their friend Lucas Wassner have established an homage to the Borough of Trees in Alabama’s Renaissance City.
Yet while tight space-splitting arrangements are often a matter of financial necessity in New York, for the fellas down in Florence it’s the fun and fraternity that come first and foremost. “I would say the leading motivation is because it’s awesome,” Reese Shirey told Daily Coffee News. “Working in a barbershop all day is really cool, and it’s just hanging out with my brother.”
Of course, cost-effectiveness doesn’t hurt. “Splitting rent, splitting utilities — that helps a lot,” Shirey said. “A lot businesses fail because the overhead is too high. Sharing the space allows us not to have the burden of trying to pay the bills, so we can just have fun with it and do what we want.” Another advantage has been that the Greasy Hands barbershop has been open since October, and its steady flow of clientele throughout the day also boosts exposure and sales for the coffee.
Turbo carries coffees from Parlor primarily, although the multiroaster bar also currently rotates through offerings from Spyhouse out of Minneapolis, Commonwealth from Denver, and Austin Tex.’s Flapjack.
“I would love to eventually roast,” said Shirey. “That’s probably about five years down the road. Even then, I don’t know if we’d cut ties with Parlor. They’ve been so great.”
While Parlor’s coffee may have been what sent Shirey down the rabbit hole, he received his proper coffee education in a Counter Culture training facility in Atlanta, Ga., then worked for a year in what happened to be a Counter Culture wholesale client café called The Overall Company in nearby Opelika, Ala. Shirey’s own high-end espresso bar serves only single-origin, direct-trade microlot coffees as shots pulled on a paddle-actuated La Marzocco GS3 with walnut side panels, actuators and portafilter handle. “The side panels say ‘handmade in Florence,'” said Shirey, “so that’s really cool, because we’re in Florence, Alabama.” Meanwhile anyone not interested in espresso or an Americano can still get a V60 pourover if they prefer.
Things are only just getting off the ground for the three-in-one business, although the team already anticipates a time when the cozy 1000-square-foot space becomes an unnecessarily tight squeeze. To alleviate that they hope to expand into the larger adjoining garage space that the building owner currently uses for storage. “Our goal for the immediate future is to get that garage,” said Shirey, explaining that Turbo would then spread out into the garage with sidewalk seating outside the garage door in nice weather.
But the real victory in annexing the garage would be to more directly incorporate the elemental love that binds these three businesses together: Vintage motorcycles. All three proprietors ride vintage motorcycles; the Turbo name derives from Shirey’s love of motorcycles, as does the name Greasy Hands — a nod both to hair products and automotive grease. Dixie Garage is what the three friends used to call the entire space before installing their respective wares, and if Turbo can grow into the garage, it will be alongside a space for a communal public motorcycle maintenance shop and tool library. “The more we expand, the more we’re going to incorporate the motorcycles,” said Shirey.