Live Bold, Live Brewed, Live Dirty
It’s an early fall evening in the village of Glouster. The sky is clear and the setting sun bounces golden rays off the empty storefront windows uptown. In a parking lot across the street, old timers lounge in lawn chairs, eating Thai food from a nearby food truck. Children run free, playing in a patch of dirt created by a crack in the asphalt. Young parents stand and talk in loose clusters. A band plays “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and the sound carries in the mild evening air.
At the edge of the action, Jane Cavarozzi is busy at work. Her stand, Dirty Girl Coffee, is doing good business. It’s always doing good business. She pours coffee, swipes credit cards and talks to customers. When she isn’t engaged, she stops to listen to the band. Cavarozzi isn’t just a vendor; none of this would be happening without her.
“I think it’s important for people to see it: the path… the endgame,” Cavarozzi says.
The monthly event—called Glouster First Fridays— brings together community and culture in the area with local music, food and, of course, coffee. It is one of the many initiatives Cavarozzi is taking to challenge assumptions about the villages of Southeast Ohio and bring industry and sustainable jobs to the region.
“There’s a lot of stereotypes about Glouster,” Cavarozzi says. “[That] it’s a very run down little town. People say, ‘Oh, even if you revitalized uptown and put stores in there they won’t buy anything’… I called bullshit on that.”
Cavarozzi’s relationship with the region began when she attended Ohio University, but she left after graduation and went on to have a successful career in coordinating distribution and transportation operations for Athleta, an athletic wear company.
In 2008, everything changed: Cavarozzi was diagnosed with breast cancer. With the support of her then-girlfriend and now wife, Kara Tripp, she decided to do some reevaluation.
“Joe, my boss then at Athleta, said I need to put more life in my work-life balance; he basically thought I was a workaholic, which I probably was, and so we decided to find a sanctuary,” Cavarozzi says.
That sanctuary turned out to be a property in Glouster complete with a 640-acre lake and 10 acres of woods.
“It’s a really nice place to relax, it’s also a really nice place to roast coffee,” she says.
Her interest in coffee production was also born out of her diagnosis. After her brush with cancer, Cavarozzi started looking for foods with low acidity. The production of cold brew naturally reduces acidity in coffee up to 80 percent.
“A less acidic setting in your body helps you fight what’s wrong,” she says.
In 2015, Cavarozzi read about nitro cold brew—cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen and dispensed through a tap, giving it a foamy head and a smoother texture.
“It kinda just spurred this curiosity,” she says. “It’s like, I like beer, I like coffee… a coffee that pours like a beer, that’s pretty cool.’”
Cavarozzi sampled cold brew across the West Coast and returned to Ohio with the equipment and resolve to start making and selling cold brew coffee of her own. Through trial and error, she developed coffee with a flavor that stands out among the dark and bitter flavors common in cold brew.
“We decided we didn’t like what a lot of places are doing, and we went with a lighter, prettier, kind of fruit-forward coffee bean,” she says. “We like to call our coffee the ‘Pinot Noir of Cold Brew Coffee.’”
Cavarozzi and Tripp kicked things off with a 30-day trial run in Columbus. It was there that Dirty Girl Coffee was established.
“We had fun with it,” she says. “It helped us develop our culture as kind of a friendly, accepting [brand].”
The name Dirty Girl came from a desire to honor women in non-traditional female roles, something Cavarozzi and Tripp both know well through their careers in the male-dominated fields of transportation and distribution. On their website they state that they want to “pay homage to all women who perform every day.”
Their coffee can be found in stores and restaurants across the region, from Casa Nueva and the Nelsonville Emporium to the Wildflower Cafe in Columbus.
Dirty Girl aims to combat the economic problems challenging women in Southeast Ohio, where women are faced with a large wage gap compounded by the poverty of the villages in the region, where Cavarozzi says the per capita income is under $12,000 a year.
“Athens County women earn far less than men,” she says. “We’re 18 points behind the national average… it really makes me angry.”
That mission fits hand-in-hand with their commitment to organic, fair trade, sustainable and women-produced coffee.
“It’s our mission to support women’s economic progress,” Cavarozzi says. “But, you know, we can’t do that and buy coffee beans from women slaves.”
These values led Dirty Girl to start roasting their own beans. After experiencing frustrations with the lack of sustainable and female-grown options available with their current roasters, they took to Kickstarter to raise money for a roaster of their own.
The campaign was a success, raising $12,500 in one month. They soon hired two female representatives to do business with international coffee brokers.
“One of the neat things about being a woman coffee roaster in a male dominated industry is a lot of these brokers… are like, ‘hell yeah we want to deal with a woman,’ and, ‘hell yeah, we’ll get you whatever you want,’” Cavarozzi says. “And they just find us exceptional coffees.”
All of Dirty Girl’s coffees are now shade-grown, organic and fair trade, and all but their Ethiopian beans are female-produced.
Cavarozzi and Tripp are committed to cultivating a sustainable and equitable job market to the villages of Athens County, where coal mining had long been the lifeblood of the region.
Using her years of experience in the distribution and transportation industry, Cavarozzi has identified what she believes is a ripe opportunity for industrial growth. The Central Ohio industrial market is reaching maximum vacancy, meaning that companies are running out of space to lease in the Columbus area.
To Cavarozzi, the solution seems simple. Central Ohio has too much industry and not enough space; Southeast Ohio has plenty of space and a desperate need for industry.
“Athens County is right in the position to be a pressure relief valve for the industrial-type work,” she says.
She’s putting her money where her mouth is; Cavarozzi is the Director of Fulfillment for QOR, an athletic wear company started by Athleta’s former CEO. In 2019, she plans to establish a QOR fulfillment center in Nelsonville. The center would store, pack and ship QOR inventory to customers across the country.
In keeping with Dirty Girl’s mission, Cavarozzi plans to hire women for as many jobs as possible. She will train them personally and hopes to become unneeded quickly.
“The sooner I can work myself out of that job the better,” she says.
The center would bring in around 80 to 100 jobs, but that’s just the beginning. Cavarozzi believes she can convince other companies of a similar size to build in the region. Unlike giant corporations such as Amazon or Gap, these companies are too small to automate their distribution systems, creating a stable source of jobs for the area.
“My goal is to have 1 million square feet built in Athens County because I know I can bring companies here, and I know companies will want to come here,” she says. “There’s a great local foods market, housing is affordable, there’s a great labor pool that needs good jobs and just a chance, and I believe in the people in this county.”
In order to learn firsthand about the real problems in the area, Cavarozzi immersed herself in the community. She moved to Glouster full-time and got to know its residents, from community leaders to fellow members of the Athens Farmers Market, where Dirty Girl has a stand almost every Saturday.
“That’s how we developed our mission strategy really, was just listening,” she says. “We listened for a full year before we took any real position.”
They have faced complications with the Athens County Commissioners, who Cavarozzi says are lacking perspective on what’s really going on outside of the city of Athens.
Cavarozzi admits to ruffling feathers, but not without reason.
“I really believe in working the problem and if you’re in one of those roles that can effect change, damn it, I want you to do it,” she says.
Dirty Girl is part of a larger trend of local businesses in the region working to give back to their communities.
Kathy Strode has been selling Dirty Girl Coffee in her restaurant, the Triple Nickel Diner, since she opened her doors.
Strode started the diner with a mission to serve local food in the village of Chesterhill, a farming community about 20 miles outside of Athens city limits. It is an area that has an abundance of local food production, but nowhere local to eat it. Before the Triple Nickel, there hadn’t been a restaurant in Chesterhill for five or six years.
Strode tries to source everything she can from within a five mile radius. All of the diner’s meats come from local farms and the vegetables come from Strode’s garden.
Strode met Cavarozzi while they were both applying to get small business loans. They were both working with the Morgan County commissioner, who suggested they might want to collaborate.
“[Cavarozzi] came right over with samples and cheerfulness and was willing to do whatever it took to make this relationship work,” Strode says.
The Triple Nickel Diner became Dirty Girl’s first wholesale customer.
The coffee has been a hit with customers, especially when served as what Strode calls “Coffee in Jar”: homemade whipped cream in a glass jar with coffee poured over top.
“I just think it’s great that both businesses are so interested in the communities and supporting the communities and supporting each other,” Strode says. “I think that’s what all communities need: more jobs within the county and people willing to start more businesses to get jobs.”
The evening may be drawing to a close, but Jane Cavarozzi is far from done; she plans to put a brick-and-mortar Dirty Girl in Glouster somewhere down the line. She would love to clear space to build a public park, so the community can gather somewhere other than the uptown parking lot.
It’s unlikely she will run out of ideas any time soon, coffee-related or otherwise.
“That’s what we do,” she says. “It’s just about constantly pivoting to see what you can affect.”