Erin Frederick: Barista, Screenwriter, Opera Singer, and Overall Badass

Erin is a woman that needs very little introduction. From the moment I met this sassy barista, I was instantly fascinated by her. She’s a person who wears many hats: she’s a classically-trained opera singer, a word-smithing screen writer, and a coffee-slinging barista boss. Woah. She is an incredibly hard worker, putting her whole effort into everything she does. Her quick promotion to manager at Not Just Coffee Atherton is a testament to her go-getter attitude. Erin is funny, sharp and witty. Quite frankly she’s a hoot and a must-have for road trips, let me tell you. And she’s incredibly entertaining to interview… Enjoy, folks. This is a good one.

What is your full name and age?
Erin Frederick, 25

How long have you worked in coffee?
I’ve worked in coffee since 2013, when I started working for Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Annapolis, MD. I came relatively late to the coffee scene. I don’t think I really started drinking it until late college, when I copied the grad students in my French literature classes in Paris, drinking Nespresso vending machine “espresso shots” out of little plastic cups. When I got back to New York, I got more interested in specialty coffee. I’d trek over to the Blue Bottle in Chelsea whenever I could and drink a cortado from Joe’s The Art of Coffee on Waverly every day before class.
Legitimately everything I know about coffee, though, I learned from Michael Harwood, Ceremony’s Training & QA Manager. I’ve deviated in techniques from time to time, but I always come back to whatever way he taught me. It’s always right, no matter what. He is a genius.

Where do you currently work and how long have you worked there?
I currently work for Not Just Coffee. I manage the Atherton Market location ­and I’ve been here since early 2015, by the grace of God.

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Who was your favorite Spice Girl?
Baby Spice was my favorite Spice Girl, but that makes me sound so bland, doesn’t it? I kind of wish I had liked Ginger or Scary, but preferring Ginger makes me sound like an eight year old hootchie so… Scary. I will cheat and say, retroactively, that Scary Spice was my favorite.

If your house set on fire, what five things would you save from the flames?
If my house caught on fire I would probably save my keyboard because I just bought it and I really need to practice piano anyway. Then the huge stacks of books I have piled around (totally cheated again). My little folder of important legal documents, because I’m not stupid. The antique diamond ring my grandparents gave me when I graduated from college and wear around the house like a society dame. And… probably my old straw Panama hat that I’ve worn on every single adventure since I was 19. My friend’s grandpa tried to buy it off of me in India (it is definitely a hat meant for grandpas) and whenever he’d spy another tear or bend, his price would go down. It’s beat up and perfect. Plus, I’m just really pale, so saving a hat might be wise.

What’s your passion? What are you doing to pursue it?
My passions can pretty much be summed up by “movies, music, and books”. And food and drink, of course.
I started a film production company this year, Spartan Pictures, to produce my first screenplay. It’s a bit of a moody fairy tale turned psychological thriller set in the Appalachian Mountains. I’m acting in it and I convinced my writer­/director sister (after two years of Jedi mind tricks) to direct it.
I’m a classically­-trained singer ­and the screenplay was inspired by an old folk murder ballad, so I’m sneaking my singing into it too. There’s always some type of singing in my life, but I’m happiest and at my best singing opera. If I could moonlight at an opera company at some point, I’d be a happy lady.
As to food and drink- what else is there?! After managing Atherton, I’d like to open my own little shop sooner rather than later. I’m very into design and atmosphere. I want a pretty little nook of a shop where I serve a small menu of seasonally­-rotating craft cocktails, too. I’m actually working on the business plan right now, so stay tuned (though it won’t be in Charlotte).

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How did you end up in Charlotte?
I ended up in Charlotte due to a perfect time bomb of starting pre­-production for the film here, my parents moving here, and hearing really good things about the city from random young people. I’m hooked. I moved here from New York City. I’ve lived in big cities my entire adult life ­and I just wanted a little respite before moving to LA, which I’ve been putting off for years. I love Charlotte. My sister (who also worked for Ceremony and NJC, by the way) moved here from LA and we’re both nuts for it. The people are so friendly and kind, there’s such a fun, unpretentious art kid scene, and it’s ​cheap! My apartment is literally five times less expensive than my studio in the West Village was and it’s gigantic (with a screened-­in porch, too!). And I can’t stress enough how divine it is to go for a quick drive and be in the mountains. I could probably hike every day of my life and never get sick of it. I’m a Southern California girl by birth, but I love the South. Charlotte is a little golden bubble, as far as I’m concerned.

Describe your perfect day.
On my perfect day, I would just happen to wake up at 7 and feel totally well­ rested (let’s be honest, though, that is sleeping in these days) and go immediately to a hot yoga class before I could talk myself out of it. I’d pick up an iced pour-over from Atherton in all my sweaty glory on my way home (I’m all about the Counter Culture Sweet Valley High currently) and then cook and leisurely eat a big breakfast with those I love. There would be mimosas, because I’m only human. I’d then get showered (FINE!) and go write at The Daily Press. It’s the only place I can really focus. And I can’t get enough of the signature drinks.
Eat food. Take a power nap. Eat more food. Maybe go to a brewery with a gaggle of friends (most of whom work at the shop with me, which is a huge plus). Definitely go to the Thirsty Beaver and then end the night behaving badly at Snug Harbor! But I’d get to sleep the next day. That’s key.

Are you currently working on any side projects in your free time?
My free time lately has been predominantly occupied with maniacally emailing James Yoder, our owner, links to light fixtures, scales, storage ideas, plant care, menu boards- you name it- anything necessary or lovely to spruce up Atherton. He’s been gracious and indulgent and I can’t wait to unveil our renovations at the #QCTNT we’re hosting on October 1st.
Atherton is such a small space that making everything streamlined and efficient, while still beautiful, has been my focus. I want the baristas to feel comfortable and unhindered so they can just concentrate on their drinks. James has such great taste that it’s really just been fun to take his NJC aesthetic and run with it.
Also, I am constantly doing script revisions. Constantly.

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What inspires you?
Inspiration is tough. She’s such a fickle mistress. It’s such a caveat to wait for the Muses to inspire you. I have tons of ideas, they can come from anywhere ­ a line in a book, a painting, a run­down city but you have to actively work your ideas. I can’t stress hard work enough. I come home from a long day (I bartend a couple of nights a week, too), dead tired, and then work on my writing, my singing, my acting. It’s constant, it’s exhausting, something always falls a little between the cracks, but that’s the reality of being a modern artist.
So, yeah, that was basically my application for a sugar daddy.

Why do you love working in coffee?
I love working in coffee because it’s so involved ­ I don’t think I’ve ever been bored behind the bar. It’s so much more scientific than you’d think if you’ve never worked in specialty coffee before ­ so many variables and ratios. Atherton is so open to the elements, too, that it really keeps you on your toes. Those shots do not lie.
I took about a six month hiatus from coffee before starting at Not Just Coffee and I hated it. I don’t think I could ever take specialty coffee completely out of my life, which is such a dramatic thing to say, but it’s true.
I want to open a shop and make Destiny run it when I’m away on film shoots. That’s the goal. Sorry, James.

(photos by NJC barista and photography whiz kid, Rodney Nava)

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