Most of us know things don’t always go according to plan, and when life throws you a curve ball, it’s easier to take the bench instead of waiting for the next pitch. But, for those who can focus solely on the things within their control—amazing things can happen. Meet Scott Carey, a soft-spoken yet well-articulated gent whose beard is not only symbolic of persevering through a significant life change, but pays homage to a lost loved one.
Carey is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a master’s degree in both chemistry and law. During his eleven year stay in New York as a patent lawyer; things took an abrupt change of direction. His brother in St. Louis became very ill and was diagnosed with cancer. Through the course of long distance visits from New York to St. Louis, Carey and his brother thought of an idea to better accommodate the chemo process. They decided to purchase a building near the treatment center for both of them to stay while Carey’s brother underwent therapy. Carey’s brother was the builder in the family, and they planned to work on it together as fix-up project. Unfortunately before they had the opportunity to begin, Carey’s brother passed away.
The deal on the building had already gone through, and Carey was left holding the keys with a huge uncertainty on how to move forward. Being that his brother was the experienced contractor, he was going to lead all the construction. Struggling with complacency as a lawyer and the grief of his brother’s loss, Carey turned his thoughts to his brother and chose to move full steam ahead on the project—embarking on a major career and life transformation. He shares, “after my brother passed, I quit my law practice, moved to St. Louis, and I began working on the building as a way to sort of escape from the world. During the grieving process I also began growing out my beard—sticking my head in the sand so to speak. As a lawyer I couldn’t really grow facial hair, and never thought I could grow anything more than a goatee. Since its initial growth, it symbolizes much more now.”
A year later, after several DIY contracting lessons and overcoming an abundance of building regulations, Carey’s calling became clearer. Coffee was always a passion of his since frequenting the tiny shop near his former New York apartment. The cafe there had inspired him to look at coffee not only as something you crave because of what it can do, but for the art form that surrounds it. Based on Carey’s desire to create something simple, surrounded with honesty and integrity, the space once intended to be a living quarter for the brothers served its first cup of Sump Coffee in 2011—later being recognized as one of the top ten best coffee shops in St. Louis.
With the support of Carey’s girlfriend Marz, they present coffee and roasting in a style designed to elevate the entire experience. “We don’t blend our roast, we do it seasonal, and capture the difference of where it comes from and why,” shares Carey. Aside from scientific-like brewing methods, Sump also strives to elevate their service aspect. “We try to be more engaging; for example, we purposely don’t have sign boards in the shop so we can talk about how to customize the order a bit more for people,” Carey explains.
As a result, Sump’s loyal customers come in not only to enjoy a personalized cup of joe, but are also interested in the narratives of the business. Aside from teaching their customers a little about their brewing methods, Carey shares overall he just enjoys the recognition from doing what he loves. “The feeling that I’m doing something I’m possessed to do, and people come in and appreciate how we produce it—that’s been the most rewarding thing for me ultimately.”
The same honest and accessible approach in how Carey runs his business also applies to his own style. He reveals, “nothing I wear is too contrived, fleeting, or of the moment. I like my style to be based on things that are eternal and simple.” Carey also sports a face mane that evokes plenty of beard envy, but explains it represents much more from when he first started growing. “There’s something about a beard today that suggest ideological independence and self-sufficiency—it speaks to the wise choices one is making. People are making things with beards: leather, coffee—all things that are artfully craft-driven. It’s no longer a middle finger to the mainstream. It’s saying I’m gonna take my own choices in life.”
When it comes to the grooming techniques of such a mighty-grown beard, Carey takes time for attention to detail. “If I have an opportunity to get a professional trim I will, and beard oil is really important—otherwise it gets sobbed out and makes me look like a crazy person. I have to maintain it myself kind of like a bonsai tree, it’s a three dimensional experience.” He also confesses there are no plans to let go of his beard in the near future. “As long as I have the coffee shop it’s something I’ll keep—and my girlfriend loves it.”
Although Carey’s beard may not have started initially under the best circumstances, it’s evolved into a symbol of courage, personal growth, and prosperity. Every beard has a story, and we’re honored he shared his with us. If you’re ever in St. Louis, be sure to stop by Sump Coffee for a chat, get a customized order tailored to your palette, and possibly enjoy some of the best coffee you’ve ever tasted.