Tim & Tim: 32 Years Behind the Bar

Feb 14, 2018

Tim Root and Tim Wenzel are pretty much legends around here.

They’ve been brewing coffee and making ads for Stumptown since the very beginning – they were among the very first employees at Stumptown and are the “original marketing department.’’ Root’s iconic gonzo drawings and Wenzel’s hilarious collages and videos have defined our visual identity from the get-go.

They have over 30 collective years of experience behind the counter as baristas and happen to be some of the coolest, most hilarious and truest dudes you will ever meet.

Both of them ‘retired’ from their posts as silverback baristas this past year – Root moved back to Athens, Georgia with his family and Wenzel started making art and videos for Stumptown full-time in our Creative Department.

We thought it a fine time to dig up a retrospective of the great work these guys have made and for them to talk about the early days, interviewing each other and talking shop on 32 years behind the bar.


Tim Root: All right. So we should start from the beginning?

Tim Wenzel: Start from the beginning, man.

Root: Two things I remember about you was that you came in with a cast, and maybe in a sling?

Wenzel: Yeah. I broke my wrist and got hired with a cast.

Root: How long were you in the cast?

Wenzel: Well I started feeling the heat from you guys, man. What did Duane say?

Root: ‘You're an asshole?’

Wenzel: (Laughs.) “Who hired the asshole with the cast?” I didn't even know Duane. I had worked with him but didn’t know he was the owner. And I started fucking getting heat for the cast, so I just went home and soaked it and cut it off one day.



Wenzel: There was something happening when Stumptown was starting. I remember thinking, ‘I bet you this company is going to be pretty big.’ But just for the record man, I would like to say we are the original marketing team. It's not really marketing but…

Root: It's totally marketing.

Wenzel: Stupid ads.

Root: It's totally marketing. By the way: we are for sale, hire us as marketers.

Wenzel: I remember when I started doing art, Duane's like, ‘Do you guys want to do art for Stumptown?’ We were just doing weird shit back then for the company. I think we both actually still do weird art for the company, but basically being like, ‘Mom and Dad, I made $20, I did an ad for Stumptown yesterday, I'm actually an artist.’

Root: I think when I started it was $15. Duane was like, ‘Hey man, you draw don't you? Do you want to do ads?’ I don't even know if he'd seen anything I drew.

Wenzel: The one trippy thing about the whole 16 years was when we started, it was just a coffee shop. ‘Coffee culture’ was just hippies hanging out and playing hacky sack and drinking coffee. You weren't cool. There was no, ‘I'm cool, I drink coffee.’ That did not exist.

Root: For the record, you're still not cool if you drink coffee. (Laughing)

Wenzel: Weirdly, being in a transition where we're old guys now but we've done art for Stumptown for so long and watched essentially a culture be born out of something that was just…

Root: It wasn't meant to be a thing.

Wenzel: I truly don't understand it at all.

Root: Because you're old.

Wenzel: Yeah, but it's a trip to be through 16 years, to watch that whole thing and to think back to how Stumptown weirdly changed the game.

Root: Well the cool thing was, Stumptown was meant to be that job that sustained life, yet it allowed you to have a life. It wasn't a fucking nine to five. I remember being hired there and everybody being like, ‘What band are you in?’

Wenzel: You're like, ‘Twisted Sister, backup drummer. Dude throws his hips out a lot.’

Root: (Laughing) It allowed you to do what you want and have a life. Still does. Look at me, I'm living. But everybody was in a band back then and everybody toured, everybody had to take time off. That's why people worked there, because they could have a job and do what they wanted, which is non-existent in the world. People don't want to accommodate you to have a life. Your job should be your life.

Wenzel: Totally.

Root: As easy as it is to talk shit, I would not have anything in my life now if it wasn't for Stumptown and I mean that completely honestly. It has helped me one hundred percent.

Wenzel: Me too, actually.

Root: Next to raising kids, it’s probably taught me how to just deal with shit and not be a complete asshole. I feel like it’s a good [reflection] of life. You have no idea what the fuck is going to happen. Some people turn into assholes. (Points to Wenzel.)

Wenzel: (Laughs.) You know when you're watching a documentary, and they're like, ‘Yeah man, we were doing this before anyone else was doing this…’ We were kind of doing something before someone else did it but …

Root: We just didn't know it. (Laughs)

Wenzel: I started working there and it sounds stupid but you could just kind of feel like this was something cool. Duane had something rad going on. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I remember thinking, ‘There is something happening,’ and 16 years later, it’s the fucking truth.

Root: For sure.


Stumptown: How about some weird encounters over the years? Anything memorable?

Root: Well of course the guy eating the plate in the bathroom.

Wenzel: That's up there for sure. One of the weirdest things ever.

Root: Someone said, ‘Hey, there's some guy freaking out in the bathroom,’ so me and Tim were like, ‘Alright man, let's go get this guy.’ We start slamming on the door.

Wenzel: Full house. You can kind of hear someone in there tripping.

Root: It sounds like somebody is cleaning up.

Wenzel: Finally like the door just unlocks and we push it open and [Root] goes about halfway in and sticks his head around and there's a pastry plate shattered on the ground and this dude is picking up the pieces and shoving them in his mouth.

Root: There's pieces of plate on his lip.

Wenzel: Hanging off his lip. We were just like …

Root: ‘What are you doing, man?’ (Laughing.)

Wenzel: ‘We've got to get you out of here, man, this is a bathroom.’

Root: ‘You've got to do this somewhere else.’

Wenzel: We walked him through the café and he was spitting plate out of his mouth. Oh my god. Yeah, do you remember that time that guy came in that looked kind of like a Steven Seagal guy, big dude, leather jacket? A dude you would not ever want to mess with. Root’s ringing him up and he said something about a postcard or something. Do you remember?

Root: I do. He picked up a postcard which was for an art show for somebody and he made a joke about art or whatever.

Wenzel: You just said something like, 'Well man, you've got your opinion’, and the dude snapped. This guy was probably 6’6.”

Root: I was in a cast at that time.

Wenzel: (Laughing) Leather coat, and he just lost it. ‘You want a fucking piece of me?’ Coming over the counter and he's grabbing him.

Root: I had like a lawyer ponytail, kind of high up, because it's just keeping the hair out of the face, hand in a cast, and I'm like, ‘Dude, you’re fucking with a person with a lawyer ponytail and a cast. Like just shut up about art.’

Wenzel: Yeah, he left and I'm just like, ‘Man, that dude…’

Root: I felt bad, for the record. I should have just shut up.

Wenzel: (Laughing) That guy would have killed you.

Root: (Laughing) He would have totally killed me. Of course he would have killed me.


Wenzel: This just goes out to all you little baristas out there who take everything so seriously.

Root: You've got to be little.

Wenzel: It's 140 degrees, and it's a perfect little thingy dingy and all of that. That's cool, man, but honestly, when two people park their motorhome in front of your café and they get out in matching USA sweat gear, I'm excited. They’re my new favorite customers. And they come up and I'm like, ‘What can I get for you guys,’ and they say, ‘Can we just get a couple grande Snickers?’

Here's your lesson: Don't ask them anything, you just make them a fucking drink that they're going to love.

Root: Word. It applies all through life.

Wenzel: That is honestly, after 16 years at Stumptown, actually the greatest thing I've ever gotten was two people in matching USA gear rolling up and saying can we get two grande Snickers and me going–

Root: ‘Do you want that iced or hot?’

Wenzel: (Laughing) Totally. Because honestly, when you're me and him 16 years in, that's where the beauty lies, in my opinion. Those people are rolling into a hipster weirdo cool place and feeling awkward. It's your chance to stoke somebody out. When people in sweat gear roll in–

Root: Don't ask details.

Wenzel: When they say, ‘I want a macchiato,’ just make them a–

Root: 16 ounce vanilla latte.

Wenzel: Just do it. Save yourself. Because actually you’re–

Root: An asshole.

Wenzel: Exactly.

Root: Just listen to people, do your job, and maybe occasionally just get wasted at work, just to see how that is. And then maybe you might be like, ‘That was a mistake, I'm not going to do that.’ Well maybe, ‘I'll do that differently next time.’ Just pay attention to yourself.

Wenzel: ‘Maybe I'll get wasted before I come to work.’ (Laughing)

Root: Just pay attention to life.



Stumptown: What do you guys admire about each other?

Root: You know, to be honest I think what I admire about Tim doesn't have words. As a person, he is sadly, like me. Because he just doesn't fucking know. (Laughs.)

He just is fucking doing everything. He's doing what he wants, he's doing what other people want, he's doing what brings him money, he's doing what he thinks looks good creatively. You can laugh that off, but that's such a fine balance.

On top of that is the rarest thing: work ethic. You just fucking do it. You don’t give a fuck if you're standing knee-deep in shit. You just do the job you're supposed to do. To me, that's how you earn respect.

On top of that, you have a good sense of humor about it and you kind of make light of it, hopefully, to lessen the blow of the work. It's a rare thing. And being proud. Being proud of being in a cast because of skating, being who you are, and not hiding it.That's who you fucking are.

I'm going to stop, I feel some tears coming.

Wenzel: No shit, man. Fucking choking me up.

Root: It's kind of like anything. What shines through any job or anything is who you are. I'm going to fucking start bawling here, but you've got to be you. That's a very hard thing, it sounds simple, but that's a very hard thing to do. Do your job, but be you. Impossible. He is doing it. He is doing the impossible.

You come into Belmont and this guy will talk to you, joke with you, make you forget that you're going to work, make you forget that you haven't had sex with your girlfriend in two weeks. He makes people feel infinitely better.

Wenzel: Fucking cheers, man. That was a hell of a compliment. I'm going to miss the shit out of this guy and I'll fucking return the compliment. Has anyone ever met anyone like Tim? Not even fucking close, dude. Portland loses another true person. A true artist.

Working with someone like him, we’ve both both been in the trenches for 16 years at the cafe and doing art for Stumptown for 16 years. I complain, I'll bitch. This dude, I'll be out with him till four in the morning drinking and we've got to both open at five and guess who's bitching in the morning, me. And guess who's got his head down and not saying a fucking word. This guy.

Root: I'm just focusing on not vomiting. (Laughs)

Wenzel: It doesn't matter. I love the fact that you're probably more like your old man than you realize. Our old men are just old schoolers that do it.

Root: That is true.

Wenzel: I don't know, I just feel fortunate enough to know someone that’s an amazing artist. Not caring for a long time and doing amazing shit. I don't even know if most people ever get to see that in their life.


ROOT: Being part of a crazy thing that was nothing and grew into something world-renowned and crazy is weird.

Having a job that supports you being who you are, supports you being your weird self, but then expects you to do this job. In a way you were almost rewarded for being a weirdo. It’s like a respect went out to you for being yourself. This was your fucking job, you did it well, you took it seriously. And when you left you fucking exploded and made your music, you made your art. And that's not a thing [anywhere else], not before it, not now, not ever.

Wenzel: That’s a good point.

Root: It's rare. Like everything in life. If it's easy I guarantee it's not fucking worth it. Is it fucking hard? It's fucking worth it. I mean, yeah you can say whatever shit you want about it, but we were lucky. That's it. We were lucky.