Photo by Liz Chai

In recent years, WAC has gotten quite friendly with Ryan Wanslow – he’s been a brilliant host to us in both San Fransisco and NYC. A gem of a person with a wicked sense of humour, Ryan is one of those people you need to hug properly when you see them. Even without a job title, he is a crucial member of the La Marzocco team. We had a chat with him to try to uncover some of his secrets.

WAC: Who are you? Where did you come from? Where did you get your start?

Wanslow: I’m Ryan. I was born in Louisiana and grew up in the Bay Area.

I got my start around 2007. I’d been working in high-end remodel construction when the housing market took a downturn. There wasn’t a lot of work in my field, so I got a job at Peet’s Coffee. I took a liking to coffee, so I decided to stay. One of my regulars would come in late night and talk about opening his own cafe. He hired me when he opened Haus Coffee, [a multiroaster] which serves Ritual and De La Paz. I was later offered a job at Ritual where I worked as a barista before I was hired to roast. I was with Ritual 2009-2012. At that point I’d been dating my now-wife, Angela, long distance and I didn’t like that, so I decided to move to New York and got a job at Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn doing roasting, QC, green buying, and tech.

Angela decided to finish her law degree in Seattle so we moved back to the West Coast. Since I’d worked in tech, La Marzocco seemed like a best bet. I didn’t get the first position I interviewed for — a phone tech position. Joe Monaghan and John Blackwell (founders LM USA, President and Product Management respectively) thought I would get bored, (and they were absolutely right). After about a year working at a Seattle wine shop, I wanted to get back into coffee. With Scott Guglielmino’s encouragement, I made up a position and pitched it to LM: “I know you’re getting swamped in training – I can set up a tech training system for you.”

The General Porpoise, Seattle, Photo by TheHiddenMug.com
The General Porpoise, Seattle, Photo by TheHiddenMug.com

WAC: So that was / is your position with La Marzocco? What’s your day-to-day like? 

RW: I revamped the tech training program, built out print materials, and conducted trainings. All those things are still part of my position but it has grown into a broader role. I’m “Technical Account Manager” — an outward facing part of the company. I work in tandem with the Sales Directors to support our customers, usually with a technical focus. I pretty much work on everything but Sales. Mostly Level 2 Tech Support, Marketing Events, Educational needs.

I haven’t had two days the same in the 2.5 years I’ve been with LM. I really enjoy that. Nobody seems to be able to generate a job description for me. The job is to reinforce customer relationships through personal contact. It’s continuous troubleshooting and problem solving. The cool thing about working for LM and the leadership we have is that nobody’s really going through what you do with a fine-tooth comb, as long as you’re upholding the spirit of the company. The attitudes of John, Joe, and Kent (CEO) are instilled in you to know what the right thing is and how to handle it. It’s great to work for people who put so much faith in their staff.

WAC: You’ve been a friendly supporter of AeroPress for years now – tell me what makes the competition special? And why does the AeroPress/LM relationship work, when AeroPress and espresso machines are so vastly different? 

RW: It’s fun, that sets it apart. Watching coffee being brewed is not inherently interesting, but the atmosphere of the competition reflects the personalities of those participating (spectators and competitors). The area for entry is so low — if you have an AeroPress you can just roll up and compete. This supports our company culture and how we’d like to engage with the coffee community at large.

Photo by Liz Chai

WAC: Tell us about how you achieve your fantastically suave look. Who’s your barber?

RW: My barber is one of my best friends, Mike. We grew up in the same town, he was the best man in my wedding, and he’s a professional barber. It was fortuitous – we moved to SF at the same time and reconnected when he was also a barista at Peet’s before going to barber school, and lived in Italy before moving to NYC. So I’ve retained the same barber on two sides of the country.

WAC: What are some of your favorite spots in NYC?

RW: We cook and entertain. Barbecues in the summer, holiday dinners in the winter. We’re big into wine. Reynard at The Wythe Hotel is like my second office and happy place. They have everything – brunch, coffee, wine, cocktails, dinner. Their Cinnamon Toast is delicious — cooked in a wood oven and  the butter fat soaks up the oven flavor.