Q & A with Mike Bernicchi

Q & A with Mike Bernicchi

Our Co-Owner, Mike Bernicchi has a deep appreciation for coffee. As the Head of Operations, Mike brings passion to our marketing, logistics, and strategic planning. Rooted in Punta Gorda his entire life, Mike sees the social impact of coffee as important to driving discussion and connection. He is also a teacher and retired Army veteran, helping to bring this vision to life.

Q: So what do you like about coffee? What’s your connection to it?

Coffee has always felt like home to me. Local coffee shops have always been a place where I could be out working on writing while also being intermittently social. You can be as social as you want in a coffee shop; sometimes I’d be in the tunnel typing away on a project, and sometimes I’d be more open to the environment around me. I’m one of those people that could never get anything done at home. Coffee shops gave me what I needed.

Q: Home is comfort to you, then?

As a military member for 20 years, home took many forms. Obviously, Charlotte County has been a physical home to me since I was 6 months old; however, Iraq felt like home in many moments…still does. Syria felt like home in many ways…still does. As a Florida Army National Guardsman, we got pulled away from our civilian lives for countless reasons: training, hurricane relief, overseas deployments, etc. Home becomes acceptance of that – we embrace the suck and adjust to make our situations feel like home.

Coffee was that consistent thread. 

Q: What’s coffee like in the Army?

It’s like you think it would be. I don’t honestly think it could be classified as coffee. It’s ground “something” that mixes in water. To that extent, it’s coffee, but it’s usually instant, watered down, and burnt somehow.

Years ago, I started bringing coffee with me to trainings in the field, along with a French Press and propane camping burner. It wasn’t long until I was making our 1SG and some of my buddies morning coffee. It was normal, and I think it was necessary. Little amenities like that made our mornings a little better.

Q: So was it like that overseas as well?

Well, kind of. I was at a small base in southern Iraq in 2005. We ran detainee operations out of there, along with escorting people who needed to hitch a ride. Lots of long missions, inconsistent hours, constant threats, etc…the usual, but we had a Green Beans Coffee on base. It’s like a military Starbucks. Coming off of a 40 hour mission at 9am or 2pm, I couldn’t sleep well over there. Aside from the unofficial energy drink of the Army, Rip It, coffee became fuel for me.

Fast forward 13 years later, when I was a high school English teacher in Port Charlotte. I left for a year to head to Syria with my Field Artillery unit. I couldn’t pack much, but I knew that French Press was going to come in handy in austere living conditions, especially with little support.

We had some leftover coffee from the unit we replaced that got us by, but then went on mission for what turned into a couple of months with nothing but some pallets of water and MREs to hold us over. 30 days into that, we all got our first mail shipment from back home. Beef jerky, cigarettes and dip, socks, you name it. And intermingled among the 60 packages we received was my French Press, an electric kettle, and coffee. It felt like home.

My Lieutenant and I spent that night enjoying a hot cup in the middle of the Syrian desert, with deep discussions and dumb stories. It was the first moment of normalcy we had felt in months, and reminded me that I was human. From there we gave money to locals to get us coffee (among other things), procured and brought back to us in plastic bags. We had a system. Throughout everything, coffee brought us home.

Q: As a teacher, I’m assuming coffee is also necessary?

For me, early mornings always require coffee. It helps me put my face on and get ready for the day. Of course, many of the routines I’ve established stem from my experiences, so teaching just becomes another mission.

Q: If you could sum up what Solivagant Bloom means to you, what would it be?

For me, I’m drawn to stories. Every person has a story that has developed them. Coffee is no different. My story has been crafted for the last 41 years, through periods of grace and some periods of hardships and droughts. The growing conditions of my life have created everything I am. Seeing the global connection to coffee is fascinating to me. The life of the farmer, the conditions and evolution of the soil, the intercropping, the rainfall and altitude, how it’s processed, how it’s roasted; every single variable inevitably affects the development of the final product. Even with so many variables, coffee holds a profound central purpose in every community: to bring people together, for deep discussions and dumb stories. My goal is to tell the story of how our coffee is made.

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