Hometown: Savannah, Ga.
Major: Political Science
Class of 2008
Opportunity is Brewing
He talks about his business, suave confidence in one hand, double shot skim milk latte with hazelnut and caramel in the other. Moments later, Armstrong alum Kevin O’Donnell, owner of Soldi Crema, LLC and operator of a Jittery Joe’s Coffee café franchise, dashes away to greet a “guest” standing at the gleaming black counter.
“You don’t call a customer a customer,” he said. “A customer is someone who buys something and goes away. A guest is someone you interact with and treat like a guest in your home.”
Kevin’s café is located inside of Ex Libris bookstore, a place frequented by guests who range from an editor of Vogue to the average Joe. “I tell my staff that it’s important to treat every guest the same, no matter if they are buying an apple or grabbing a latte before jetting back to L.A.,” Kevin said.
He began his coffee career by working at the Jittery Joe’s café part-time, and four months into the “morning gig”, Kevin took over as store manager in October 2010. When Ex Libris and the café closed for renovations in the summer of 2011, he knew it was time to make his move.
At the time, Jittery Joe’s was making its way back to the bean roasting business, its original business model, leaving cafés like the one found in Ex Libris in need of new owners. “They’re franchising out. And everyone wins—I got to take over the store, and they still get their name out there,” he said.
But before owning his own business and serving steaming cups of caffeine to notable photographers and movie stars, Kevin was a politically charged Pirate active in Armstrong’s first Moot Court competitions. “Like any university, you get out of it what you put in. And for what Armstrong has available to its students, it’s remarkable how much you can get out of it,” he said.
Kevin teamed up with Adam Morrison in 2004 to form Armstrong’s first Moot Court team and win first place at the Southeast Moot Court Association Regional Tournament. He was also a member of Armstrong’s College Republicans and volunteered with the reelection efforts of U.S. Representative Max Burns. But his faculty interactions on campus are what he credits with his current success.
“What I really gained from Armstrong, I have to put in the hands of a couple of professors. John Kearnes, who is retired now, and William Daughtery were my favorite professors. Daughtery is unbelievably notable, and Dr. Kearnes was one of the most challenging professors I’ve ever had,” he said.
While Kevin continues to grab opportunity by the mug full, with plans to open a second Jittery Joe’s Coffee franchise in the next few years, the former Pirate keeps in touch with his alma mater, noting a twinge of envy when he looks back.
“Armstrong is growing at such an exponential rate. There’s so much more going on, that it sounds like more fun and more like a community than it was even just five years ago,” he said. “I’m almost jealous that I was there then and not now.”