The coffee guy. The Sunday-morning banjo guy. The Star Wars guy.
Meet Caleb Goodrum. He’s a guy who knows what he’s about. He has passion behind his motivation and faces the future with freedom and excitement. Spend any amount of time with him and you’ll understand his passions run deep. When he commits to something, he does so with sincerity. That’s not to say he boxes himself in. On the contrary, he reveres flexibility and appreciates opportunity.
Caleb’s career started with the Air Force, overseeing and managing people working in intelligence in Augusta, Georgia. He says that as an officer, the most rewarding part of his job were the relationships he formed with his subordinates. It’s that dedicated yet laid-back leadership that allowed him to invest in his subordinates early on while his team was still manageably small. Forming connections and relationships with his people, “leading from the ground,” as he calls it, was the core of his enjoyment as an officer. As his team grew and that connection became more distant and harder to manage, he realized he needed to reevaluate his future in the Air Force. Enter coffee.
His introduction to good coffee came during college. “I spent way more time at a coffee shop near UNC than I ever spent on campus. It wasn’t even close.” That exposure proved formational. His first Air Force duty station was in San Angelo, Texas, but he had a hard time finding a good cup of coffee. In true appreciation for the art and quality of coffee, Caleb made the three and a half hour drive to Austin about two weekends a month for the remainder of his time in Texas. “Because I went there so often I didn’t want to pay to stay there, so I slept in the back of my car and hit up coffee shop and bars and I would shower at the municipal pool. I had this parking spot right across from this coffee place. I would turn the AC on high, park near the coffee shop and then wake up and grab a cappuccino.” It’s hard to imagine that many people could out-dedicate this guy. The interest became undeniable and the passion continued to grow through the next few years in the Air Force until as he contemplated leaving, he met Kitti Murray, the driving force behind Refuge Coffee Company. Partnering with her, Caleb put in 40 hours a week unpaid helping get Refuge off the ground and running, while at the same time working 40 hours finishing out his last few months in the Air Force. All the while he commuted back and forth between Augusta for the work week and Atlanta for the weekends to spend time with his wife Nada, a Ph.D. student at Georgia State.
Finally in May of 2015, the truck launched. Caleb continues to work the business side of things as the truck’s mission reaches the people of Clarkston with the goal of becoming a community spot in Clarkston that incorporates refugees in training and outreach. The truck not only trains refugees in the art and function of coffee, but in other skills that equip them to find jobs meeting their immediate need of employment, while also providing development for greater opportunity in the future. To combat the sometimes ostracizing effect of an “American” coffee shop, the truck plans and executes the menu, pricing, and set up with international influences and multicultural approaches in mind. Overall, though, the reigning philosophy of Refuge Coffee is to provide just that, refuge, which is evident as you observe the goings-on around the truck in its location in Clarkston. It has become a community of all colors, ages, and backgrounds. There is no line between one another, but a rich blending of people and cultures that benefits everyone.
Caleb maintains his preference for batch coffee on the truck, but at home, he invests in pour-over coffee a liter at a time, saying, “ I rarely drink it all, but I like knowing it’s there. It’s better to get a good extraction if you brew with more water.” He and Nada spend their free time foraging Atlanta for good coffee, good beer, and good food and will celebrate five years of marriage this September.
Caleb is also known for another long-time love: Star Wars. The enthusiasm is almost palpable as he describes the merits of the saga, the advantages of different viewing orders, and his family’s full immersion into the Star Wars culture in preparation for the latest episode’s release, involving a viewing of each film, t-shirts, and food and drink pairings for each film. They called the entire event “Star Wars-Palooza.” Should you be on the fence about diving into the Star Wars culture and films, Caleb will not only tip you into it head first, but he’ll completely immerse you and pull you back up drenched in the redeeming waters of George Lucas and Co., clamoring for the next installment. Watching him retell key moments in the story is arguably just as entertaining as actually watching them unfold on the screen.
As City Church moves forward, marching toward the Hilan Theater, Caleb has lent his talents and passions in addition to the many others who have made the Hilan Project happen. His expertise has been consulted to advise on the building and equipping of the coffee bar in our new location. So as you pour your very first cup in the new Hilan space, tip your cap to our resident coffee, banjo, Star Wars enthusiast as he walks by, steaming cup in hand.