Boxcar Social is a fusion between a café and a bar. All six locations across Toronto offer a social atmosphere where the staff is passionate about coffee, wine, craft beers, bourbon and scotch. Their mission is to “strive to create the most unique tasting experience,” and Alex Castellani has an important role in making this happen. As one of the four minds behind the creation of Boxcar Social, Alex has found a way to bring his passions into his work and be mindful while doing so.
So, what does Alex do? He shared that he wears many different hats. “It’s a tapestry of me being a teacher, instructor and leader.” While these titles sound glamourous, he explains that he is also working behind the scenes as a recipe builder and coffee taster and is involved in customer service as a food runner, dish washer and waiter when needed.
As for what Alex cares about, he broke it down for us into two categories: sensory experiences and people. Whether it’s taste, aromatic profiling, music, or the aesthetic design of something, Alex chases sensory experiences. He also cares about people, whether it’s teaching, front of house customer service, or managing people in a company.'Sensory experiences and people. Those are the two categories that define my life.' Click To Tweet
From Vision to Reality
For the five years before Boxcar Social was created, Alex was involved in all facets of the coffee world. He worked as a barista, managed cafés, taught at the Canadian Barista Academy, roasted coffee for a company in Toronto and had a consulting company devoted to helping lay the ground work for new cafés by training their staff and designing their coffee program and the café itself.
Although he loved coffee, Alex wasn’t fully in love with what he was doing. “I was helping other people accomplish their vision,” he recalls. That’s when his now business partner came to him with the idea for Boxcar Social. “That’s when it was decided,” explained Alex. “Basically, once a vision was formulated of what that place could be and that I could use this project as an expression of things that I am passionate about… That was it.”
Continuing the Pursuit
Alex is wholly devoted to Boxcar Social and is passionate about his involvement in the world of sensory experiences. He envisioned a life where he loved what he did for work, and made it happen. “I crafted my work to be the thing in my life that I love to do… I own my work.”
The phrase, “my work is my life” doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Although many people don’t understand why somebody would continue to work at home, Alex thinks they’ve got it backwards. “I will go home after 12 hours of work and try out cocktail recipes, new craft beers, try wines… It’s natural for me to get home and continue that pursuit.”'I have the personality to wholly involve myself into one single thing.' Click To Tweet
Managing six different locations and having so many different titles creates a busy work life. Rather than making time outside of work to slow down and be present, Alex uses his job as an opportunity to be mindful. He shares how he makes time to consistently sit down with his staff one on one to “connect as individuals.”
“I want people in my company to have a forum to express things safely. So, I take time to talk to them. I use it therapeutically for myself, as well, because so many times it makes me slow down and reflect a lot because they’re slow conversations. They’re not inquisitions. They’re about reflection.”
Alex appreciates the potential of having a slow, meaningful conversation. “I think these interactions with colleagues and staff force you to articulate ideas. When you are forced to articulate something, it makes you conceptualize it in a more focused way… It certainly makes you slow down, reflect, take time and articulate.”'It’s wildly productive to slow down.' Click To Tweet
The Importance of Happiness
In order for Alex to be successful, he needs to feel energized, inspired and happy. “I have to love my job first. I have to be super passionate about what I do… If I’m not happy with my work it’s extremely hard for me to be happy as a person.”
Alex believes in the importance of asking yourself if you’re happy, because if the answer is no, then it’s time to reflect upon how you can change that.
Alex’s Questions for KYŌ (App):
- What are you grateful for?
- What makes you happy?
- What energizes you?
- Do you love what you do?