As a 36 year old, my journey has had many unexpected twists and turns that could write a top selling book, lol. But for the sake of space and words, I’ll do a brief summary. I’m originally from Western New York. Was adopted by a great family after my birth mother died of cancer. We grew up in a dairy farm until I was 7 and then we moved to Kentucky. We went from farm life to city life. I spent my teenage years in coffee shops and church. I graduated from a small Christian college with a degree in Cross Cultural Studies. It’s Pretty much a theology, counseling, communications and world religion degree wrapped up in one. During that time I got to travel to 15 countries. This is where I developed a love for coffee shop culture and how it can change communities for the better.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your family.
We are a family of 5. Husband, wife, three kiddos and a dog,… also a Bearded Dragon,… so 6? Lol. My wife is from Ukraine. Her family immigrated here when she was a kid. So we’re a bi-lingual family. We have twin boys who go to Cedar Bluff Elementary and a baby girl who’s about to be 3.
Q: Please tell us about your current, past, or future career. What do you love most about what you do?
Past Career: I come from coffee. I’ve managed for three different coffee companies all over the USA. My wife has as well, so between us, we have about 20 years of coffee company experience. CURRENT: I currently own two companies. One is a custom furniture company, Tito Wilson Designs. We’ve been going for 5 years now and have shipped items globally and to about 40 States. Sunago Coffee Co is my second company. We’re going to be bringing rustic coffee shops to Knoxville in the next year(s) to come with the far off goal of expanding globally.
Q: What are a couple of your favorite restaurants in our community?
Growing up, every vacation we took, my dad would purposefully seek out the “hole in the wall” places. That mentality has always stuck with me so we LOVE eating locally! A few of our favorites are Lenai Food Truck, Kopita and Lakeside Tavern.
Q: How long have you lived or worked in our community?
Six years ago, We moved to Hardin Valley from Louisville, KY
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in our community?
Oh man, that’s a loaded question. There have been so many with extraordinary stories. But if I had to answer, I’d have to say Bob and Cynthia Jeffries of Jeffries Woodworks in South Knox. I could sit and talk all day with them.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I’ve actually been able to travel the world before doing humanitarian and mission work,… and one of my most favorite places to go would be Cambodia or Laos. The people are amazing, food is scrumptious and the hiking and exploring is unreal!
Q: What is one of your favorite movies? TV shows?
One of my favorite TV shows would have to be anything crime / suspense related; NCIS, SWAT, Criminal Minds etc. As far as movies, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy has to be one of my favs!
Q: What advice would you give to people?
I’d tell people that are in small business to strive to find ways that make you different than the noise … stand out … be unique. To people in general, I advise people to always see the world through the filter of “how can i have a positive impact in people’s lives today?”
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
I’ll be honest, I haven’t put much thought into a bucket list, but I think I’d love to somehow someway, sit down for coffee with Peyton Manning, and just hear about his life and how he persevered through his journey.
Q: What is your go to band when you cant decide what to listen to?
What a loaded question! Haha. Depends on if I’m in the mood for rap, country, 90’s,… haha. But my usual go to is the artist named Lecrae.
Q: What current or former local business makes you the most nostalgic about our community?
865 CandleCompany and Scruffy City Lettering & Signs have been two huge inspirations and encouragers along my journey.
Q: If you could choose anyone that is alive today and not a relative; with whom would you love to have lunch? Why? And where locally would y’all meet for this lunch?
Great question! I think I’d choose Kopita Meat downtown for sure … and would love to have lunch with the Rock – Dwayne Johnson. His attitude towards life and his work ethic are big reasons why I’d love to sit down and get to know what’s really behind the media and fame,… to see what really makes him who he is.
Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about our community?
I absolutely love how our community is so loyal to supporting local / small businesses. It’s unlike anywhere else we’ve lived.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
I hope to see myself being CEO of my two companies, employing a couple hundred people, pouring back into the community while we change the communities we’re in.
Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
Hmm…. I’m have an open book type personality so there isn’t much that people don’t know, haha,… but I’d guess it would have to be that I was chased out of North Korea by a soldier pointing his AK-47 at us.
Q: What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
The most beautiful place in the US I have been to is a cabin way up in the Rocky Mountains. The most beautiful place I’ve been to around the world is probably the beaches of a small island off the coast of Thailand.
Q: Favorite month? favorite holiday? and best single day on the calendar?
Favorite month has to be November,… football, food, family and cool weather! Favorite holiday,… Thanksgiving. Best single day… umm,… probably my kids birthdays!
Q: What would you rate a 10 out of 10?
Watching the sunset in Kansas, Missouri or west coast of Florida,… waking up to 4” of snow on Christmas morning, an autumn season that lasts for more than a week,… picking apples in Michigan wearing hoodies and sipping a hot apple spice … are a few 10/10 things.
Q: Who inspires you to be better?
My best friend from college, Andrew Fish,… and my kiddos!
Q: What is one or two of your favorite smells?
An Autumn evening w/ a campfire going and early morning freshly brewed coffee
Q: Finally, what 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
Always welcome, don’t knock – just come in, a place to laugh, cry and be who you are with no judgment