“I was flabbergasted when I would go to a wonderful hotel and the coffee was horrible,’’ said Manning.
He knew he could do better. Working as a barista at Starbucks in Kenmore Square for six months gave him the fundamentals. A chance meeting with a former Marriott colleague led him to California’s Equator Coffee. This strong and flavor-forward estate coffee was the café’s first and only brew.
Although initially bombarded with naysayers and friends who thought he had gone berserk, Manning held on tight to his vision.
“You don’t know how many people said, ‘You’re crazy. Why are you opening a coffee shop at 64?’ All they could see was doom ahead of me,’’ he recalled.
But doom never descended. Both Manning and his partner are making a “more than comfortable living,’’ paying five employees and living in the South End.
To reach that level of success later in life, Burke says you have to surround yourself with “bright lights,’’ people who will support you instead of bringing you down. You also have to have a healthy dose of confidence, which usually comes with age.
“Once I make up my mind, it’s full speed ahead,’’ Manning said. “I don’t look back. I love this life. It stimulates me. Even though I don’t have the energy I had when I started, it keeps me going.’’
Neuropathy, a side effect of diabetes, has slowed Manning down some. He no longer waits on customers and sometimes walks with a cane. But he opens and closes the café, manages the books, and goes on weekly trips for supplies. “It’s not glamorous, but I do enjoy it.’’
Does he have one more reinvention left in him?
“I don’t know what would be stimulating enough to make me bite,’’ he said. “I like money, so if it had something to do with making money I might go for it.’’
Kathleen Pierce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.