The secret life of a Starbucks manager

There’s more than coffee to this aspiring politician

Beans grind. Blenders whirl. People in business suits come in and out, firing away their memorized orders. It’s a chaotic Monday morning at Eugene’s downtown Starbucks but Bryant Dodson sits calmly at a table holding a pink, iced passion fruit tea. Despite the bustling coffee shop around him, Dodson, dressed in khakis, loafers, and a UO sweatshirt, seems at ease. He could be a customer. He could be someone who just stopped in for coffee. Or he could be running the whole show as the store manager. He could be one of Eugene’s most unique and involved residents under that relaxed demeanor.

Dodson stands with his trademark Passion fruit tea

Dodson grew up in Eugene, a city his family has called home for generations. He had a typical high school career, running track and studying hard and entered the University of Oregon in 1998 as an urban geography major. He dropped out a year later. “School didn’t fit with me at the time,” he says, “I had other things I wanted to do.”

Embracing not having any strings to hold him back, he moved to Portland with some friends in search of a job, where he was hired at Seattle’s Best coffee shop and was eventually promoted to assistant manager. “I wanted to see the world,” he says, “but I knew I needed money.”

He went on to Denver and into hotel management. He was a quick study. “At one point, I was managing a five star hotel with over 300 rooms,” he says, casually taking a sip of his drink.

Dodson always had other goals in mind, including getting into politics. He believes he could fix some national issues, such as the economy.

Dodson got his chance when Seattle’s Best was bought out by Starbucks in 2010 and Dodson moved back to Eugene as the store manager for the shop on Broadway and Pearl. Having been raised in Eugene, Dodson welcomed the return to his hometown.

Determined to be an active member of Eugene society, he immersed himself into town politics. He applied to and was accepted into the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the Central Lane Metropolitan Planning Organization. “We meet once a month and look LTD and talk about how policy changes just fare increases would affect the people that use the bus.”

Dodson is currently working with his committee on a redesign of Willamette Street. “It’s too car oriented,” he says, “There aren’t any bike lanes or turnouts.”

On his activism he says, “It’s important to be a part of your city. Transportation is a huge issue in Eugene and I’m glad to be able to make decisions with the citizens of Eugene in mind.”

Despite his loyalty to Eugene, Dodson has been all over the world. “I travel because I’m fascinated with other cultures,” he says, putting it simply, “I think we have a lot to learn from other forms of governing.”

He has been to four continents and makes it known that he doesn’t plan to stop there. “Next stop is Africa. It’s probably a year or two away, but I’m definitely making it a point to go there.”

“Perhaps one of the most interesting things about me,” he says, laughing, “is my affinity for exotic foods.” Fresh off a trip to Thailand and Cambodia, Dodson says that he made an effort to sample the local cuisine. “There I tried guinea pig and cow brain tacos,” he says, “But the weirdest thing I’ve had is definitely blood pudding from Ireland.” He remembers the pudding to be black in color and taste strongly of iron. “So it was probably real blood,” he says, laughing.

Dodson took this picture of the Bangkok skyline on a recent solo journey to southeast Asia

Not too shabby for someone who has a full time job and a staff of eleven employees. When Dodson isn’t trekking across the globe or involving himself in city politics, he’s living a comfortable life working at Starbucks. He’s made no plans to move on just yet, having sent in an application for a downtown apartment complex a block away from work but he can see it on the horizon. “I’m not worried about it right now,” he says, smiling, “but I do want to change things. I want to see what else is out there.”

Dodson manages the downtown Starbucks at the corner of Broadway and Pearl.

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