On the transformative power of Merch

On the transformative power of Merch

with Ben from Pr_cess

by Angie Toole Thompson


Pr_cess founder Ben sits in his friend’s Belfast roastery, Wild Heart, smiling at me through the screen from across the ocean. Quickly, I find out that he’s familiar with a lot of shops regional to my South Carolina home; and — would you believe it? — I actually know someone that he knows in his Belfast community. It’s always striking to me — this ineffable shared experience of coffeeheads. That, however spread we are across the globe, we all seem to drink the same coffee, fangirl the same farmers, dig the same roasters. I ask him what he’s drinking. “Actually, I’m drinking Voilà,” he laughs, “just as cold brew. It only popped into my head this morning.” This is kinda Ben’s thing. Making his own mark on existing creations — collaboration as a creative act, even as it relates to his afternoon coffee.



The Pr_cess shop online presents as a kind of digital merch table, a mixed bag of Ben-approved coffee ephemera. 3 years running a coffee shop and consulting for other shops has primed Ben’s vision into the coffee world, and Pr_cess spotlights that vision. Namely, the collab vision. We agree that there’s a lot of overlap between early 00’s local music scenes and present day coffee scenes. “Band merch is a perfect example. When you’re growing up you spend your money on a local band — you buy it, you wear it, you do your best for the band.” Ben champions coffee roasters and brands in this way — throwing the weight of his regional influence behind them. “Hex [of Charlotte, NC] was one of the first US coffees I collabed with.” He had this idea to buy up some of their t-shirts along with his wholesale coffee order to add a Pr_cess logo somewhere on them. A literal seal of approval — a low-key message to his own community that this coffee is categorically accepted. “They were super down for it. That was one of our first releases. It gave the brand so much depth.”



I remember being a teen, going to local shows where the drummer would have the band’s logo spray painted on the bass drum. Then, stickers of other local bands — a shoutout to those who were in it with them. Stickers of bands they wanted to be like. Is there a better pre-Twitter example of stan culture? Merch was the lifeblood of those local bands. Someone you admire wearing your band’s shirt — that was a gold-medal moment; and every sticker stuck or t-shirt worn subtly changed the whole landscape. “Tag the word ‘process’ onto anything we are talking about and it opens up a whole other rabbithole,” Ben explains. It’s about how coffee is processed, of course. “But the connection that happens back and forth between barista and customer, that’s all part of the process, too.” And for a lot of us, that’s our buy-in. Being part of something that is both small and big. Like a local band representing their heroes. “I’m a musician as well,” Ben admits, “I’m probably subconsciously drawing on that.” I would most definitely agree.


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