By providing quality products and the right atmosphere for members of the community to interact, over the past four years Viridian Coffee has been able to expand its foothold across southwest Oklahoma.
Recently the long-awaited fourth location opened in Chickasha, just in time for the city’s annual holiday lighting display.
Not sacrificing quality for quantity, Shay Hayes, Viridian’s owner and CEO, oversees the process from delivery of coffee beans to guest relations in each location.
But starting a chain of coffeehouses wasn’t in Hayes’ original plans.
Hayes grew up in Seminole, Okla., and joined the Army Reserves before his senior year in high school. He then pursued a degree in Architectural Engineering from Oklahoma State University before transferring to active duty Army in the spring of 2003.
“When I joined the Army Reserves, I had an option to be in information technology and a Signal Corps position, in which I worked on computer systems and networks, right as the military was transitioning to a professional IT administration,” said Hayes.
Serving four years overseas as an Information Management Officer –14 months in Iraq – Hayes achieved the rank of Sergeant. Transitioning out of Iraq back into Germany, he found himself enjoying the relaxing atmosphere and community interaction that took place in the street cafés.
Once he returned to the U.S., Hayes’ career in information technology lead him to leadership roles with Baker Hughes, Sabre Publishing, Global Outdoor Media and KellPro Inc., the Duncan, Okla. based software and technology firm that provides accounting and database services.
Accustomed to working longer hours while in the military, while Hayes was with Baker Hughes, he also waited tables at Ted’s Escondido Café in northwest Oklahoma City, where he met Lindsay.
“I was working at Baker Hughes,” recalled Hayes. “And at night, I started waiting tables and bartending at Ted’s. She and her mom came in on Mother’s Day, we started talking and then began dating. A year and a half later we got married.”
After visiting coffeehouses in the Pacific Northwest while on vacation, the Hayeses realized the potential of bringing quality coffee to what Hayes described as a “coffee desert.” They set out to bring freshly roasted coffee beans from seven countries around the world including the continents of Africa and South America to the Sooner State.
“We thought that if we found and made something we really liked, we could have fun doing it on the side while we kept working,” said Hayes.
Starting out with a five pound roaster, the couple be- gan roasting for friends and relatives. Soon other coffee connoisseurs began placing orders. Opening a drive-thru window at the Duncan location as well as setting up at organic farmers markets brought guests from across the region.
Quickly the venture had made it impossible for the Hayeses to work their full-time jobs and devote time to the coffee business, said Hayes. In April 2016, he quit his job to get into the coffee business full-time.
Over the next two years, Viridian – which means green, Lindsay’s favorite color– had opened their original location in Duncan as well as two coffeehouses in Lawton.
“Our mission as a company was and is to build a community and a culture around a great cup of coffee,” said Hayes. “It’s about sharing a relationship with people in a way that makes them feel welcome. We have coffeehouses — not coffee shops. We have guests and not customers.
“A lot of our community leaders – pastors, city council members, representatives – they all meet folks in our coffeehouses, and we pride ourselves in being a center of our communities.”
Viridian Coffee is heavily in- vested and a huge supporter of our chambers of commerce in each communities they serve. The company is also engaged in leadership programs such as Young Professionals, Leadership Duncan and Leadership Lawton.
Hayes was the president of Leadership Duncan Class XXI, and a serving board member for two years. He is also a member of Duncan’s Rotary Club, where he was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship. Given to Rotarians who have made outstanding contributions to the community, named for Rotary International’s founder, the Harris award is the highest honor in the organization.
An avid supporter of pro-life organizations such as Dun- can’s Charis Center. When the Hayeses first became parents in 2018, Charis “really supported us and provided us the resources we needed,” said Hayes.
With each coffeehouse, Viridian Coffee’s objective is to plug into the community and add value to the best of the company’s ability, said Hayes.
“You want to be able to enjoy life and have a place that feels welcoming and encouraging,” said Hayes. “Of course, we need industry, business and manufacturing to generate jobs to support our local economy. A lot of those businesses chose communities that are good for their employees. Quality of life is so important. So, I’d like to see southwest Oklahoma continue to focus on our state parks, lakes and recreational facilities.”
Overseeing four locations, when Hayes is home, he likes to spend quality time with his family. He and Lindsay have two young children: Teddy and Honor who keep them quite entertained.
As an entrepreneur, Hayes said Viridian’s goal is to become established in communities across the Southwest, aiming to open 20 coffeehouses over the next seven years, and 300 by 2037.
“There’s absolutely no comparison,” Hayes told Southwest Ledger last year. “Once you’ve had fresh locally roasted coffee, your perspective of what value and quality comes with coffee will forever be changed.”