Written by Jon Lane, Demogod
So, amidst all the talk about the finer points of home brewing, and minuscule details of fine tea that I can’t even fully wrap my brain or my palate around, I’m gonna break from the course, a bit. Now seems like an ideal time to introduce you to present-day KBBK’s most unsung hero, and probable loudest brand ambassador:
Meet Kombucha Brooklyn's mythical delivery van, Buchina
Meet the Buchmobile.Well… actually, that’s her occupation. Those of us who know her best know her as Buchina (or, Boo-CHEE-na, if you’re into the whole phonetic thing).
I first came to Kombucha Brooklyn as a part-time delivery driver,so my days were almost entirely spent piloting the Buchmobile around the city (we weren’t on a first name basis, yet), slinging kegs and bottles to all our direct accounts… and learning very quickly that driving a fluorescent beacon of Brooklyn ‘buch was a slightly different experience than I’d expected.
While it was immediately apparent to me that there could be no possible better vessel for a company called "Kombucha Brooklyn" than a van that looks like the offspring of Brooklyn graffiti culture and the Scooby-Gang's Mystery Machine, It takes a little time to get used to being stared at constantly…. I’m a fairly laid back guy, almost to a fault, but found myself having to stifle the “what the hell are you looking at?” reflex more than a few times… for about three seconds, before I’d realize (with a reasonable helping of sheepish embarrassment) that they were quite obviously eyeballing the van, rather than the driver…. I’ve undoubtedly had my picture taken over a hundred times, at the wheel, in the last year and a half, and have had 5-10 folks come up and pantomime ‘tagging’ the hood, at a stoplight -- starting with one in my first hour of driving her, on my first day. He scored extra points for using his ‘breath freshener’ spray, for added authenticity. Chuckle….
But I’m at risk of straying from the point here. In the last few years, since having been rescued from the inhumane drudgery of life as a white cargo van, this little thing has schlepped an almost unfathomable amount of Kombucha, and hauled a pretty ridiculous list of other random cargo… all of which I’ll spare you.
She’s got all the little ticks and idiosyncrasies you’d expect from a 25 year-old Chevy Astro. I’ll spare you most of them too. For a brief example, throughout the entirety of my employment here, the place where her radio should be has been occupied only by a little stuffed Pound Puppy in a Santa hat. I’ve never asked why. Sometimes you just roll with these things. She’s got a pretty mean overbite, as the result of being sandwiched between a poorly-driven minivan and a predictably unappreciative NYPD van. One door doesn’t open from the inside, one doesn’t unlock from the outside… you get the idea. And sometimes things go rather dramatically awry...
But, semi-miraculous as it is that she keeps on charging forward, with scant complaints, the awesome thing about this little van is the reactions it gets from people, every day, everywhere. Whether I’m in a sketchy Brooklyn neighborhood, or in the prime-rent section of the upper west side, people of every hue, every crowd, every age and every income level break out into smiles, grab cameras, walk up to the window and start conversations, or just throw a thumbs up, or shout approval from across an intersection.
Hell, I met the Buchmobile’s first dedicated driver, AJ, in the middle of Times Square, after he spotted the van and skated up to the window to introduce himself (he kept pace with me for a few blocks, then went back to being noticeably faster than the traffic). He incidentally now drives a fluorescent green delivery machine around town, for our friends at Runa. Coincidence? ;)
At least one person has given us an artistic rendering of the van… somewhere we’ve got a picture of a freshly married couple posing together, standing on her back bumper. I've even snuck her into a rock video. The only real downside is having to constantly explain to people that I have less artistic ability than the average tree squirrel, and am not personally responsible for the paint job (they always ask). But it’s worth it.
It's particularly worth it, in that it changes the way *I* act, when I drive. You can’t stare at smiling faces and jubilantly bewildered kids, all day, and not have it improve your outlook on life. Sure, it’s lovely when people spot the KBBK logo on the hood, and throw up their fists and cheer (yeah. that happens too), as you trundle towards them, but it’s a lot more fulfilling when you find yourself smiling and waving back, rather than being annoyed by traffic, honking horns, deadlines, tickets, and all the other things that weigh on you, when you do this for a living. You find yourself waving pedestrians and other cars ahead, rather than racing them through an intersection, or bullying your way through a crosswalk (you also find that it usually works out better that way, anyway). And nine times out of ten they’re visibly appreciative. Then they look at the van, and smile even more brightly. It’s like driving 4,000 lbs of weaponized good karma around the city.
It’s maybe the only sad aspect of the fact that KBBK has very definitely begun to outgrow the Buchmobile, in its past/present role. We’ve handed the reins of our keg delivery program to our new friends at Phoenix / Bee Hive, which is a really exciting move for the company, and our customers… and possibly my back. So Buchina is down to one weekly patrol of the city, to make sure our bottle program is running smoothly, and the occasional trip to set up a new account, or do whatever else is necessary to bring a smile to the face of someone who probably has no idea what kombucha even is. I’d expect she’s looking forward to Spring Smorgasburg as much as a van can possibly look forward to a thing.
So there you have it. If you see her on the street, give her a pat on the hood, or a low-five on the gas cap lid (yes. it’s always open), or just throw the thumbs up… or better yet, just smile. It’s kinda what she does to people. ;)
Her name’s Buchina. Every Chevy Astro may have been made in Baltimore, but she was very definitely Born in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn rock band and avid KBBK drinkers The End Men called in Buchina (and, more dubiously, her driver) for a cameo in the video for "Work," their ode to the struggle of surviving in the city. She was more than happy to oblige.