LA-based Yes Plz, a coffee start-up, channels early morning energy into their subscription model: delivering a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans and a print zine every week (or two weeks, or month, depending on your subscription frequency). The inclusion of a publication was crucial to co-founder Tony “Tonx” Konecny’s vision. With a professional background in coffee, Konecny’s passion for print media stems from an early obsession with skateboard and surf magazines. “Growing up in Indiana, there weren’t any local skateparks and we definitely didn’t have access to surf,” Konecny shares. “But I thought of these magazines as sources of culture.”
I wanted to recreate that cracker-jack-prize-in-the-mailbox feel
When he decided to launch Yes Plz with co-founder and head roaster Sumi Ali, he knew the project needed to capture the intimacy of print journalism. “In the ’90s, mail-order zine culture was this thing,” he recalls. “You’d see a confidential saying to send a self-addressed stamp to a PO box. Eight weeks later some weirdo from Louisville, KY would send you an envelope with zines and stickers. I wanted to recreate that cracker-jack-prize-in-the-mailbox feel.”
Ali manages Yes Plz’s coffee program with a deft hand, but what sets the company apart from so many other coffee subscription services is its self-awareness. Yes Plz is egalitarian—and Konecny intended it to be. “The model for coffee connoisseurship was about being able to deconstruct a cup of coffee with all these elaborate descriptors,” he—who himself has been a member of the coffee “elite”—says. Before co-founding Yes Plz, Konecny was head roaster at Victrola Coffee and, after working with Intelligentsia in LA, launched Tonx Coffee, which was subsequently acquired by Blue Bottle. “In reality, two different cups of coffee can produce vastly different experiences. Your beans could be three days off a roast and mine could be 13 days off a roast. There are all these factors making it so there isn’t a shared ontology.”
While there’s room for highbrow appreciation of coffee, Konecny prefers a different, intimate and accessible approach. “Coffee is like a magazine,” he shares. “You pick it up when it’s fresh and it feels immediate and relevant. But the three-month-old edition of Time in the doctor’s waiting room is ancient history.” Yes Plz captures that immediacy in each bag of beans and zine. “I’ve always been obsessed with magazines and print ephemera,” Konecny adds. “Embracing the ephemerality is the essential thing to soak in about coffee. You fall in love with coffee and it’s very fleeting.”
Yes Plz initially launched as a weekly zine, printed at the same press as the Los Angeles localized edition of the New York Times. “We were coming in when The New York Times travel section came off the press,” Konecny explains. “Working on newsprint and these big open web presses was just so cool. It’s this old technology that really feels like print. And no digital edition of Yes Plz can replace that.”
Following the purchase of LA Weekly, Konecny felt that there was a potential alt-weekly, independent void in Los Angeles that Yes Plz could fill. “We ship everywhere in the US but we’re all here in Los Angeles,” says Konecny. “Many of our friends and artists that we work with are here too. We wondered if it would be too LA specific and maybe we should branch out. But we realized we could just lean into this.”
The topics found in the pages of Yes Plz are accessible to subscribers all over the country, but the flavor of Los Angeles is felt. Music, food, and art are frequent themes, and readers will always find a brief comic; a curated playlist; and often a movie, record, or product review. But, as Konecny explains, “Our interest is really in people, optimism in people. One of the most valuable things you can do in print journalism is give someone who deserves it a voice.” The magazine dedicates significant space to creative, artistic people of all professions—like chef and restaurateur Jessica Koslow of LA’s Sqirl, San Francisco-based artist Katie Benn, and indie band Big Thief. There’s an entire issue guest-edited by Sasami. Clay Hickson, another expert curator of print ephemera, graces the cover of an issue.
The current pandemic has forced the Yes Plz team to take a hiatus on the print magazine, monthly or otherwise. Konecny has considered returning to an even more stripped-down version of the weekly (“literally something we could print in my living room,” he says) or opting for a perfect-bound quarterly. Either way, a digital magazine or newsletter is not a replacement Konecny is considering. “It’s easy enough to do time-sensitive content online, but there’s something about the tactile nature of it. Looking at a physical magazine feels more intimate.”
Whether featuring articles about amateur blacksmithing (Issue 47) or devoting an entire issue to a Lucky Peach/impeachment pun (Issue 49), Yes Plz exists between those weirdo mail-order zines and sophisticated, niche journals. It’s a conversation between the collectors of arcana and coffee drinkers.
Back issues of Yes Plz will be available to purchase online soon. We look forward to their return.
Images courtesy of Yes Plz