Serving up community: Kurt and Summer Barnes turn a setback into a fresh start

January 2011 Posted in Business

By Dixon BledsoeSummer Barnes, Kurt Barnes and Wayne Blank at Gear-Up Coffee in Silverton.

Watch Kurt Barnes make a sandwich and there’s no indication he feels like his right hand is in boiling water.

Smiling and gregarious, he goes about his tasks at Gear-Up Espresso coffee shop with ease and professionalism.

In 2009 Barnes’ life took a turn that forced him to make a rapid career switch.

The 28-year-old Silverton native was working on a job for Shiloh Water Systems when the median nerve on his right hand was cut by some PVC pipe.

Two days after the accident, Barnes returned to work. To say what appeared to be a minor injury took a sharp turn for the worse is an understatement.

Gear-Up Espresso

Kurt Barnes takes beans
from around the world and
mixes them into creative
and unique blends for his
new in-house venture,
Small Town Coffee LLC.
Coffee Review, gave their
Signature Blend a 92 on a
scale of 100.

“A lot of competitors want
an interesting cup of coffee.
We want a drinkable cup of
coffee,” Barnes said.

Gear-Up serves coffee,
pastries and lunch. A house
favorite is the half-sandwich,
soup and chips for $5.

Gear-Up, 430 McClaine St.,
Silverton. 503-873-8933

Barnes developed ‘Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome 2,’ where the nerve transmits a pain signal 24 hours a day.

He is in constant pain and has only limited use of his right hand. To make matters worse, he was given a variety of drugs designed to help when the actual result was shutting down his respiratory system.

After a year and a half of intense physical therapy, surgery, and suffering through an 8 or 9 on a pain scale of 10 every day, he was determined to become “medically stationary.”

In other words, he was going to get as good as medicine could get him, despite the fact that, in his words, “I feel like my hand is in boiling water all the time.”

Out of the pain, suffering, and forced “career change,” came opportunity. A permanent partial disability award (PPD) from his worker’s compensation carrier and employer enabled Barnes and his wife Summer to take a lump sum settlement and buy Gear-Up Espresso, LLC, a coffee, pastry, and lunch business located in the Silver Creek Shopping Center.

Now Barnes is a business owner.

“This is Summer’s and my way of serving the community. God has blessed us in order to be a blessing to our community,” he said.

He has received a lot of support through his trials and tribulations of the last several months.

“Without my family support system, I don’t think I could have got through this and to this place in my life. My sister Kirsten took me to doctors appointments. Summer and I rely on each other and our faith. Steve Tipton of Silver Creek Fellowship has been a huge part of our lives, and Mike and Kris Lowrie (of Shiloh Water Systems) have supported us through this ordeal like family,” Barnes said.

Summer and Kurt went to the Silverton High School prom on their first date in 2000, graduated that year, and were married three years later. Summer works as a dental assistant in Stayton and at Gear-Up.

“We are community-minded and love this town. Unlike other people our age, we didn’t want to leave.

We are just people people,”  Barnes said.

Summer said last year and a half have been difficult, stressful and “not much fun.” The coffee shop is helping change that.

“Kurt worked hard to get us here. We didn’t know what we were going to do after the accident, and it was kind of scary,” Summer said. “We are enjoying the coffee shop. It’s actually a lot of fun.”

The Barnes purchased Gear-Up from Wayne Blank, who still helps out.

“They are very energetic, and they give it what it needed most – the energy to take it to the next step.  Kurt is amazing. You can’t tell he is injured – it’s like there is nothing wrong,” Blank said.

Becoming a baker was probably the biggest adjustment for Barnes. He adds that without his mother-in-law, Moe Johnson, Summer, and Blank’s help and hard work, he’d put up a sign, “For Sale, With Owner.”

“My wife and I have a passion for coffee and wanted to create a true living room atmosphere for our customers. Some of them are here all day, reading, relaxing, or using our Internet café with WiFi that is free to customers,” he said.

Barnes, a former golfer and rock climbing instructor, learned in his physical therapy rehabilitation to focus on what he could do, not what he couldn’t do.

Though golf and rock climbing are out, he is strong in his faith, having attended Western Baptist (now Corban College) for two years and has been in church leadership school.

His father, Rob Barnes, serves as the pastor at Silver Creek Fellowship, and his mother, Kathy, is active in the ministry as well.

Summer and Kurt are encouraging people to use of Gear-Up as a meeting place, welcoming church and non-church groups and clubs alike.

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