Since they were teenagers, Curt and Kyle Porter have always worked together.
"Every job since we were 15 has been together. We've started jobs together, we've quit jobs together…we've even been fired from jobs together," says Kyle, 31.
Ten years ago, the brothers were working as pharmaceutical technicians (don't ask) and were ready to try something new. As long-time comic enthusiasts and regular patrons of Cup o' Kryptonite (a comic book and coffee shop in Beaverdale), working and eventually owning the shop was a natural fit.
"I didn't necessarily think that owning a coffee shop was something I wanted to do, but once I learned about the industry, I fell in love with it," says Curt, 33.
After changing locations and then closing Cup o' Kryptonite, the Porters re-opened as Capes Kafe in the Des Moines Social Club early last year.
Curt runs the coffee side of the business while Kyle handles the comics, but they say the shop has something for everyone.
"I don't ever want to be a snobby cafe," says Curt, "We want to be inclusive. I have customers that have no idea what they want [to drink], so we ask questions and help them find something they'll like."
Capes Kafe has no shortage of drink options. The extensive menu offers your typical coffee shop fare, but you'll also find flavor combinations and drinks that you can't find anywhere else.
"The coffee is just as important as the comics," says Curt. "There is imagination and passion there." Coming up with new options is a creative outlet for Curt and the coffee shop features a new drink every single week.
Curt says they will make just about anything for their customers. "If we have the ingredients, we'll make it." He also notes that, unlike most shops, Capes Kafe doesn't up-charge for things like non-dairy milk. "We carry almond, coconut, soy, rice, and cashew milks. I don't think people should be fined for not wanting dairy," he says.
Curt gives each drink a creative, comic-themed name. "It's fun to watch people stand at the counter and read through the menu. They'll start to smile and usually end up laughing as they recognize the reference."
Having a coffee shop located in the heart of down town Des Moines brings a demographic that is largely unfamiliar with the world of comics.
"We have regulars that come to us for their comics every week and have been for years. They have followed us to all our different locations," says Kyle. "Now, we have people that come to us for their morning coffee and have never picked up a comic book in their lives."
For the Porters, one of the coolest aspects of running the shop is being able to share their passion with people who know nothing about comics. They have turned many coffee customers into comic customers as well.
"You'd be surprised by the people that are into comics," says Kyle. "It's not just your typical comic book nerd living in his parents' basement anymore."
Capes Kafe sees comic customers in all demographics. There's the retired IRS agent that is there every week on release day (Wednesdays), the musician that rides his bike to the shop year round, the lesbian couple who both collect. There are teenagers, corporate executives, and even moms trying to relate to their kids. Recently, they sold a Walking Dead comic to an older woman who was a big fan of the TV show and didn't even realize it originated as a comic series.
To say Curt and Kyle are really into comics would be an understatement. These guys live, breathe and dream comics. Their knowledge of the industry and its history is incredible.
"We've been in a comic shop at least once a week since 1993," says Kyle.
When asked what they love most about comics, Curt and Kyle speak loud, fast and barely stop for breath. They talk over one another, finish the others' sentences and unanimously agree that, "Comics are THE GREATEST MEDIUM." Here are a few things I learned in their whirlwind response:
Comics are unplugged. No electricity needed. You can read a comic any time, any where.
You can take your time. "It's not like a movie where someone else is dictating the story to you. You can go back, re-read, look through the images, take it all in at your own pace." -Kyle
Comics are creative. "You have to use your imagination. It activates both left and right hemispheres of your brain." -Curt
Comics are inherently good. "We tell our children that the world is ending and the future sucks; and we wonder why they are dressed in black and cutting themselves. Comics are a positive message. They give hope. They lift you up. They tell you you are stronger than you believe." -Curt
Comics make you think. "Comics include a lot of science, history, and physics. They aren't just stories about bad guys and good guys." -Kyle
Comics are timeless. "Superman's story spans 75 years and is still going. He will outlive all of us. Comics are the only medium where you can read an 80-year-old story, or you can read a single chapter and enjoy it for what it is." -Curt
Comics are American Mythology. "In America, we don't have the inherent history that most cultures do. These super heroes are like our Greek gods." -Kyle
Nerds rule. "Look at popular culture. Name some of the biggest movies right now? Comic movies. Zombie movies. Name the biggest TV shows right now? Walking Dead. Game of Thrones. Everyone plays video games. Everyone plays games on their phones. Basically, nerds won." -Curt
In Capes Kafe, Curt and Kyle Porter have essentially created their own dream job. Not only are they surrounded by two things they love most in life (comics and coffee), they get to share them with other people.
When asked about the next chapter in the Capes Kafe story, Kyle says, "world domination," while Curt has his sights set on a second location.
To Be Continued…
Off-Beat Drink Options at Capes Kafe
Dr. Doom: Dr. Pepper + espresso
He-Man Milkshake: chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, milkshake + espresso
Gray Skull: double shot espresso over vanilla ice cream
Metropolis: toddy concentrate + orange juice (toddy is cold-brewed coffee)
Espressoda: Coca Cola + espresso
Ollie Queen: green tea + limeade
Capes Kafe Special Events
PokeCon: Free event for kids to play Pokemon with other kids. All ages. Last Saturday of every month. 2-4 pm in the coffee shop.
Drink & Draw: Free event for artists and cosplayers of all levels. Cosplayers model while people drink and draw. Different theme every month. Bring your own supplies. 2nd Wednesday of every month, 7-9 pm.
Art Mart: Comic-themed art show featuring local artists. Saturday, June 20th, 11-5 pm.