For some, retiring means stepping away from a career, never to return. Alan Brechka, on the other hand, left the classroom while never leaving the shop. Brechka is a retired wood shop teacher from New Jersey with a master’s degree in Library Science who has brought his talents to Cape Cod and started Brechka Boards. His latest creations are beautiful coffee scoops that are available for purchase at Snowy Owl Coffee Roasters on Main Street in Brewster.
Brechka uses the phrase “bit of a handyman” to describe himself as he helps people with small repairs and contracted projects. “I’m more of a cabinet maker than a carpenter,” he clarifies, “I like the more detailed stuff.” Along with coffee scoops, Brechka has made cutting boards, intricate jewelry boxes and even custom storm doors. Being a fisherman, Brechka has fashioned himself hand-held fishing nets that seem too attractive to actually be put into use.
“I’ve gotten into shaker boxes lately,” he says while displaying an intricate set of nesting boxes in the pristine workshop he designed as an addition to his Brewster home. “It’s a bit of an avocation for me,” Brechka describes. He stepped into the world of online sales…briefly. “I tried selling things on Etsy, but it wasn’t for me,” he concluded.
“We raised our kids in New Jersey but always came up here for vacation,” Brechka recalls. After losing his wife Susan to breast cancer in 2005 and with the kids grown, it was time to seek sandier pastures. The lean 63-year-old with a quick smile moved to Brewster full time in 2012.
Brechka has found romance again with his girlfriend, Leslie. It was her daughter, Bailey, who asked him if he thought he could make a coffee scoop. So Brechka turned to a slab of cherry wood in his shop and went about sketching the outlines of coffee scoops. He bored out the scoop with a Forstner bit that drills precise, flat-bottomed holes in wood. The shape of the scoop and handle is then carved out with a band saw, and then it’s on to the sanding. Using spindle and disc sanders, Brechka can get the scoop refined before finishing it the old fashioned way.
“The sanders can take it down to a point where I can hand sand it without going totally insane!” he laughs. The finish is a food-safe mineral oil that gives the scoop a nice patina and a light coat of beeswax. “The beeswax buffs it up a little more and gives it a bit of a sheen,” Brechka explains.
Brechka sources his material from a small lumber mill in Hudson, Massachusetts. “The problem with around here is everything is so expensive,” he points out. At the lumber mill, he found beautiful cherry flitches and grabbed them. Flitches are the long boards that are cut from the tree as it is first run through the mill. Flitches can have stunning “live” edges where the natural contours of the tree are left and not planed down upon further milling. “I like working with the denser hard woods like cherry,” Alan states.
Once he proved that he could craft them and he liked how they came out, Brechka stopped in to Snowy Owl Coffee Roasters to gauge their interest. His sales pitch was simple. “‘Do you want to buy these’ is what I asked them,” he chuckles.
Shayna and Manuel, the proprietors of Snowy Owl, took him up on the offer and now the uniquely individual coffee measures can be scooped up at Snowy Owl Coffee Roasters or on Snowy Owl’s website: socoffee.co.