A Day in the Life of… “Bucha” Bill Bond
words by Christopher Morrison
photography by Svetla Morrison
“We’re just going to roll with it.” — Bucha Bill.
B.B. King was on the radio when we walked into Ms. Julie’s Kitchen and then later, some Stevie Ray Vaughn. The kitchen feels like home. Jessica, the cook, just finished baking kale, buffalo cauliflower, burger-size falafels, unstuffed green peppers and “sloppy mac and cheese,” a blend of red and green lentils in a savory tomato sauce poured over non-dairy, vegan macaroni and cheese.
“Here comes Bucha Bill now. He just pulled up in that red Buick,” Jessica says pointing to the glass door.
He enters carrying plastic containers stacked as high as his head and wearing very dark Jackie O sunglasses, the white frames flipped over his crown. He is a thin man with blue eyes, long brown shoulder length hair with sandy blonde highlights, which gets tied up in a bun while he’s making a batch. His trimmed beard is the same color. The style of the day is 60’s, white nylon shirt with orange, red, blue and yellow abstract flowers, brown cardigan, black slacks with zippers for pockets, you can’t hear him walk.
“Hi, I’m Bill,” he says and smiles, putting down a Mason jar full of a smoothie on the table with his other hand to shake mine. Bill and I never sat down, we stood talking.
“It kind of got started,” he says, “when I was lucky enough to see a naturopathic doctor when I was in my 20s. I realized and found out that I was gluten intolerant, dairy intolerant, soy intolerant, processed food intolerant, so I changed my diet. One day, one of my clients was drinking this tea and I said, ‘What’s that?’”
He would give her massages and she would tip him with some kombuchas.
While Jessica stocks the shelves with kale chips and some just iced brick-size carrot cake, a few customers walk in, followed by “Ms. Julie” Costell, who owns this fine eatery and is wearing a gray Jimi Hendrix sweatshirt and pants—red faced and all smiles on a blistering cold day in south Akron.
Bill’s kombucha days really begin the day before, with list of things to do. He claims to hoard his lists, even when he’s done. He says it’s sort of like director David O’ Russell’s approach to filmmaking, that he, by the end of the day, is putting out fires he started and crossing them off the list.
“Well, we can still talk while I work,” Bill says, looking at his watch. “I have about a half an hour of offloading to do. I’ll probably be here until 2 a.m. I just have to taste this spearmint with juniper berries batch I’ll work on today and do some bottling.”
He tests a batch and then deliberates with his mouth, eyes to the side. “I think it needs a hint of lemon peel.”
In the beginning, Bill would get recycled Corona beer bottles from friends who worked in bars. Then he would sterilize them before filling them again with the kombucha he made out of his closet. A graphic designer friend helped him realize his vision for the art deco logos on his labels.
“But I want to keep my art in making my kombucha just like my labels. I’m very into art deco, like the tattoo on my arm it’s the Great Gatsby,” showing me his left skinny forearm.
Neither Julie nor Bill could remember exactly how they met, perhaps narrowing it down to the Akron Cooking Coalition’s potluck dinners.
“I wasn’t a big fan of kombucha,” Julie says. “My mom used to make it; I used to make it, and Bill’s stuff was way better then what was on the market, and when I first tasted it, I felt it had more life too it and it was effervescent, so I stopped making it. (laughs) When the opportunity came around for Bill to have a small local business, I supported it, and I saw no reason why he couldn’t use my space, my kitchen. I mean we close at 7, so he could utilize it.”
It was getting late and we were hungry and neither of us felt like cooking, so we picked up our daughter across town, came back to the “farm kitchen” ordered and started to pack our stuff.
“Don’t worry you can stay and eat,” Julie said. “Bill will let you out. He’ll be here all night long.”