Bo Nelson

Owner, Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters

Bo Nelson grew up working on a farm and helping to manage his family’s business, Family Tree Nursery. His love for plants led him to study Horticulture while playing soccer at Johnson County Community College before going to the University of Missouri Kansas City to study architecture, environmental studies and philosophy. Bo then traveled the world, but felt the call back home, inspired to put his mark on the culture of the city he loves. Bo started Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters in 2011, built upon the idea that communities grow through connections and conversations over great cups of coffee. 

Thou Mayest is named in reference to a passage from John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden”, and the shop’s design/atmosphere is equal parts Jacques Cousteau, Frank Zappa and the Boy Scouts of America. One visit and it’s evident that Bo has created a magnetic space that is itself alive, gathering people of all backgrounds and interests to have a beverage and foster collaboration – with the intention of not just changing Kansas City for the better, but also the state, country and world.

Bo and Thou Mayest have been recognized by Feast Magazine’s Feast 50 Awards (2015-2016), Star Chefs – Rising Stars (2016), Pitch’s Best of Awards (2015-2016), and the 25 Best Roasters Across the Country (2016). The shop’s continued climb to popularity has been recently accompanied by accolades such as inclusion in KCUR’s Best Coffee Shops in Kansas City 2018 and as a finalist for a Sprudgie Award for a collaboration with J. Rieger & Co. Caffé Amaro on packaging design.
What is it about KC that inspires creativity in you?
Working with other great people in KC, and collaborating in the truest sense of the word. We have collaborated with J. Rieger & Co.’s Caffé Amaro, Torn Label Brewery “House Brew”  and Betty Rae’s coffee ice cream, to name a few projects. Take a shot of Caffé Amaro and dump that over Betty Rae’s coffee ice cream, it will change your life. Another wild one: We did a beer with Torn Label using coffee we had aged in Caffé Amaro barrels. Creativity has no limit when you’re working with the right people. I’m blessed because every day, artists, entrepreneurs, government leaders, non-profit and startup leaders connect over coffee at Thou Mayest, fueling their passion to advance our city.

What is your favorite spot in Kansas City?
This is going to sound self-serving, but I love the East Crossroads. I love Art Alley.  I also love the Noguchi Sculpture Court at the Nelson-Atkins. And lso, Wyandotte County Lake is one of the best kept secrets in terms of serenity and nature. They don’t allow people to live on the lake, and you can only have a certain sized motor. I also love overlooking the river valley from the surrounding bluffs too.

Where's your favorite place outside of Kansas City?
Anywhere in Colorado. That crisp air and high altitude and getting down with Mother Nature.

What's your most treasured possession?
Journals. It’s who I am. If people want to know me they just have to read my journal. Maybe another way to  answer the question, ”if the house is on fire, and you can only grab one thing, what do you grab?” I have a little box that I made. It’s filled with my journals. 

Who's your favorite fictional hero?
Sam Hamilton from John Steinbeck’s book East of Eden (which is where the inspiration behind the Thou Mayest’s name stemmed from). That book  continues to be a big influence for me. 

Who do you most admire in real-life?
My dad and my grandpa, and what they’ve accomplished in life. Growing up on the farm, they drilled hard work into me and my brothers. I can give you the most insane work stories of throwing hay bales in the summertime and cleaning out chicken coops...there’s no shortage of hard work. Some of it was a rite of passage, but some was generally just work that needs to be done. The motto was, “Why would we hire someone to do that when we could just do it ourselves?” 

When and where are you happiest?
With my family in Colorado, that’s pretty happy. Really anywhere with my girls.
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