You might see it on the grocery store shelf: Reno's very own Blind Dog Coffee roasters, but there's much more to this local roast than just aroma and taste.
Mark Berry's story begins in 1959. “I had been diagnosed with a childhood cancer. I had retinoblastoma and I lost vision in my right eye.” For years, though, Mark still had perfect vision in his left eye. Raising five children with his wife Robin, Mark lived a true Western lifestyle. He was a tour guide, taught horsemanship and worked in the National Parks.
Mark said, “If I could see one hundred miles in the Wild West I knew I could find a job. I had no doubt that I could support my family and do it.” That all changed when Mark turned 49. His retina began deteriorating from all of the early childhood radiation.
“I went from great eyesight to having the door slammed in my face,” Mark said, “all the jobs I had ever done, there's no way you could do them blind.”
So mark envisioned a new career. He took classes and purchased equipment, learning with what little sight he had left. When Mark went completely blind, he already had a new trade: Head Roaster of Blind Dog Coffee.
Mark’s daughter Samantha says, “For him to stay active and participate is important for the whole family and for him.” While the family runs the business side, mark does all of the roasting himself. He has a special podium and relies only on smell and sound to make sure he gets the perfect roast. According to Mark, “The thing about coffee is that a blind guy can do it. That's the key to any disability. You've gotta find something you can do.” And Samantha says, “It would be nice if someone looked at us and said- look at the odds, but they still tried.”
Now, Mark is using that lesson and his second chance at life as an opportunity to help others.
Just up the road was a family whose child had cancer at 3 years old. Tanner had the exact same cancer as Mark. “50 years later, after I've gone through my cancer, this little boy has cancer and loses both of his eyes. That's where we're at, or where we're not at, in fighting childhood cancer.”
But Tanner didn't let blindness slow him down. He and Mark would explore their new world together. “He's walking with his stick,” Marks said, “and says I'm going over a garden hose and then a little later, I'm going through the rocks now and what a guy. And then to make a long story short… Tanner passed away last summer.”
Tanner’s legacy, though, is part and parcel of Mark's business. Ten percent of the profits benefit the Angel Kiss Foundation for childhood cancer. One hundred percent keep the memory of children like Tanner alive.
Mark named “Tanner’s Roast” after Tanner. “My daughter put that part of the picture together. He was so inquisitive it was almost like he could see all that.”
Blind Dog Coffee is available throughout the Reno area in Raley's, Scolari's, Whole Foods and Smith's. You can also purchase it through their website, www.blinddogcoffee.com.