Crazy Horse Coffee
On any given early morning that you walk through the doors of Crazy Horse Coffee, you will be greeted with a pleasant welcome from behind the counter by one of the shop’s Caffeine-Dealers, or as they coin themselves, caffeine dealers. You can look around at the shop’s many offerings while you wait for your caffeine choice to be prepared. On first observation, it is apparent that owner James Bendel has taken careful effort in planning out all of the details of the shop, many of which honor his past career with the army. The Washington, PA store sports the name Crazy Horse Coffee, the name of James’s army unit during his two tours in Iraq: Crazy Horse Troop 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment. But the coffee shop’s name isn’t the only relic of Jim’s story: his framed army jacket adorns the entrance along with photographs of his troop members and patriotic artwork.
Most days, you have the opportunity to meet James right in the shop, sometimes accompanied by his best helper, son James, who already slings a pretty mean latte. Within moments of an introduction in his coffee shop, it is very clear that James Bendel has lived quite a lot of life. Over top of “The War Room” entrance hangs four clocks showing the four time zones of James’s background: Pittsburgh, PA, Little Rock, AR, Sacramento, CA and Baghdad, Iq. Born and raised in Latrobe, PA, Jim graduated from Greater Latrobe in 2001 and went off to the army at just 17. After overcoming some physical obstacles in passing basic training, Bendel went to Fort Lewis, Washington as a private in 2002. During his first tour in Iraq from ‘03-‘04, his platoon was ambushed on September 5, 2004 and he was hit in the chin by a bullet and peppered with shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade. The injury was not enough to deter him; he re-enlisted and continued onto a second tour in Iraq from ‘06-‘07 during which he was shot in the head by a sniper on his birthday in August in Baghdad. Thanks to his helmet, Jim survived the hit and was able to spend the rest of his tour managing the troop’s arms room, maintaining the accountability of all the weapons for the four platoons in his troop and learning many of the professional leadership skills he utilizes today while working alongside the troop’s executive officers.
Bendel finished his army career in 2008 as a Sergeant, decorated with a Purple Heart, and spent a couple years in marketing positions before he found his niche in the oil industry in 2010.
So how do a successful oil industry executive wind up starting a coffee shop as a side venture? During his time managing the various oil and gas companies, Jim spent many hours working remotely from coffee shops. On Veterans Day in 2017, he decided that he wanted to open his own shop from where he could work, to run a start-up of his own and create a community hub for business. "I enjoy the 'quiet in a crowded room' atmosphere. [Coffee shops] pose a great all around business environment whether you want to be among people to network with or be quiet with your thoughts grinding away at what the week has stacked up against you."
Jim researched all of the coffee shops in the tri-state area during his planning period in an effort to tie together best practices from his favorite shops into his business; he wrote a business plan with his step dad and business partner, Gary Downs, and by July of 2018 had secured a loan through the Small Business Administration to open his location in Washington. The doors of Crazy Horse Coffee opened to the public for the first time on December 27, 2018, and Jim hosted a special grand opening event on March 2, 2019 to celebrate the immediate success had by he and his team of caffeine dealers.
A sign hangs in “The War Room” of the coffee shop that states: “Unsuccessful people measure success with money, titles, positions. Successful people measure success with how much difference they made in other people’s lives.” Jim said that he wakes up every morning and tries to bring value to everything that he puts his hands on, driving a successful life for he and his son James. Jim believes that as long as you pursue a standard and can trust your people, the business will grow: "Building an umbrella over the people that work for you and protecting them is the fastest way to build business. Take care of your employees and you will create a working environment that takes care of your business
When Jim isn't busy being an oil and executive, coffee shop owner and father, he devotes a lot of his time to giving back to the community through his Non-Profit Help-Hard. He has raised a large number of funds for a variety of charities through a number of events he has coordinated over the years. Recognized for his professional success and community involvement by UPMC, Jim was named one of Pittsburgh's 50 Finest of 2019. Every year he host’s a number of events to raise money for various community and national charity’s. He has turned the coffee shop into a platform through which promote’s this cause.
Help-Hard created by Army veteran James Bendel comes from a blue collar family. The mission is to raise funds by bringing value to the community. The monetary contributions are used to assist vocational technical school students with furthering education and entrepreneurship. As well as helps boost other local nonprofits in need.