william pauley is co-owner of confluence kombucha in st. louis. photo by virginia harold

What I Do: William Pauley of Confluence Kombucha

When Confluence Kombucha owner William Pauley began home-brewing fermented tea about 10 years ago in a quest to heal his stomach ulcers, he had no idea how it would culminate. After a few stints at local restaurants, he opened his storefront in The Grove in September 2016 and began selling “booch,” along with a limited menu of health-focused eats like the Jarrahdale pumpkin salad, which made our list of dope salads last summer. Here’s how the creative force behind Confluence Kombucha went from dishwasher to owner.

“When I graduated from Webster [University], I couldn’t find a job. My buddy got me on as a dishwasher at Maggiano’s.”

“In one week, my whole life turned. I’d always liked cooking but never thought about it as a career. After six months at basically boot camp for what was to come, I got the last cook position under chef Chris Bork at Blood & Sand. I immersed myself in that detail-oriented culture; I got to see all those techniques – all that passion. It was inspiring.”

“I was still brewing kombucha out of my house that whole time. I did 15,000 bottles the first five years. I delivered to houses and works. I’d pick up bottles, wash them and fill them back up. It was mostly friends in the beginning, but I had a post up on Craigslist, so every now and again, someone would message me for a scoby, and we’d meet in a Walmart parking lot or something.”

“Around the five-year mark, I was like, ‘Alright, what is it going to take to open this dream of mine?’ We stumbled into this space, which was exactly what we needed. The Grove is a good neighborhood in the crossroads of St. Louis.”

“Three months after we opened, on New Year’s Eve 2016, I locked up and walked to my car out front on the street, then woke up in the hospital. That’s all I remember. Four kids were running from the cops and slammed into me at 70 mph. I had 11 broken ribs, my diaphragm ruptured, and my scapula was completely smashed. I was in the hospital for two weeks.”

“I have four titanium ribs now. … The shop was only closed two days because my business partner, Julienne Villarini, opened it up, just with a limited menu. She really helped me through the recovery. I was back three weeks after the accident, but I still live with chronic pain.”

“As a society, we’re kind of sick and don’t really care about the preventive side when it comes to health. People are starting to notice that, and that awakening is needed.”

“It’s definitely not a cure-all but, depending on other foods you ingest, it can aid your digestion pretty quickly. For a category to grow as much as it has, it’s pretty phenomenal.”

“[Washington University] called me recently out of the blue, and now we’re on tap at the cafe in their library. That’s a big move for us. Kaldi’s [Coffee] basically got made that way.”

Lauren Healey is associated editor at Sauce Magazine.