Local veteran honors fallens comrades through coffee shop business

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WEBTali Burton with Honor Plaque.jpg

Tali Burton is a Marine. He departed active duty and has served as a reservist since 2011.

“I plan to keep doing this until it’s not fun anymore,” Burton said during a Veterans Day weekend interview. Burton is further a coffee shop entrepreneur, and how he came to this place in life is a touching story of friendship, remembrance and service.

Tali Burton is a Marine. He departed active duty and has served as a reservist since 2011.

“I plan to keep doing this until it’s not fun anymore,” Burton said during a Veterans Day weekend interview. Burton is further a coffee shop entrepreneur, and how he came to this place in life is a touching story of friendship, remembrance and service.

“Every assignment I had in the Marine Corps was fulfilling,” Burton said. As a reservist, Burton assists with transitional and similar support services for fellow Marines. “I really enjoy what I’m doing now.”

Burton attended the Naval Academy from 1997 on, and eventually landed in Oceanside after graduation. Burton’s assignment was as a helicopter pilot flying combat support, in particular, flying Hueys. He began rooming with another pilot in his unit who flew Cobras, Kevin Kryst.

“Kevin was a big coffee guy,” Burton said.

Kryst made delicious coffee every morning, grinding beans and experimenting with coffee flavorings, extracts and syrups. Kryst often spoke of his dream of opening coffee shops, and he and Burton became fast friends, making preliminary plans to work the coffee shop business together.

Without knowing beforehand – the marines ended up proposing to their respective girlfriends on the very same day, announcing their engagements almost simultaneously and greatly surprising each other.

But Kevin Kryst was killed in action in Iraq on Dec. 18, 2006.

“He was the first casualty our unit took,” Burton said, noting that he and his comrades lost “a few more” afterward.

Burton ultimatelydecided to follow through on the coffee business plans. He partnered with national coffee shop chain Dunkin’. Burton’s first store was at Balboa Naval Hospital, opened on Dec. 27, 2014. Burton organized his business, himself as majority partner and with two other partners. He determined he would honor a specific fallen military service member at each coffee shop.

And, of course, his business expansionacknowledged his friend and inspiration for the efforts. The Burton partnership Camp Pendleton Dunkin’ store was dedicated to Kevin Kryst, whose parents journeyed from Wisconsin for the opening.

“It’s about time Kevin opened a coffee shop,” the Kryst parents said of the 2017 event.

All told, Burton now has 11 Dunkin’ stores in his territory. On the one-year anniversary of opening each coffee shop, the store is dedicated to honoring the memory of a fallen veteran. On that veteran’s birthday each year, the shop donates 10 percent of the day’s proceeds to a charity chosen by that service member’s family.

Burton asked to schedule the Veterans Day weekend interview at the Downtown San Diego Dunkin’, which is dedicated to 1st Lt. Robert Kelly. Kelly’s wife works with the Travis Mannion Foundation, which was her choice for designated recipient of birthday proceeds in memory of her late husband. Burton stated that he has tapped the foundation to select honor recipients, focusing on fallen veterans with significant ties to the local community surrounding the coffee shop. The selection is made about six months after opening.

“The honorees are a symbol of everyone before and currently serving,” Burton said.

Burton further discussed the difficulties and opportunities awaiting military veterans transitioning into civilian business roles.

“The challenge is knowing what we don’t know,” Burton said. He offered that the number one consideration for veterans is the need for a mentor knowledgeable in the ways of business as a guide to success.

Burton’s partnership group renovated and reopened the Lemon Grove Bakery around two years ago. His most recent shop opened in El Cajon in August 2018. He is looking to expand and build 30 stores. Dunkin’ corporate national services cover marketing, recipes and training modules. Burton described the operation as close to a plug and play system.

“My whole goal with the plaques and stores is to remember those risking their lives even in peace. It is important to not lose sight of that,” Burton said. “At the end of the day, we are trying to do what we can to help veterans. We are seeking to make half our workforce veterans. And whenever we find a veteran or veteran family in need, we will try to help.”

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