Bill Schaffler joined Ascension Coffee as President in 2019 and has held multiple leadership roles throughout his 20+ year career in restaurants and retail.
Bill entered the industry at Carlson Restaurants Worldwide as a Manager, then Director of Financial Analysis and Planning from 1997 to 2002. From 2002 to 2007, he served as V.P. of Finance and then Chief Financial Officer for La Madeleine French Bakery and Cafe. In 2007, Bill recognized a need for stronger insights into operating performance for the industry and was a Founder and Partner in all efforts to create and launch Black Box Intelligence. Serving as the organization’s first President, Bill’s work helped move Black Box Intelligence from an idea to today’s industry standard for restaurant operators seeking to achieve best-in-class performance results. Immediately prior to joining Ascension, Bill was the Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer for Nothing Bundt Cakes Franchising Company.
Bill volunteers on the Board of Directors for the Notre Dame School of Dallas, educating students with developmental disabilities and facilitating their integration into society, and on the Board of Directors of the HALO initiative, a nonprofit organization that brings together business and community leaders in support of Catholic Education in the Dallas area.
Mr. Schaffler holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Notre Dame, an MBA from Southern Methodist University and is a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Texas.
Jessica Keenan joined Ascension Coffee as Managing Director of Ascension Coffee Roasters in 2021.
Jessica spent her childhood traveling and living, primarily, in Southeast Asia, awakening a deep interest in culture and food customs. Jessica holds a B.A.A.S. from UNT with a focus on Cultural Anthropology and Volunteer Management. Jessica has spent her career working with coffee and specialty foods across the United States. Jessica joined the Ascension team from Allegro Coffee, a subsidiary of Whole Foods Market, where she spent thirteen years, most recently serving as Allegro Coffee’s Director of Sales. Travelling to coffee farms around the globe affirmed her dedication to supply chain sustainability; from ensuring future job and food security for coffee producing partners to living wages for baristas. “As consumer awareness around specialty coffee increases, we have a unique opportunity to connect communities of producing partners directly with our own, validating the interdependence of the human experience and creating investment in a shared future.”
A certified Q Arabica Grader, Jessica oversees green coffee purchases for
Ascension as well as managing the coffee roasting division of the organization. With the Ascension brand, Jessica is thrilled to be a part of something special in the North Texas market and have a direct impact on a locally based organization known for a deep commitment to quality.
Jessica and her husband Jason live in Fort Worth with their two children, three dogs, and a cat.
Alex Jacob joined Ascension Coffee Roasters in 2019. In his time at Ascension, he has focused his efforts on roasting, sourcing, and the international trade of coffee. Starting as an apprentice under the guidance of Russell Hayward, the founder of Ascension, Alex was able to achieve the title of Head Roaster. He assists in all formulations, roasts and cuppings as the organization continuously improves its quality and our love of the bean. Alex is instrumental in daily coffee operations and equitable, sustainable green coffee sourcing.
Prior to joining Ascension, Alex Jacob attended Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center where he earned master’s degrees in Public Health and Public Administration. His insatiable interest in the coffee industry led him to accept a position at Gold Stripe Coffee Roasters in Lubbock. Alex educated customers on coffee while honing his service and barista skills. His background in biochemistry quickly took him to Gold Stripe’s Roastery where he learned the complexities of roasting, which include brewing, flavor, and development. Alex’s time at Gold Stripe grew his love for coffee culture and its ability to impact lives. His passion continues with Ascension Coffee Roasters today.
Jason Connelly joined Ascension Coffee as Director of Culinary and Executive Chef in 2021, after serving as the Executive Sous then Executive Chef of the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas.
Jason’s culinary journey began at the Renaissance Marriott Hotel in downtown Baltimore. He quickly rose through positions; from cook to lead cook, supervisor to assistant sous chef and then sous chef. Promoted to the J.W. Marriott Marquis in Orlando, Jason led teams catering events with up to 2,000 guests spanning all day parts. As the Executive Chef at Sea Level Restaurant & Ocean Bar (Ft Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa), Jason sourced local ingredients and cultivated his own herb gardens to highlight on his chalk board. Prior to completing his 16-year career with Marriott, he was responsible for seven restaurants on property at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge in Arizona.
Jason is a proud native of Chester, Pennsylvania and was raised in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. He received his education in Culinary Arts at Baltimore International Culinary College.
Ken Zack joined Ascension Coffee as Managing Director of Operations in 2021.
His career in hospitality began after serving four years in the United States Air Force. He immediately joined TGI Friday’s and progressively worked his way up from a Manger in Training to Kitchen Manager, then General Manager to Director of Operations. While with TGI Friday’s, Ken earned
back-to-back honors as the company’s Director of Operations of the Year, as well as a prestigious Carlson Companies Fellow award. Becoming a restaurant entrepreneur, Ken joined Mash'd Craft Cocktails and Scratch Kitchen in 2014. As the Operating Partner, Ken led the concept through many successful restaurant openings in his time there. His path led him back to TGI Friday’s as Head of Operations for a large franchisee operating 25 locations. Prior to joining Ascension, Ken was the Senior Director of Operations for ClubCorp. In this role, he was responsible for 63 million in Food and Beverage revenue for 2 country clubs.
Ken and his wife Katie enjoy spending time with family, attending sporting events and participating in triathlons, and playing with their three dogs: Rudder, Zeke, and Scarlet.
Ryan Russo joined Ascension Coffee as Director of Training and Development in 2021.
Ryan started in the hospitality industry in 2009 with Grand Lux Café, where he served as Lead Trainer and a New Restaurant Opening Trainer for 5 years. He then joined TGI Fridays as a Manager in their Flagship restaurant in 2014 and worked his way up through the restaurant serving as Bar Manager, Kitchen Manager, and General Manager.
In 2017, Ryan joined the corporate side of TGI Friday’s business, where he gained experience and led several departments including: Operations Services, Learning & Development, and Beverage Operations and Marketing. Ryan has been blessed with opportunities to teach workshops on culture and hospitality on 4 continents, and most recently led the TGI Fridays Global Training & Communications Team.
Ryan and husband Benjamin live in Arlington with their two dogs and precious cats.