Seeing her coffee camper featured on the Peacock series “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” is a wild and surreal experience, Wild Way Coffee owner Christine Clutton shared.
On top of offering a caffeine boost for the production crew of the series — which debuted at the end of April on NBC’s streaming platform — the mobile coffee shop provided a backdrop for the hosts’ fika — what the Swedish call a coffee break with friends — as they discussed the reality TV show participants’ journey.
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“I just watched an episode last night and I turned on Peacock, went to press play, and a picture of my camper with the hosts in front of it was the main image you see before you click play,” explained Clutton, who opened her Wild Way camper in spring 2018. “I just looked at my husband and I was like, ‘I still can’t believe that happened. I still can’t believe I’m on Peacock and I’m looking at my camper.’”
“I never thought I’d have that experience,” she continued. “So getting to see something that I built — with the help of my father, with the help of my husband, with the help of an incredible carpenter here in town — that we painstakingly put together, show up on a TV screen was just a really rewarding experience.”
Clutton is used to positioning her Wild Way camper at parks — during weekends this spring you can find her at Brookside Park along the Trolley Trail; her Crossroads warehouse, where she parks the camper inside and hosts pop ups during the winter; and events, like weddings, corporate events, office parties, and farmers markets.
The Peacock series provided much more of a parking challenge. For about two months over last summer, she set up her coffee camper wherever they needed it — the participants’ house, a storage unit, even a trash dump.
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“I have gained validation that I can park this camper in the weirdest and hardest to park locations, and I’m badass at it,” she explained. “They had me park in the craziest situations in the hardest way. Backing up a camper is tricky enough. But then to ask me to squeeze in between two trash piles inside of a trash facility, it was just wild. I’m really proud of the fact that I was able to do everything they requested of me in terms of making it the exact angle, so the light would hit at the perfect spot and all these different things.”
From executive producer Amy Poehler, the show features individuals recovering from trauma as they embark on the process of “Swedish death cleaning” — in other words, cleaning out their possessions so that loved ones aren’t forced to complete the cumbersome task after they die.
“I love watching it back because I just saw the snippets,” Clutter said. “I didn’t see the full thing in fruition, and so looking back at it now, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s what they meant when they were saying, this is the part where we really get into this. And it’s really beautiful to watch the way the hosts all interact with the hero and help them on their individual journey.”
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The show, she noted, is also helping her to realize that talking about death shouldn’t be a scary thing.
“I think American culture very much leans toward: if it’s hard, don’t talk about it, or if it’s tricky, emotionally, maybe just leave it be,” she explained. “And what I loved about the death cleaners is they were like, ‘This is a purely American thing, In our country, we talk about death openly.’ So I think it aligns with some really good, thought-provoking conversations about what it means to be honest with people and to not be afraid to have the hard conversations.”
Her own hero’s journey
At the beginning of 2022, Clutton shared, the production company — which had contacts in Kansas City from filming “Queer Eye” a few years ago in the metro — reached out to her about being a part of the series. Although she was a bit skeptical of whether it was a legit request at first, she’s now glad she emailed back.
“‘We’re thinking like a coffee trailer but calling it a fika experience,’” she explained of the concept they approached her with. “Because fika in Swedish, it means like coffee break. It’s almost like a coffee experience more than it is just the physical act of drinking a coffee. It’s more of the community aspect around it, as well.”
She said the hosts would sit in front of the camper, under her umbrella, on a yellow table and chairs set — that they gave her after the show — and talk and drink their coffee, which sometimes was just water.
“Sometimes it was too hot to drink coffee or we were in the middle of a trash dump,” she added. “I wasn’t going to make coffee in the middle of a trash dump. And then they would talk about whatever they were needing to process about the hero’s journey and what they were gonna do next.”
Throughout the experience, Clutton shared that she enjoyed getting to know the 20 or so crew members and their coffee orders.
“I had such a good time with them the whole summer,” she added. “I loved the days I got scheduled to go because they were so fun. There were good people who ran it.”