For Roasters & Retailers

Central Ohio coffee scene growing in waves

Coffee is a hot business across America these days and Columbus has certainly carved out a strong following of the brewed bean.

One indication of such growth is the number of locally and independently-owned coffee shops on the Columbus Coffee Trail organized by Experience Columbus.

The trail started out with about eight shops in September 2014 and has grown to more than more than 15, said Kenny Sipes, the founder of The Roosevelt Coffeehouse on Long Street in downtown Columbus.

Using one analogy, most of the trail’s businesses are part of the third wave of coffee shops that focus on appreciation, he said.

It follows the second wave which was Starbucks and similar chains that focused on enjoyment and the first wave’s focus the straight consumption of caffeine from convenience stores.

“It’s taking coffee to a level of art and personal-handcrafting coffee, much like a brewery,” Sipes said. “It’s about exploring coffee.”

Other coffee shops on the trail include Boston Stoker in Victorian Village; Fox in the Snow Cafe in Italian Village; and Pistacia Vera in German Village.

Coffee shops such as Roosevelt and Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op on West Broad Street take it a step further by incorporating one or more social causes into their operations.

For instance, customers who buy products from Bottoms Up have a portion of their purchases go towards fighting infant mortality in the Franklinton area.

And the Roosevelt operates as a nonprofit organization. It splits a portion of the tips between the baristas and partnered organizations of social causes on top of donations.

Since its inception, Sipes’ coffeehouse has donated about $80,000 towards fighting human trafficking, unclean water and hunger as of last month.

“We make coffee to save lives,” said Sipes, who worked in youth ministry for a decade. Inspired by the coffee scene in Nashville, Sipes started the groundwork inviting people to his home to try out different coffee brands through social media.

Sipes’ shop wasn’t open when it was placed on the coffee trail in 2014. But he did pop-up shops at the location to increase interest and awareness of their opening in April 2015.

The now 2,000-square-foot coffeehouse was moderately busy on a typical Monday in March serving coffee from Portland, Ore.-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters and One Line Coffee roaster, another shop on the local coffee trail in the Short North. It employs 14 people with four of them working full time.

“It’s been a good journey,” Sipes said.

He plans to start roasting their own coffee in the future and open a second location in central Ohio, although further details were not available.

Coffee enthusiasts can also go off the Columbus’ coffee trail at coffee shops such as Kafe Kerouac near The Ohio State University’s main campus.

Mike Heslop, an Ohio State alumnus, started the coffeehouse 14 years ago in response to the campus’ areas lack of a coffee scene.

He said the coffee scene has evolved since the 1960s, which left the void in the 1990s that Starbucks would later filled. Heslop said the chain has helped persuaded consumers to pay more for coffee.

But independent coffeehouses have to present something different to the consumer to stay competitive, he said.

“They have to find their identity,” he said.

Heslop, who studied English at Ohio State, was able to find the identity of his coffeehouse. He named it after 20th century American novelist Jack Kerouac. He also names other beverages after notable writers such as Toni Morrison. The owner also secured a liquor permit to provide liquer-based coffee products making the coffeehouse more similar to European coffeehouses.

Additionally, Heslop hosts different events each night with poetry nights, musical open mics and beer and wine tastings. The owner also has a business partner who handles the inventory of the record and bookstore that offers rare findings.

“I wanted to create a cool space that people can enjoy,” Heslop said.

 

By BRANDON KLEIN

(Columbus Daily Reporter)

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