The “newest” coffee roaster in Columbus opened more than 25 years ago.
Last month, Stauf’s opened two new locations – a sudden and surprising expansion from the local roastery, which started in Grandview in 1988.
Stauf’s merged with Cup O’ Joe in 2000, with Stauf’s growing predominantly into a wholesale roaster and Cup O’ Joe driving the retail presence. Mark Swanson, president of Stauf’s, said the reason for the Stauf’s expansion now is the opportunity to roast in the shops.
“If you think about all of the great folks at the North Market and the exceptional quality of the shops and restaurants in German Village, roasting on-site was critical to make sure we had the freshest possible coffee and the best experience,” Swanson said.
Small-batch coffee roasting is no small feat. Tom Griesemer, the company’s founder and the first coffee roaster in Columbus, would know.
“The quality of the beans and talent of the person roasting them are crucial, but so is the roaster itself,” Griesemer said. “It took us months to secure our two new roasters.”
The roasters are built in Germany, and Stauf’s scored the last two roasters of the type available in the country. Probat, a company that’s been making coffee roasters since 1868, only builds so many a year. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
“We were lucky to get the last two, or the expansion could have been postponed another year. Just like roasting, timing is everything,” Griesemer said.
Though greeted by the familiar Stauf’s logo, regulars from the Grandview coffee shop will find the look and feel of the new locations unexpected. Guests are greeted by slate gray millwork and natural wood tones punctuated by pops of red at both locations. The earthy aroma of beans and brewing leaves just enough room for the hint of scones and sweet rolls from the kitchen in German Village.
Stauf’s retains local relationships for sourcing ingredients and edibles from many area entrepreneurs and start-up shops, but there is a renewed emphasis on baking in-house as well – for both Stauf’s and Cup O’ Joe.
“Each store will be responsive in their offerings, with Grandview and German Village baking for their own needs, and the rest of the stores,” Swanson said. “Blueberry muffins are always our number one seller at every location, but two, three and four are quite different. We see the same in coffee sales; our goal is to focus on each community.”
With three Stauf’s locations and three Cup O’ Joes (Clintonville, Lennox, and Downtown) serving faithful foot traffic and commuter connoisseurs, it’s easy to forget the original Grandview store was once the only place in Columbus where coffee didn’t come out of a can. According to Griesemer, Columbus didn’t have any good coffee when he first moved to the area, with only two coffee shops, both serving coffee shipped out of New York.
“There was no selection to speak of and what was there already tasted old,” said Griesemer.
As a transplant from University of California, Davis, Griesemer was well-versed in the growing California coffee culture, ultimately turning around one of those local shops by introducing fresh-roasted coffee to the Columbus market. But when his offer to buy the business he helped build was rejected, he decided to put his experience in the restaurant industry to work for himself. Stauf’s Coffee Roasters opened two months later, with a lot of long hours and late nights.
“Tom started in a sleepy little strip mall in Grandview in just 800 square feet,” Swanson said.
“I used to say I worked the ‘B-shift,’” Griesemer said. “I had to be there when we opened and be there when we closed. We even built the furniture ourselves at night in OSU’s theater department.”
Griesemer’s lean operational insights and initiatives paid off. Stauf’s was profitable in just two month’s time, and the original location has since expanded its space more than four-fold. That same commitment to customers and community still shines decades later.
“Being a smaller company allows us to be more flexible. Each store can have similarities and differences,” Swanson explained. “Grandview grew organically, so we’re not going to drop a ‘widget’ into another location and expect it to be the same.”
“No matter how great our coffee is, our guests are partners in the experience,” Swanson said. “Everyone who works for Stauf’s – we were all customers first.”
Read more about the evolution of the Columbus coffee culture in the third volume of Stock & Barrel, (614)’s new quarterly food and drink publication, out mid-December.