Photo by Collins Laatsch

Compassionate Coffee

When I am running around town, trailing a group of young writers with me like so many creative mines, I am always looking for a quiet place for us to settle and let their ideas explode on the page. Preferably locally owned, preferably welcoming to teenagers, and preferably selling excellent coffee and eats. Our last outing was to Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op in Franklinton. Pulling up to the shop at the corner of W. Broad St. and S. Cypress, a mural of houses toppled on their sides stands out against the blue sky and brick architecture. By artist Carlos Roa, the black-and-white work pays homage to the Great Flood of 1913 which took the lives of close to 100 people on the near West Side, as well as swept away many homes and businesses. With computers, tablets, and actual pen and paper in hand, we were delighted to find a charming staff, a watch-the-world-go-by window, a stripped-down aesthetic of wood, with white chairs and walls, and a bright blue door broadcasting a ‘come on in’ vibe.  The coffee, sourced from Brioso, was hot and rich with flavor. I fell in coffee love with the Leche y Leche, a drink from the Canary Islands that is sweet with condensed milk. Served in a glass mug, the layers of evaporated milk, espresso, and whole milk are mesmerizing to look at and even better to drink. House made empanadas, served warm, are a delicious change from the mundane muffin. Settling in, it was time to start noticing details, like the old-timey photograph hanging on the wall that shows the startling true-life scene Roa’s mural was based upon. Like the co-op working/meeting space behind the shutter room divider. Like the tally on the blackboard celebrating monies donated to the Diaper Gap Fund. Like the flyer shelf that shouts out community building events and the one that informs about community health providers.

This is not just a caffeine joint; this place is about more than just coffee.

Based on the belief that neighborhoods grow stronger and more connected through community economic development, Bottoms Up owners, Venezuelan sisters Victoria Calderon and Virginia Nunes, are selling caffeine with a side of compassion. The Franklinton shop pays forward its proceeds towards supporting local moms and ending the infant mortality rate in Columbus. Women helping women. If I really want to push a metaphor here, I could go with infant mortality being the modern version of the Great Flood. Two-to-three babies die before their first birthday each week in Franklin County. Ohio itself has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country, ranking 45th nationally in 2014. And just as heroes and heroines emerged during the flood to not only save people, but to shelter and support them, the Nunes sisters are heroines of today.

And all of us who run in for a cup of coffee or a melty ham-and-cheese empanada become a part of this commitment too. Not bad for an early morning’s writing trip.

Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op is located at 1069 W. Broad St. Visit their facebook page to learn about upcoming events, such as poetry readings. For details on the co-working space, go to