This time ten years ago, I was a sophomore journalism major at Western Kentucky University. I spent my days in class, my nights frequenting a dim, smoky little coffeeshop on Main Avenue called The Java House. It was the stereotypical hippy sort of hangout — chess games, cigarette smoke, old frayed sofas and lots of angst-ridden amateur philosophy. I didn’t know anything about coffee at the time, but I did know this: aside from the café section at Barnes & Noble, it was the only coffeeshop in Bowling Green, and since I wasn’t into the bar scene, it’s where I spent my time.
Sometime midsummer of 2001, a cool young couple named Jeff and Tara Leake opened a new coffeeshop, just around the corner from the Java House. They named it after their infant son, and Spencer’s Coffeehouse was born. I soon became a regular, and friends with the Leakes, and in early 2005, my wife, Shelley, and I bought their little business.
I never envisioned it would become so big, both in my life and in the life of our community.
Back then, Spencer’s was a 7a-5p joint, with later hours on Friday and Saturday, and closed on Sunday. Today, Spencer’s is open for more than 100 hours each week. We’ve expanded our menu, added seats, and in 2010 our annual sales were more than double what they were in 2005.
Most significantly, however, we’ve educated hundreds of self-proclaimed coffee lovers on what a great cup of coffee actually tastes like — and how to replicate it at home. For nearly a decade, we’ve been Bowling Green’s only consistent source of fair-trade, organic, freshly roasted coffee and expertly crafted espresso drinks, and that’s a valuable thing. Because even though coffee’s a luxury, it’s an affordable one — a performance-enhancing, conversation-starting, taste-pleasing luxury in a class by itself.
We’re not perfect; we probably never will be. But we’re aiming for the stars, and making things better one step at a time. In 2011, that means more staff (for better service), an increased focus on the environment (compostable to-go containers, for one, and renovations that utilize sustainable materials, such as the bamboo counters we’ll be installing next week), more education on coffee and the people who grow it… and we’ve got a few other tricks up our sleeve too, but we’ll save those for another time.
So, thanks for making us who we are. It’s been a blast so far, and we can’t wait to see what the next decade brings.
Justin (for Spencer’s)