Downtown Business Thrives When Powered by Caffeine and Hard Work.

By R. Justin Shepherd, FoodCoffeeLife.com,
Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 10:00 AM CST

The Following is from ‘Spencer’s Coffeehouse’ owner Justin Shepherd. We love guests writers. Mainly because we’re lazy:

Six years ago, when my wife and I took over operations of what was then called Spencer’s Coffee House on the Square, we thought we were going to be living the dream — drinking fancy coffee, hanging out in the coolest place in Bowling Green, and getting rich (or at least well-off) in the process.

Turns out, selling coffee for a living isn’t easy, and it’s certainly not relaxing. It took me about four years to get a handle on the business, during which time we had two boys, racked up quite a lot of debt, and lost a lot of sleep (mostly the boys’ fault). Then, sometime in 2009, we turned the corner. I credit the years of trial-and-error that eventually built a top-notch team of baristas; a more intense focus on product quality, starting from the coffee and dripping (pardon the pun) throughout the rest of the shop; and a customer base that is beyond comparison — loyal, humble, and as excited about us as we are about them. If you’re among them, THANK YOU.

Who doesn’t miss those weird red lights around the windows?

Here’s just a partial list of what’s changed in six years: We brew coffee about 1.5 gallons at a time, as opposed to about half that (or you can get your cup custom-brewed, but more on that in coming weeks); our espresso and espresso-based drinks are now on par with the best shops in Louisville and Nashville; we’ve adapted our food menu to feature hand-sliced meats and cheeses, as well as Bowling Green’s best quick-serve breakfast sandwiches (have you tried the Sicilian?); we’ve expanded our seating from an original capacity of 26 to about 40 today (and we have about 10 seats left to go); and we’ve streamlined operations, simplified our menu and brightened up the space — all while expanding our hours by nearly 50% and more than doubling the payroll / manhours of 2005-era Spencer’s.

Oh, and we smushed “Coffee House” into one word, “Coffeehouse,” of which I’m particularly proud. Of course, we haven’t gotten rich — but hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Probably 50 percent of all our sales go through the espresso machine, so it’s critical that we use one that works well. And while the Argenta — a standard site at smaller cafés around the country — has performed admirably, she’s a little worn out; what’s more, we simply feel our region deserves the very best coffee and espresso to be found, and our well-trained baristas are itching at the chance to go from Cutlass to Cadillac, so to speak. (Actually, it’ll be more like a Ferrari — built with pride in Italy, and boasting modern, sleek styling.)

So be on the lookout, and get your taste buds ready. Because even though we’ve changed a lot in six years, we’ve still got a ways to go… and if recent history’s any indication, it should be a pretty delicious trip.

But back to the positives. We just finished renovation of our main service area — replacing a worn-out, poorly designed plywood-and-formica surface with a custom-built, beautiful (and renewable) bamboo design — and are installing a stainless-steel, fully-refrigerated workspace behind the baristas this weekend. But most exciting for the discerning drinker is what’s next on tap: an appreciative goodbye to our tried-and-true Astoria Argenta espresso machine, and an ecstatic hello to a stabler, more ergonomic and technologically advanced machine.

Originally written for www.foodcoffeelife.com


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