Sunday, March 16, 2014

@ Tree City Coffee in Kent

Don't you hate when you drive to your favorite neighborhood coffee shop for a cup of coffee and a couple hours of work, spend more than five minutes browsing around for free parking, and arrive only to find every table is taken because everyone and their moms had the same idea today?

When Kelli told me she reads my blog often, 
I literally squealed.  #theotherwhitemeat 
This unfortunate circumstance does not manifest itself often, but when it does, it's usually at Tree City Coffee in Kent. The Downtown Kent coffee shop and bakery opened during my second last semester as a Kent State University student and unless most students were home for break, I was never certain that I would find space to work unless I actually looked inside.

Tree City isn't the only coffee shop at my alma mater. There's a Starbucks inside a feigned indie-style two-story building on the north side of campus, as well as long-time coffee shop named Scribbles and roaster Bent Tree Coffee on North Water Street. Recently, a two-story, surprisingly-indie-looking Dunkin Donuts was erected a few hundred feet from the Starbucks along East Main Street. I know from experience that the Starbucks and Scribbles have a strong, loyal customer-base, having visited both of them myself. Tree City at 135 E. Eerie St., however, breaks from the rest as possibly the coffee shop everyone thinks of when they talk about Downtown Kent.

I was not surprised at all when my friend Kelli Fitzpatrick, a soon-to-be graduate in journalism, voted to meet up at Tree City Saturday, March 8, for a catch-up talk and general chit-chat. (And to remind her that she needs to form a Northeast Ohio bucket list before she moves to the coastal for journalism jobs.)

Often, I'm forced to sit at the bar because the coffee shop is
so packed.
Location: Part of the reason I wanted to make the 50-minute commute down to Kent that day was to see how Downtown Kent has changed in the few months since I last visited. Despite the college town's plethora of historic buildings, I think it is rather indisputable to say Kent is one of the most gentrified places I've visited in my life. When I started college at Kent State in late 2008, all I wanted to do was stay on campus because there wasn't anything to draw me outside the student center, or university common areas. By the time I moved from Kent to Euclid in February 2013, Downtown Kent had pretty much grown into the university's biggest selling point toward new college students. I remember many of my peers grumbling at how they wish they enrolled one or two years later to watch its burgeoning downtown.

Tree City was built during this major revitalization effort inside a multipurpose, commercial annex, Acorn Alley. (Nowadays, I don't think many people know which buildings belong to which development. I do because I was reporting on the developments for the student newspaper.)

I arrived at Tree City 30 minutes early and I originally meant
to save Kelli half of my doughnut, but my will power was
not strong enough.
One of the consequences of all of the development is the desperate need of parking it created. Luckily, the city and local transit system built a three-story parking and bus garage with federal grant money to accommodate the higher traffic. Problem is, the parking comes with a fee, and college students as we all know don't like that.

Food and Beverage: When it comes to places like Tree City, I can't just simply buy coffee. I am always eager to try a new brownie, cookie or cheesecake inside their display shelves below the counter. Saturday's visit was no different. My eyes quickly closed in on the doughnut layered with cream and caramel drizzle. (The barista told me the name of the doughnut, but I quickly forgot it. He also said the baker tries out new doughnut flavors and designs each week.) Together with my 20-ounce coffee, I spent $5 and change.

Yes, that's steel wiring connecting the fireplace to the
ceiling. Groundbreaking, I know.
In addition to the sugar and caffeine, Tree City also offers breakfast sandwiches, hot oatmeal, toasted bagels, biscuits and peanut butter sandwiches--with their own naturally made peanut butter.

Space and Atmosphere: Given that the team of owners at Tree City did research on what students desired in a coffee shop, it should come to no surprise that it has electrical outlets for almost every seat. And almost every time I visit, I see more than half of the crowd with a cup of coffee and a laptop.

Saturday was no different. The interior of Tree City hadn't changed much at all since when I remembered it as a student. It has a fireplace in the middle, a garage-lift window on one side of the door for summer weather, and exposed vents along the ceiling.

Very cool. I would love to see more of this at neighborhood
coffee shops.
It's metallic-themed space has all of the important features covered. What I appreciate the most, however, is the piece of art mounted above the bar area. It's a road map of the Kent area weaved in with the Tree City insignia. It reminds me of how Kent has evolved over the last few years.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

1 comment:

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