Sunday, November 30, 2014

@ Stauf's in Columbus' German Village

Hold The Coffee this week returns to the Columbus Coffee Trail... at least one of the trail stops for now. Matt and I covered the Columbus Coffee Trail in October for a News-Herald travel piece and although we saw a lot of cool places and things worth sharing in the blog, the whole trail adventure was too overwhelming to dedicate a post to each of the seven shops like I normally do.

What a good boyfriend. Matt is wearing the Cleveland
hat I bought him to stay warm!
Since Matt lives an hour away from Columbus in Mount Vernon, I plan to revisit and feature as many of those shops in a post as possible. The first revisit is Stauf's in the German Village neighborhood. Stauf's is a coffee shop and roasting company with two other locations: a vendor-size shop at Columbus' North Market and its founding shop in Grandview Heights, an inner-ring suburb. (Actually, it's hard to say Columbus even has a ring of suburbs because the city often land-locks it's neighbors with is sheer land mass.  Upon editing, Matt Googled this image to prove there was an obvious ringed structure to Columbus. "If the ring were any more obvious, Google would have conjured this image.")

On Sunday, Nov. 16, Matt and I met up with Mark Swanson, president of Stauf's, at the 627 S Third St., shop. I also had the chance to meet the owner and founder, Tom, who named the brand after his mother's maiden name.

As much as I have an unwritten policy of never telling coffee shop owners / managers that I am featuring their shop in a post, I made an exception for Mark because we bonded quite closely during my Coffee Trail reporting. (Also, you always share with a gentleman who offered us a free bacon and cheddar scone, according to Matt.) Quite fittingly, Mark was raised in Madison--the township, not village. I probably type the word Madison in my News-Herald stories more than any other noun.

Lovely space, but it was too cold to drink coffee outside.
But Mark, Matt and I blew through a lot more topics than Madison in our brunch-hour visit. I think most of the passion in our discussion was dedicated toward examining the lack of rail transit in Columbus. Not even Amtrak runs through Columbus.

Location: Stauf's German Village shop is the brand's newest location. So new, Mark told me the shop was still awaiting facade painting and signage as of that Sunday. The place's seating area also was awaiting some mounted artwork then too.

German Village is a very vibrant neighborhood filled with brick roads, brick buildings and even brick parking lots. (But their small lots, thankfully) You can walk within minutes between downtown Columbus and most places in the neighborhood, including Stauf's. Matt and I made the foot trip that Sunday to exchange a Columbus Coffee Trail T-shirt for a different size. It was a brisk walk, but we sort of risked our lives crossing the Interstate 70 overpass that divides the two neighborhoods.
Not that it is a competition, but the bacon cheddar scone
totally be the slice of banana nut bread in taste and

You can still find some ironies in the neighborhood, like the Starbucks that sits a block away from the Stauf's. What might be more ironic, however, is that the Stauf's used to stand as a Cup O'Joe and MoJo, a coffee shop and cafe eatery that Swanson's company bought 15 years ago. Stauf's still operates plenty of Cup O'Joes and MoJos around the Columbus area. They both serve Stauf's branded roastings, but there's a few differences between the coffee shops. One difference is that a Stauf's location does in-house coffee roasting. Mark said that's why the German Village location made the brand transition.

Food and Beverage: Unlike a MoJo's/Cup O'Joe combo shop, Stauf's doesn't have much of a lunch menu, unless you want to fill up on baked goods.

The plan is to eventually host bakery workshops where the
three girls are sitting.
On Sunday, Matt and I bought a slice of toasted banana-nut bread and two medium mugs of coffee for $7 and change. Later, Mark bought us a bacon-cheddar scone for a non-verbal agreement that we'll only say nice things in this blog. (Just kidding, but it would've been an effective bribe.)

Just like the coffee, the German Village shop does its baking in house. Mark told me the head baker also has plans on holding baking workshops at the shop. ( I certainly would force Matt to go on a workshop with me.)

Space and Atmosphere: A lot of the coffee shops I've visited in Columbus have had pretty remarkable spaces, but nothing has stood out more than the German Village Stauf's. It has a relatively large retail area near its barista counter, outdoor seating near the sidewalk, plenty of natural lighting, exposed brick, and plenty of indoor seating with a fireplace.  Matt enjoyed the space because it was crisp, clean and offered a warm space to read a book with quiet and few distractions.

I am not certain what all this is, but it look wholesome,
artisan-like and cool.
And that brings me to the shop's unique twist--having a hallway that separates almost all of its seating from the barista counter. I certainly like it. I often get distracted at coffee shops, and sometimes it's because I am looking at who is walking in and out. The hallway kind of adds a layer of isolation between the hustle of a coffee shop operation, and the quietness of a study room and social gathering place.

If you're looking for a nice weekend getaway, try Columbus' German village.  It coalesces (Matt's verb, not mine) urban and small town Americas very well.  Take a bus or bike from the downtown and spend the day exploring Stauf's or The Book Loft, within walking distance.

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


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