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When you first step into Deeper Roots Coffee at Cincinnati’s Findlay Market, the first thing you notice is that the space is comfortable. Like, home kitchen–level comfort. Many cafes have a delineation between barista space and customer space, like a bar between them. But at Deeper Roots, the space where customers order is more of a kitchen island than a counter and connects to a large communal table.
The effect is an extremely welcoming one, and Deeper Roots, one of the city’s best specialty coffee roasters, didn’t arrive at this design by accident.
“We’re all trying to figure out what should a coffee shop be like in Cincinnati?” says Jon Lewis, head of retail for Deeper Roots. “Because there’s a bit of a blank slate, we can make it how we want it to be and see how people respond.”
Deeper Roots’ first cafe in the Oakley neighborhood of Cincinnati wasn’t in the original plans for Director of Coffee Les Stoneham. In 2011, he started sourcing green coffee direct from La Armonia Hermosa in Guatemala and roasting them in an old dairy farm in suburban Mount Healthy strictly for wholesale business. The retail arm of the company naturally grew from a need to showcase all the coffees they had on the menu at any given time.
“We have phenomenal wholesale accounts we work with but we took a look at our offerings and realized none of them would get all of our coffees at any given time,” says Ryan Doan, head of customer relations. The cafe was a way to also showcase the way Deeper Roots would prefer the coffees be served from both a brewing and hospitality standpoint.
The second retail outlet opened in October 2017 and is across Race Street from Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest public market, operating since 1855. In the market’s covered spaces, you can buy products such as vegetables, meats, spices, and many more items direct from the producers. It makes the cafe a natural fit in the neighborhood.
“The market across the street is a great example,” says Lewis. “You go to the meat guy to get your meat, your vegetables from the veggie people, and you come to the coffee people to get your coffee.”
The retail coffee wall in the cafe looks a lot like a cabinet you might see at your grandmother’s house—sturdy wood, old-style accents—but a clean gray paint job is the backdrop for their brand-new redesigned coffee packaging hanging out on the shelves. While looking for coffee, you may literally rub elbows with the barista behind the La Marzocco GB5. The machine is definitely double-take worthy as it is a custom-outfitted piece from Seattle’s Pantechnicon Design. Its matte black finish downplays the usual silver shine of the factory standard GB5, which lets the walnut portafilter handles and steam-wand knobs truly pop.
Pantechnicon also did the brass work on the cafe’s two Modbar pour-over modules. The design firm used a newer process called PVD plating, which makes the brass stronger than diamonds and won’t tarnish or rust over time.
Deeper Roots’ drip coffee is offered as a batch brew or two options for pour-overs made via the Modbar system. There’s also cold brew on tap alongside a tap for local kombucha producer Skinny Piggy. The cold case also offers local favorite Hop Water.
The comfort comes through in their signature drinks as well. Year-round specialty drinks include: Honey Bear (a latte infused with honey and cinnamon), Holy Moly (a cappuccino-size mocha with cinnamon and cayenne), and Maple Leaf (cortado-size cocktail with maple syrup and orange zest).
Around the same time of the opening of this shop, Deeper Roots also moved their roasting facility to a new space in the west end of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood with ample space to grow. They are currently using 10,000 square feet for office, training, and green coffee storage in a site that totals 45,000 square feet.
The comfy factor of the Findlay Market location shines through and will make it a bedrock for the neighborhood as the area continues to grow.
Goodrich Gevaart is a writer and standup comic living in Cincinnati. See him live or buy his album.
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