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News: Rohs Street Cafe Book Sale

A coffeehouse with a mission

By Heather Siladi · March 8th, 2006 · News
The Rohs Street Café's book sale extravaganza this Friday and Saturday is an opportunity to find great deals and contribute to programs that serve the community.

Thanks to a massive donation from the Pilgrim's Place Bookstore, the sale consists of the 8,000 to 9,000 books for which the cafe doesn't have shelf space. In addition to a 20 percent discount off every book, there will also be $1 book tables.

Rohs Street Cafe is a different kind of coffeehouse. If you've ever packed yourself into a crowded Starbucks and tried to order a cup of coffee in broken Italian over canned Jazz, then you'll instantly appreciate the atmosphere at Rohs Street. This non-profit coffeehouse is relaxed and spacious, the coffee is robust and three nights a week the music is live.

Rohs Street is a coffeehouse on a mission. Opened in 2003, it operates on five main principles.

The first principle is providing a gathering space. Many community groups, police organizations, classes from the University of Cincinnati and area improvement associations take advantage of the quiet, comfortable space.

The second goal is to provide a venue for local artists and musicians. The cafe has a good sound system and low cover charges for performances. Musicians can perform without struggling to be heard over the din of a crowded bar.

Many up-and-coming musicians have a small but solid local fan base, and the availability of adequate and affordable venues is vital to their success.

The third concern is honorable business practices. Rohs Street serves organic, Fair Trade coffee from Chuckroast Coffee Co., a local master coffee roaster. Fair Trade-certified products are guaranteed to provide coffee growers with fair market prices for their crops. With coffee prices at an all time high, many of the people who grow it live in poverty.

The quality of Fair Trade certified coffee has greatly improved in the past eight years, according to Les Stoneham, manager of the cafe. Through partnerships with farmer co-ops, Fair Trade has managed to even the playing field for small farmers by offering micro loans, providing access to top-level production equipment, allowing access to international markets and monitoring labor practices. Places such as Rohs Street Cafe can now offer premium Fair Trade coffee at reasonable prices.

The café's fourth principle is to be profitable. Although 100 percent of the profits are invested in the community, being a successful business is important.

"We want to establish a precedence that we can run a successful business that is just and responsible," says Stoneham.

The fifth goal is to be a bridge between University Christian Church and the community.

"We want the community to have access to the resources that the church offers," Stoneham says.

One of the groups the cafe has partnered with is the Foster Child Enrichment Council, which raises money to provide foster children with clothes, school supplies, college scholarships and other resources that the state doesn't provide. The cafe also put on a benefit for orphans of the 2004 Tsunami, which raised $2,000.

On May 14 the cafe will host Shane Claiborne, a peace activist and author of The Irresistible Revolution. Claiborne is a founding member of the Simple Way, and promotes many of the principles on which Rohs Street Cafe was founded, including peace, justice and inner-city life.

Rohs Street Cafe is near the corner of McMillan Avenue and Rohs Street, next to UC. The book sale is from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday. Most of the books reflect the principles of the cafe. The selection includes books on art and music, political science, peace and justice, environmental studies and faith and culture. ©



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