They have been talking about it since they were 15 years old. Now, about 15 years later, all it took was an evening stroll through some back alleys on the way to The Famous Neons Unplugged in Over-the-Rhine to stumble across the perfect spot for their new start-up, Collective Espresso.
Owners Dave Hart and Dustin Miller had always dreamed of opening a coffee shop together. Lifelong friends and Ohio natives, the two spent a few years on separate journeys living in and being inspired by different states along the West Coast and working in multiple restaurants and cafes along the way.
"We kind of just moved to Cincinnati with the plan that we would figure it out," Hart explained nonchalantly as he reached for a cup and saucer behind the bar. Cold November rain fell outside during our interview, but the coffee and conversation warmed the already cozy shop as I sat comfortably on a stool that Hart and Miller hand-made, at the rustic bar that they crafted out of an old barn door. Just like the simplicity of the shop's design, Miller explained that it's their goal to very simply, "make great coffee taste great."
"There are a lot of great natural things happening in this coffee," Miller explained, joining Hart behind the bar.
The shop, on the brink of opening, will mainly serve Deeper Roots Coffee — which is local — and Quills Coffee from Louisville, Ky. However, since they have a multiple roaster format, they are excited that they have the freedom to serve anything that piques their interest.
I watched in awe as the duo made the perfect cup of coffee through a process known as the drip method. This procedure takes about two and a half minutes and is performed through several steps in a homemade set-up resembling a science lab experiment.
"Each cup of coffee is made-to-order," Hart explained as he smelled the complex aroma from the coffee. "We don't want to be so slow that it's frustrating to get a cup of coffee here, but we like the idea of people being able to chill out for a few minutes and have a real coffee experience."
There are many ways to get your caffeine fix at Collective Espresso including espresso, macchiatos, cortado, cappuccino, lattes and mochas. The average price for a drink is $2.50-$3.50.
Although they recognized some great coffee shops that Cincinnati already has to offer, Hart explained that they thought the Cincinnati coffeehouse scene was missing something — Collective Espresso. With seating arranged in a bar-like fashion, the shop provides a welcoming atmosphere to stop in, have a cup of coffee over the daily news (CityBeat, of course) and meet or catch up with neighbors.
"If people are as dorky about coffee as we are, we also want to be a place where people can explore different brew methods and learn about different coffees," Miller added.
Just as the perfect cup of coffee takes time, the finishing touches are being put on Collective Espresso. The shop, located at 207 Woodward St., (off Main Street) is expected to open very soon.