There’s something about coffee and entrepreneurship that go so well together. When the two are combined into a really good coffee shop with a unique story, it is worth noting. PEN stopped in at Springfield’s Custom Cup Coffee to visit with owners Brent and Kendra Boesdorfer and found out how they got their start over a delicious cup a coffee.
An interview with Brent Boesdorfer of Custom Cup Coffee.
What was the idea behind the name Custom Cup?
We wanted to convey the ability for each customer to have coffee custom created for them. From the roast level to the origin, we wanted our coffee to be accessible to every customer, no matter their taste preference.
How long have you been open?
We started roasting for public sales in January 2014, via our website with free local home delivery. We landed a couple local retail accounts to carry our coffee soon after launching, as well.
In May 2014, we opened a stand at the downtown farmer’s market and had a great summer of sales. The farmer’s market is where we really got a ton of exposure and a big push to open our own shop. By late summer we leased our current shop and had a commercial roaster on the way. And by Thanksgiving 2014, we were open and have been growing all aspects of our business since!
Can you talk about your journey to opening up Custom Cup?
Well we have always loved great coffee, but it really came out of a desire to have our own business and create something that we could sell for extra income. Neither of us have a background in the coffee industry.
One night, while watching a YouTube video in fall 2013, on how to roast coffee at home, soon had us roasting on our stovetop via a Whirly-Pop Popcorn Popper. After the smoke cleared, the coffee that we created was surprisingly drinkable, so we decided to give it away as Christmas gifts in December of 2014. Everyone seemed to like their gifts and couldn’t believe that we roasted it ourselves. This is where we really launched our idea for a business that might have a feasible market locally. We started talking to the health department, FDA, and the Ag Department to see what it would take for us to start roasting commercially. A commercial kitchen was needed, so we rented time in a friends catering business kitchen at night. We roasted on two 1/2 pound roasters until we were able to open our current shop with the commercial roaster we have now.
What is Springfield’s coffee culture like?
Growing. As many communities that do not have an active coffee roasting presence, a majority of coffee consumers correlate Starbucks with specialty coffee. There is another local roaster in a nearby town with a couple retail shops here in Springfield, but we are currently the only roaster in Springfield selling commercially. There are a handful of local specialty coffee shops that serve great coffee, most of them offering espresso service, but they (as far as we know) source their coffee roasters all across the U.S.
This situation is what we believe truly helped us grow so fast—a void of locally roasted coffee. The coffee consumers were thirsty for a local, high quality, and locally owned product. From the first day our coffee was available locally, we have seen steady growth. Fast forward to our shop opening, and we have seen a huge leap in the coffee knowledge of our customers, which has been another mission of ours—education and accessibility.
We have introduced many people to pourover brewing, getting away from really dark roasts, and understanding all of the work that goes into the cup of coffee they enjoy. Now we have customers who are excited to see what the next origin offering will be, and excited when past favorites are available again. Local restaurants have also picked up on the notion that coffee is not just a bottom of the menu commodity drink. They are seeing that people will gladly pay a little more for a locally roasted cup, and even requesting it if they do not carry it. It is truly humbling to have people tell you how much they love what you make, especially from people who never really liked coffee in the first place, but drank it just to get a buzz!
The branding and design of the shop is excellent, what is the inspiration and who helped you?
We put the design of our shop together ourselves. We had a white/clean look in mind from the beginning and had some great help getting it to become reality with our building owner, who handled the buildout and some local friends that helped with the decor.
As far as our logo goes, I developed that while messing around with PowerPoint one night during the early stages of our business. I have a strange fondness for round company logos, so I knew I wanted to go in that direction, but the overhead cup design just kind of…happened!
What are some advantages and downsides of being located where you are?
The advantages outweigh the downsides by far. We have always loved downtown, we live close to downtown, and a lot of our friends work downtown, so we actually had no plans to look anywhere else in town.
Choosing a street downtown is where you need to pay attention to your potential customer base. Our model is to-go coffee, so we looked for a high foot traffic street, as well as a street that did not have cars constantly parked on it during the business day. The 300 block of East Monroe fit the bill. We are directly in the middle between downtown dining/business center and the capital complex, so we see a lot of foot traffic. Parking has been great as well. Customers usually do not have to park more than a few spots from our front door and can get in and out quickly.
The downsides would be that many people who only shop or work on the westside or other perimeter parts of town, do not know where we are or that we even exist. For a town our size, it is funny that a lot of people just stick to the side or part of town that they are comfortable with! We have not had any trouble with crime or problematic people. You always see interesting people walking around downtown, but that is just part of the culture!
You also offer a delivery service. Can you tell us about that and has it helped your business grow?
The free local delivery was our initial business model, as we did not have a storefront. Since we opened our own shop and increased our retail locations, the delivery request have declined, but we still have a few per week, mostly from people who live in a perimeter neighborhood or town. We still offer it because it is a great service if a customer can not make it to town during our business hours.
Do you have any recommendations for someone who has not tried your coffee yet?
All of it! Haha… we usually offer two to three different origins at any one time, so our choices are rather small compared to other shops. We always list the tasting notes for each coffee as well as explain the main characteristics and how each roast level affects the taste profile to our customers. We want to give everyone the opportunity to make an educated decision on their coffee choice … their custom cup!
Custom Cup Coffee is located at 321 East Monroe Street in Springfield, Illinois.