For coffee lovers, change is brewing in Williamsburg. Eric Christenson, owner of Lokal Café, a primarily plant-based restaurant and yoga lounge on Prince George Street, now runs The Daily Grind as of Jan. 1.
While the menu won’t be seeing major changes, patrons of The Daily Grind will soon see the coffeehouse open for longer hours and taking community feedback into consideration. Across town, two alumni of the College of William and Mary are working to open a fair trade coffee house: Column 15.
No grounds for concern
After 18 years, former owner Todd Arnette and general manager Scott Owens have turned over the business. For Christenson, who lives just an eight-minute walk away, there were many reasons he was interested in The Daily Grind.
“It’s a natural extension for us at Lokal,” Christenson said. “It gives us a chance to be connected to the university community — a lot of customers here go to Lokal. There’s some synergies between the two places that you wouldn’t have if I was going to do a café someplace else.”
“It’s a natural extension for us at Lokal. It gives us a chance to be connected to the university community — a lot of customers here go to Lokal. There’s some synergies between the two places that you wouldn’t have if I was going to do a café someplace else.”
Christenson’s contract will run through this semester and then for an additional two years. He moved to Williamsburg approximately three years ago, taking over the BerryBody yogurt shop and turning it into the more health-focused Lokal. Following his training in bread and gelato making in Parma, Italy, he serves house-made, organic bread at Lokal. Now, this bread and Christenson’s other restaurateur skills, such as process management, can be found at The Daily Grind.
“One of the changes that people will see is that we will have a smoother work flow, we’re moving the counter around so there’s not so much of a line out the front door,” Christenson said. “We are reaching out to the community. We want to use this as an opportunity to throw the idea to the university community that we would like more feedback.”
While Christenson and The Daily Grind team are still determining how exactly they will solicit community feedback, he’s already made the decision to hire more employees and adjust the schedule.
While the kitchen will still close at 5:30 p.m., Christenson said The Daily Grind will now be open until 11 p.m.These schedule changes should be in effect in approximately two or three weeks.
Christenson said that he plans on expanding locally sourced products, including produce from KelRae Farm. He said he’s also hoping to expand vegan options at The Daily Grind as well as general bakery items, through access to a commercial bakery.
“Our goal for this semester is to make sure The Grind works as efficiently as possible so people are waiting less,” Christenson said. “I have reviewed about five years of feedback and [one of the recurring concerns] was about speed that things came out, and we need to address that.”
“Our goal for this semester is to make sure The Grind works as efficiently as possible so people are waiting less. I have reviewed about five years of feedback and [one of the recurring concerns] was about speed that things came out, and we need to address that.”
Daily Grind employees Mads Emmett ’21 and Michael Hernandez Euseda ’19 said that they appreciated how understanding and flexible The Daily Grind has always been about their student schedules.
“I was looking for a coffee shop to work at,” Emmett said. “It’s a lot more relaxed. They really understand the importance of our school lives being first.”
Hernandez Euseda said that he appreciates the new management ideas that Christenson is bringing to The Daily Grind and thinks that since training began this semester, things have felt more polished.
“It seems like Eric has a lot of new ideas to implement the community a bit more,” Hernandez Euseda said. “I am excited for how people are going to find this more of a space.”
Partners in grind
Across town, James Kroll ’12 and Victoria Goldsby ’17 are preparing to open up their own coffee house. In mid-October, the pair launched Column 15, a company specializing in certified fair trade coffee and nitro cold brew.
Kroll took a weeklong intensive course with Arnette and learned all about roasting coffee beans and developing flavor profiles. Now, Column 15 shares roasting facilities with him.
Column 15, named after the nitrogen column in the Periodic Table, works with coffee importers that are certified in fair trade, and Kroll sources wholesale quantities of coffee from Guatemala and Colombia through these importers.
For a product to be certified as fair trade, everyone who interacts with the product along the way must be certified. This a process that makes the imported coffee cost more, which Kroll said can drive away larger coffee companies. Kroll then roasts the coffee himself.
“One of the big reasons for fair trade being significant when it comes to coffee is that coffee is a commodity,” Kroll said. “It is publicly traded and as such, its price is not necessarily set by the farmers with the people they are selling it too. … With supply and demand, the price of coffee can go very low unexpectedly. The farmers don’t have a lot of control with that. Oftentimes, because of a drop in the market, they can’t get the same price for coffee, they have to lay off workers and it causes a lot of instability in local communities.”
Bags of their coffee, which are hand-designed, will soon be available for purchase at Earth Fare, Great Wolf Lodge and through the student CSU system. They are currently available online. In addition to roasted coffee, Column 15 also sells nitro cold brew, a craft coffee beverage produced by charging cold brew coffee with nitrogen.
“Nitro cold brew is probably the closest you can get to getting to taste what coffee smells like,” Goldsby said. “It’s a smooth, creamy beverage without using creamer. Nitrogen is the creamer so it’s just straight black coffee, water and nitrogen, poured like Guinness.”
In April, Column 15 will open shop in the James-York Plaza, right behind Shorty’s Diner and across the street from Virginia Beer Company. The front half will have a coffee bar, where Column 15 will serve the nitro cold brew and roasted coffee, as well as a social lounge. In the back, a window will give customers a view of the roasting equipment, inspired by craft breweries.
In addition to coffee, Kroll and Goldsby are working on branded merchandise like pint glasses and French press coffee makers to sell at their coffee shop. They are also working with local vendors to develop coffee soap, candles and body scrubs. Additionally, they are hoping to partner with Kroll’s father, a local woodworker, to design furniture for use and sale at the shop.
Between now and April, the company will be setting up stands at the Williamsburg Premium Outlets and farmers markets in Yorktown and Portsmouth, as well as hosting an event, Fair Trade Friday, Feb. 1 at Lokal. At this event, it will be serving coffee and talking about the importance of fair trade and knowing where coffee comes from.
“We are looking to potentially distribute and be a part of community events from Richmond to Virginia Beach,” Kroll said. “Williamsburg is nicely positioned for that. … This is a great place, I hope, to be a base of operations. Especially with the community we have here. Everyone we’ve talked to has been very supportive and willing to try [our coffee] out. That’s going to be our big way into the local community because there are so many local businesses here.”
While neither have a formal business background, Kroll and Goldsby are both passionate about coffee and are excited about their venture.
“Even before college, I knew I wanted to at some point start a business and build it from the ground up,” Kroll said. “With a combination of experience in marketing and business development and always being interested in coffee, I knew some people who were in the coffee industry and learned a lot from them. It all just fell into place.”