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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Coffee klatch: Young Allen County entrepreneurs creating a niche in food industry

Brian Kieffer, owner of Bon Bon's Coffee Company, far right, serves a customer. (Photo by Mary Anne Gates for The News-Sentinel)
Brian Kieffer, owner of Bon Bon's Coffee Company, far right, serves a customer. (Photo by Mary Anne Gates for The News-Sentinel)
Dave Beltz, a Conjure Coffee employee, roasts coffee. (Photo by Mary Anne Gates for The News-Sentinel)
Dave Beltz, a Conjure Coffee employee, roasts coffee. (Photo by Mary Anne Gates for The News-Sentinel)
Customers enjoy a drink while talking at Conjure Coffee, 701 Columbia Ave. Owner Corey Waldron is expanding the business. (Photo by Mary Anne Gates for The News-Sentinel)
Customers enjoy a drink while talking at Conjure Coffee, 701 Columbia Ave. Owner Corey Waldron is expanding the business. (Photo by Mary Anne Gates for The News-Sentinel)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Friday, June 09, 2017 12:15 am

Brewing great coffee, is only the beginning for several Fort Wayne coffee shops.

Corey Waldron, 36, a Homestead High School alumnus, Class of 1998, returned to Fort Wayne and opened Conjure Coffee, 701 Columbia Ave., last year.

“We wanted to have a high-end upper echelon café in town that represented the best quality coffee that we could serve. We wanted a place for people to experience our coffee, learn more about coffee and train people to brew coffee better,” he said.

Initially, Waldron tested the local market by setting up Fort Roasting at the Barr Street Market in 2015. Later he changed the name to Conjure Coffee.

Waldron sold packaged roasted coffee beans and had nitrogenated cold brew on tap.

“Nitro cold brew coffee is brewed overnight in cold water. It is very smooth,” said Adam Beltz, 41. Beltz roasts coffee at Conjure Coffee.

Waldron said, “It (the Barr Street Market experience) helped me decide to have a retail front because Conjure's primary business is actually doing wholesale roasted coffee for restaurants and cafés.”

While his core business may be selling coffee to those other companies, he has plans for Conjure Coffee.

For example, he currently uses only the rear portion of the building he occupies. Plans are underway to expand into the front of the building by adding approximately, 2,000 square feet.

The expansion is expected to be completed in June and will allow him to move his roasting operation into the new space and consider adding menu items, he said.

Also, Waldron said, he plans to offer space to other entrepreneurs who want to open a micro store.

Current plans call for rotating different pop-up shops about every eight weeks, he said.

“We would like to partner with people who have emerging brands that complement what we do at the café,” he said.

Some examples are those who create something that is useful, artistic or utilitarian. Or, maybe someone who has really interesting vintage goods they want to sell, he said.

Besides, the current expansion, he expects to add patio seating this summer and possibly rooftop seating later.

Brian Kieffer, 31, owner of Bon Bon's Coffee Company, serves a varied clientele from high school students to senior citizens at his three locations throughout the city. Bon Bon's originally opened the northeast store in 2012 but moved to Maplecrest Road in April 2015 when the nearby Kroger expanded.

Kieffer said, “We don't create menus specific to each location. There are only subtle differences. The menus I have are highly customizable and adaptable to people coming into each location.”

For example, shakes, frappes and espresso-based drinks offer a wide variety of flavor options.

People visiting the main store on Maplecrest tend to order the core flavors, while at the IPFW location in the engineering, technology and computer science building, people tend to order straight coffee or more creative frappes and blended drinks. At the southwest location, inside the Orthopedic Hospital, 7952 W. Jefferson Blvd., people order more of the specialty drinks. It's like a treat, Kieffer said.

Kieffer never doubted he would own a business someday.

“My dad always owned his own business. I saw all the ups and downs and the challenges and rewards of that. I always knew I wanted to own a business. The question was, what was it going to be and when was I going to open it,” Kieffer said.

For several years he worked in a coffee shop and at various restaurants and resorts, always with an eye to eventually opening his own place. Kieffer finally found the right opportunity to bring his dream to fruition.

If he wasn't sure when he would open his own business the name was never in question.

“Bon was my nickname growing up. My younger brother couldn't pronounce my name. When I needed a name for a coffee shop it was really the only one I liked,” he said.

“The future of Bon Bon's may include future locations. I am open to opportunity at the right time and place,” he said.

Another local coffee shop, the Perk Coffee House, is a nonprofit café and a ministry of Central Ministries Church, 5801 Schwartz Road.

Locally it nourishes friendships. Globally it helps Africans with much-needed water.

“We decided we needed a place for people to connect,” said Sara Baldwin, Coffee House director. “It is important for people to know each other as we grow. One of our values is to be a friendly church … and I think the coffee shop carries out that vision.”

Baldwin, 28, focuses on promoting camaraderie, fellowship and helping others before serving coffee.

“Serving coffee is not our main purpose, it's just the 'perk' of what we do,” she said.

“You have to have a vision people are excited about and are willing to commit their time to. We want to make everyday encounters eternally significant. We want to show people love when they come by; the coffee is just 'the perk,'” she said.

Besides building friendships, the bigger purpose is to help others with a basic need. “Every time somebody comes in and buys a drink from us they are giving someone in Central Africa clean drinking water for a week through a program called Water for Good,” Baldwin said.

The Perk is staffed by volunteers.

Her husband, Johnathan Baldwin, serves as the junior high and sports minister at Central Ministries.

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