In 1973, Boston Stoker started out as a tobacco shop serving complimentary coffee in Englewood, Ohio, a Dayton suburb. However, the demand for craft coffee soon outgrew that of tobacco, and the Boston Stoker of today was born.
“My father started giving away free cups of coffee and people loved it,” said Henry Dean, president of Boston Stoker. “[Craft coffee] was pretty cutting edge at the time, tobacco kind of took a back seat and fortunately it did.”
Now 44 years later, the Columbus staple and one of the longest-running independent coffee shops in Ohio will hold an anniversary celebration Wednesday at 6 p.m. at its 771 Neil Ave location. The free event will include the first open-invitation latte-art competition, a funk DJ, street taco truck and on-site T-shirt screen printing.
All Boston Stoker shops will offer one-day specials of $5 off of all 12 ounce bags of coffee, $1 off all beverages and four cigars for the price of three.
Dean said the independent coffee shop is different from others in the area given its commitment to diverse craft flavors –– Boston Stoker regularly features 15-20 flavors from farms in Honduras, Kenya, Ethiopia and more.
“We started a relationship with a farm down in Costa Rica in the mid- ‘80s called La Manita,” Dean said. “Ever since, I’ve traveled the world sourcing directly from producers, looking for good quality coffee.”
For Wyatt Smith, a barista at Boston Stoker, the friendly staff and great coffee are what kept him coming back, which eventually led to a job.
“They’ve got great coffee and it’s always a little bit quieter in here than it is in a lot of the other shops, so I always could just roll up and talk to the baristas,” Smith said, who frequented the shop’s former campus location on the corner of West 11th and Neil Avenues. “I started as a fan and then I wanted to work here.”
Smith said the shop is usually comprised of about 80 percent regular customers, and the location provides an environment suitable for in-depth, personal conversation between staff and customers.
“The customers are everything [and] our event is really thanking our customers, producers and vendors,” Dean said. “There’s always different online polls voting for the best coffee house and we’ve always felt that our customers are voting every day [by] where they want to spend their money.”
The anniversary holds a lot of weight for the always competitive world of coffee.
“We’re one of the oldest coffee companies in Ohio so it’s a pretty big milestone for any coffee business … that’s been around for 44 years,” Dean said. “Hopefully we’ll be around for 44 more.”