Tom Griesemer smiles widely as he sits at a table by a few dozen wood barrels filled with coffee beans from as far as Nicaragua, Ethiopia and India. A warm, rich aroma saturates the air.
Griesemer is the founder of Columbus coffee staple Stauf’s, and nearly 30 years after the opening of the original Grandview location, he said he is surrounded by people he cares about, doing work that connects him deeply with his community. His company also has gone on to open three additional locations across Columbus, including German Village and the North Market.
“My work life has been the joy of my life,” he said. “And I’m not exaggerating. I’ve never felt like I work. I don’t work. I get to come here and hang. All my friends I met here, people I care about.”
Stauf’s will open a fifth location on the north side of downtown by the end of the month. The new cafe will be on the ground floor of a freshly constructed, modern apartment complex called the View On Grant.
Following the footsteps of its other shops, the new location was selected because it is in a newly popular area called the Discovery District, said Mark Swanson, president of Stauf’s. Well-known sites nearby include BalletMet and Columbus State Community College.
“We were pretty excited about all of the development in the Discovery District, and our intention is always to be in up-and-coming areas … where we’ll be able to support the community and they’ll be able to support us,” Swanson said. “We just love the area.”
With an “open and airy” atmosphere, the new Stauf’s will have a patio, garage doors on one side, and WiFi throughout, he said. Customers also can expect freshly baked goods, including muffins, scones and desserts, in addition to a “full complement” of coffees and frozen drinks.
Swanson added that the shop will take part in a new trend by serving nitro coffee, which he described as coffee combined with nitrogen in a keg and served on a tap, similarly to draft beer.
Later on, Swanson said the company hopes to add a beer and wine license to give the community a place to go after events at BalletMet. But for now, the new Stauf’s is keeping its focus on coffee and bakery.
Griesemer said focusing on the company’s primary products, especially coffee, has always been their top priority.
“Job one is making coffee as well as it can be done. Period,” he said. “When I started there weren’t many people who knew much about coffee. Turns out, now we’re the teachers — for people all over the world actually.”
He explained that the process of sourcing and roasting beans — then serving it as freshly as possible to customers — takes a lot of work to get just right.
“It’s a complicated process. For example, roasting is not like cooking a Stouffer’s lasagna where you follow the directions. It’s an art, it’s mostly an art,” he said.
From numerous local baristas, to members of the band REM, to a man who went on to win the 2007 World Barista Championship in Copenhagen, Griesemer said he has trained many people on the craft of roasting and starting coffee businesses.
When Griesemer opened the first Stauf’s location on Grandview Avenue in 1988, the street was “sleepy,” he said. Now businesses of all kinds line the avenue for several blocks.
Stauf’s and its surrounding community have supported each other for many years, he said, noting that customers have written theses, books, and even a movie at the cafe.
In return for the customers’ business, he said the company has done outreach both internationally and locally, including giving the Grandview Library a major donation and doing a fundraiser for Star House, a homeless youth drop-in center.
Griesemer said he’s grateful to have had a career in which he has been able to help so many people in his own community and around the world.
“I always have felt like I have the luckiest work life of anybody I’ve ever met. It’s been my life,” he said with a laugh. “And that’s all there is to it.”
The downtown Stauf’s will be located at 350 Mt. Vernon Ave. and is set to open by the end of this month.