Cielo Cafe isn’t your typical Columbus coffee shop, and it didn’t have a typical launch either.
Featuring stucco brick walls paired with a sky-painted ceiling draped with ivy, the old European-inspired cafe located across the street from the Ohio Union opened in late April. The cafe was set to open in March, but COVID-19 stalled the shop’s opening, Vincent Reeder, the cafe’s operations manager, said.
“Even our landlord told us, if there was a series of bumps in opening up a business, we’ve definitely hit all of them,” Reeder said.
Nevertheless, Reeder and his partner Phil Raglan, owner of Cielo, have been working to safely open and provide customers with a unique Viennese mom and pop coffee shop experience, he said.
“We wanted to give the experience of sitting in a Viennese alleyway, drinking a cup of coffee,” Reeder said.
Reeder and Raglan began their hiring process when the government mandated shutdown went into effect, leaving them without employees. When they were finally cleared to reopen, Reeder said he was the only one behind the counter pouring the coffee.
“We weren’t going to have the amount of customers to make up for having to pay the train, you know,” Reeder said.
Reeder and Raglan continued with faith, and as customers began trickling in, they once again began the hiring process. Many of their previously interested employees had taken other positions or were unavailable due to the pandemic, so they were once again starting from scratch, Reeder said.
In order to put safety at the forefront of their business, Reeder said they trained new employees one at a time, placing emphasis on not just making quality coffee, but also on sanitation and safety.
“We spend an extra three-to-four hours every day, wiping everything down and cleaning everything; we’re very strict,” Reeder said.
Going the extra mile isn’t something that was introduced to Reeder and Raglan by the pandemic, Reeder said; it’s been a part of their vision for Cielo’s culture since day one.
Reeder said the two took into account the number of places that sell coffee and focused on what would separate them from the rest. He said they decided it would be the quality of the products and the coffee that Cielo would serve.
All of Cielo’s goods are sourced from local shops within the Columbus area. Their biscuits and pastries are delivered fresh every morning from The Goodie Shop located in Upper Arlington and their bagels are from Sammy’s New York Bagels over by Easton Town Center, Reeder said.
“We try to keep everything in the same Ohio loop,” Reeder said.
Their strongest focus, however, was on where they would source their fair-trade organic coffee beans. Reeder said they really took into account the importance of ensuring the beans had no chemicals, preservatives or other additives. Beyond that, Reeder said they wanted to ensure the sourcing of the beans was humane.
“Fair-trade organic means those people who are working hard making those beans are getting their fair cut of things. They’re getting fair pay. They’re not getting taken advantage of,” Reeder said.
They found their supplier, Cincinnati Seven Hills Coffee, locally in Cincinnati, Ohio. Reeder said they weren’t afraid to pay more for their product because it ensures they meet the quality they are striving for.
“We have a running joke that every time [the supplier] roasts his beans, he gives every bean a little kiss,” Reeder said.
That passion is what Reeder said Cielo wants to bring to their customers in every experience they have with them. Reeder said the cafe offers an environment that will take students out of the hustle and bustle of getting back and forth to class or work, giving them a welcoming break.
“When you step foot in here, you are literally taken to another place that we don’t feel you can find anywhere else,” Reeder said.
Cielo Cafe is located at 1762 N High St. and is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.