MANTUA — Mantua has a new gathering place — Restoration 44 Coffee Co. — which opened earlier this month at a former grocery store on Main Street.
“We saw the benefit of a coffee house and what they could do for a community,” Restoration 44 co-owner Dan Tillett said. “It’s a critical part of community life for some communities. We saw that there would be a need for the community here. There’s not a focal point other than the schools for this community. It gives people a chance to run into people.”
The coffee shop includes a variety of coffees, espressos, bubble teas and one menu category titled “Not Coffee,” which includes items such as chai tea, hot chocolate, iced tea and bubble smoothies.
The coffee shop has tables, a fireplace, couches and chairs where customers can meet and talk over coffee (or “Not Coffee” as the case may be).
There are also high school yearbooks on loan from the Mantua Historical Society that customers have enjoyed perusing over coffee, according to the owners.
Two customers said the coffee shop does a good job, even compared with others around the county.
“I work in Chardon, and I’ve wanted to try it, so I stopped in this morning,” Kent State University student Tyler Bontrager said. “They’ve done a really nice job.”
Tillett owns the shop with Terry Tung and Jamie Leister. Each brings a different talent to the enterprise without which it may not have worked.
“Terry was kind of coming out of IT business and looking for another venture,” Leister said.
Tung serves as the business planner while Tillett brings a construction background the table, which was necessary to fix up the former grocery store that had been vacant for about 15 years, according to Leister.
“My wife and I were looking at investment properties,” said Leister, who also works as a physical therapist.
Tillett said he wouldn’t have taken on the business venture without partners.
“Jamie was like a kamikaze, and he took us with him,” he joked. “I definitely would not have done this on my own. I didn’t know I had two crazy guys for friends.”
Tillett said the idea of opening a coffee shop in Mantua wasn’t new, but it took the three of them pooling their talent to pull it off.
Tung said he was sold on Restoration 44′s viability when he learned about 9,000 vehicles pass by it along state Route 44 daily.
Tillett said the building needed a lot of work over the winter.
“When we were looking the place, we noticed it was damp,” he said. “You could probably do a rubber duck regatta through the back.”?
Around town, word spread quickly over the winter that the old grocery store was undergoing renovations to become a coffee shop.
“Our normal work hours were kind of until midnight and sometimes later into the mornings, depending on what we needed to accomplish,” said Leister. “There was an excitement about this through all the stages. People would come up and literally have their noses against the glass, trying to see what we were doing. We eventually just opened. We would invite people in to test things.”
Tung developed the coffee shop’s brewing and preparation processes.
“Terry did deep research and traveled extensively, then he set up preparation details down to the gram,” said Tillett, adding Tung also developed a workflow plan, recipes and other procedures.
Tung traveled as far as Columbus and visited coffee shops all over Northeast Ohio to learn about making coffee.
“You really have to understand the espresso preparation process,” he said, adding Restoration 44′s procedures are much less automated than certain chains.
Leister said the coffee shop strives for consistency and deep knowledge of the coffee-making process.
“We want to be very consistent,” he said. “We also want our baristas to have more knowledge of how to make things.”
Tung said they are all required to try everything on the menu so they can help customers choose drinks. He also wants them to understand what can ruin a brew.
After using family and friends as guinea pigs as they fine-tuned their recipes, opening day came, and it was quite busy, he added.
“On day one, we had 1,000 people,” he said.
Leister said the opening and subsequent days, particularly last Saturday, have been a “little overwhelming.”
“Jokingly, I tell people your worst nightmare is that nobody comes, and your second worst nightmare is that everyone comes,” he said.
Tung said there about a dozen people working at Restoration 44 now. The business may top out at around 18 employees, he added. Restoration 44 Coffee Co. has a Facebook page where curious coffee fans can learn more.
The shop is located at 10675 Main St. The hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, firstname.lastname@example.org or @bobgaetjens_rpc.