PDT Staff Writer
Terry Ockerman, owner of The Lofts on Gallia Street, has been in the planning process of a new coffee shop for the past year and recently broke ground on it three weeks ago. It comes with the promise of a new establishment for great coffee and a matching atmosphere.
“Coffee shops are unique to urban living. They are the new flex-time offices and have become the latest gathering places for people to not only enjoy a coffee, but exchange ideas, from writing music to writing software. Our goal is to provide a comfortable setting with a focus on great coffee. Not good coffee, but great coffee.”
The center of the new shop is definitely going to be the coffee, but Ockerman said he is looking into various traditional coffee shop baked goods and chocolates as well as other coffee shop beverages.
“We do want to take a twist on the menu a bit,” Ockerman said. “We’ll carry chocolates if they are in demand and we could also move towards a few small plates, but we are going to let our customer base dictate what we carry in regards to food.”
To make sure the new coffee shop is on top of the latest coffee house technologies, Ockerman has been talking to experts about what the shop will need. He wants to stay on top of the game with not only brewers, but on the comforts of the guests wanting to spend a little more time in the shop.
The house will come with a public Wi-Fi network with the highest speed data plan and outlets near the tables will not only be accessible to laptop owners, but will come equipped with a USB port for those who are charging portable devices and phones. Another goal he has for the shop is to have an application for smartphone users where they can place orders ahead of time and have them ready to go when they arrive.
The interior design is still a work in progress with Ockerman, but he says he is likely to lean towards something with a more contemporary and industrial warehouse feel to it. However, Ockerman said that comfort and usability is the top priority when choosing a design.
Ockerman said that it seemed almost natural to open a coffee shop in the old Levi’s Furniture building since he already owned the property and it is in a prime location. He also liked the extra space around the building which was perfect for patio seating since the coffee house is going to have just as much outdoor seating as indoor. The traffic around the building was also an incentive, being on the corner of Gay and Gallia. Finally, being a large supporter of the downtown Portsmouth area, Ockerman likes the idea of adding another business to the already growing area.
“We just want to give people one more reason to come on downtown; encourage them to visit,” Ockerman said.
Ockerman believes the timing for a coffee shop is also good as people change their ways of living.
“You can look at almost any report out there, urban living is trending. People want to live in the cities, whether they are an empty-nester or not,” he said. “Nowadays you can’t afford a mortgage right out of college and you also have to be flexible and be able to move. Living in the city gives people this possibility. People are done with mowing grass. They want the restaurants, the Vern Riffe Center, the museums. A coffee shop downtown, statistically, spurs economic development.”
The coffee beans that Ockerman will be brewing come from small co-ops, where he will be dealing directly with the farmers. He is looking into places such as Costa Rica and Guatemala.
“We don’t just want to have great coffee, we want to be able to visit their farms and tell their stories about their community and farms as well. We want to educate people on their lives and culture.”
Ockerman also says that he will not only be going to visit the farms himself, but he plans on taking a manager and maybe a few baristas with him.
The roaster a coffee shop hires plays perhaps the most instrumental part in the coffee making process. They are involved with roasting the beans after they have been bought by the buyer. They have to be very in tune to the beans and how long they need to be roasted, what humidity they need to be kept in and what it takes to pull the full flavor out of the beans. Two of the roasters that the coffee shop is looking at are Deeper Roots out of Cincinnati and the Boston Stoker out of Dayton. He also plans on having the roasters come to Portsmouth and have them educate the shop about the coffee making process.
“I don’t want to make coffee sound complicated, but there is a lot to a good cup and to me there is a difference in good coffee and great coffee,” Ockerman said. “Good coffee can be made at home or anywhere, great coffee doesn’t just happen. We don’t want to do good coffee. We want really great coffee.”
Ockerman will be opening the shop slowly. Before a grand opening, he has planned nights that he will get feedback on the brew. Not only that, but he is also dedicated to working with a focus group. Input from those involved in the focus group will help provide a template for ideas to be implemented at the shop.
“We are letting the community decide what the coffee shop is going to be,” Ockerman said. “With that being said, we might even let the community decide what the name of the shop will be. I just want the coffee to be great, the rest of it is up to the community.”
Ockerman is taking suggestions for the coffee shop and for names at Terry.Ockerman@gmail.com.
“We want our coffee shop to be to this community what a coffee shop is to every other large community. It is a social gathering, an exchange of ideas. More than anything else, coffee shops in large cities are a major part of the communities, whether it is Starbucks or a small independent.”