Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
Standing midst coffee roasters and bags of coffee beans, Josh Langenheim talks about his coffee the same way most people talk about their kids. Click the “talk about coffee” switch on…Josh is off to the races. Stone Fruit Coffee Company is his baby. He is not afraid to show it off.
And rightfully so. Several Saturday mornings ago, my wife and I were driving around after an early morning trip to Home Depot looking for a place for a cup of coffee. Located across Market Street Extension across from the new St. Elizabeth’s complex…and in the same plaza as Quench…we spotted Stone Fruit Coffee Company. We decided to give it a try.
The first thing that you notice going through the door is the top-notch décor. You are greeted by a long “expresso bar” punctuated by these little thingies spaced evenly down the bar. It is a gorgeous bar. The entire space is in warm wood and brown/gold tones accented with wood trims, metal signage and a touch of aqua blue. It is so attractive, I thought it was a chain. Local coffeehouses don’t look like this. They tend to be a little funky and thrown together.
The staff behind the bar was friendly, efficient, perky, professional, and knows their stuff. This coffee shop is different, they told me. You order your coffee...and those thingies going up and down the bar is where they put the filter and coffee, and pour hot water over using a drip method that “brews” a perfect cup. Being a Mr. Coffee sort of guy I thought it can’t be. It is. The coffee is great.
There are tables across from the bar for those who need something to do other stuff on…like work on your computer, and table in the back behind the bar. Look over to the adjoining space and there another batch of tables…and the roasters…big and beautiful and impressive.
One last basic observation – there is no food. Well – they have toast. They have toast with lots of different toppings. But you know what? The toast is good. The operation is simple, clear, and it works!!!!
Let’s get back to Josh who I guarantee was roasting beans while I was writing this. I love a good story, and Josh is a good story. He is a local boy making good. Born and raised here, he is Youngstown State Alum. Forsaking his marketing job in Pittsburgh, he decided to follow his passion for coffee. He liked coffee, and wondered why some coffee was good and other coffee was bad. So…he started to study it which in turn moved into experimenting with the process himself. His conclusion was simple. Good coffee comes from the best beans, roasted well and blended well. He also concluded that a lot of what was out there wasn’t that. Into the biz he goes!!
He started with a tiny little roaster that had a capacity of roasting 1.1 pounds. He sold coffee out of a single room in Canfield, Ohio, beginning three years ago; total cups of coffee sold in a day initially…3 – 4 cups. But it was really good coffee, and the reputation of Stone Fruit began to grow.
Like any red-blooded entrepreneur, he began to trade up…selling the smaller roaster and buying a larger roaster to handle more capacity and allowing him to sell more coffee. Three years later he has 10kg. roaster and a 15kg roaster. He has sold the 10k roaster and is waiting on delivery of a 30kg roaster. That will give Josh the capacity to roast four to five thousand pounds of coffee per day. If you haven’t seen what a good coffee roaster looks like, it is worth the trip to just see the equipment which is prominently displayed. During my visit he allowed to participate in the roasting experience. Pretty cool stuff!! Did you know that when coffee comes out of the roaster it snaps, crackles and pops? Who knew?
And oh ya…the roasters are from Turkey. Why? Turkey has the best coffee which is an indication that it has the best coffee roasters. And his Expresso machines? They are from Italy. Why? Because Italy has the best expresso. Simple coffee logic!!
Several months ago, Josh closed his Canfield location and opened in the current location in Boardman. In addition, he opened a coffeehouse at 131 Lincoln Avenue by the university. And his third location is opening in the new Firestone Farm complex in Columbiana County.
Josh’s formula is simple. Buy the best beans possible, and roast them carefully and at the proper temperature. If you want a blend…blend them carefully. The problem with a lot of coffee is that the roasting is done either in a bad machine or badly in a good machine. The bitterness you taste is the result of the beans being burned. Here is a dirty little secret: good coffee beans burned taste the same as bad coffee beans burned. The result is in a many coffeehouses you are getting cheap burned beans!!!
For example, over the years I have learned to avoid Tanzanian coffee. When he offered me a cup, I said no and told him why. My experience has been bad. He told me to try his. I could not believe the difference. No…it is not at the top of the list of my things to drink. That’s Bourbon. But it was actually very good and I would get it there again.
Stone Fruit offers 25 blends of coffee you can take home and brew yourself. True to his local roots, all the blends are named for various entities or associations with the Youngstown area.
When you cross over to the adjoining space…where the roasters are and where the take home coffee is for sale…you cross into Steel Valley Coffee Roasters which is the parent business. In addition to running his coffeehouse facilities, Josh also runs a wholesale business selling bulk coffee to places like the Springfield Grill, the Flaming Ice Cube, and the Cellar Door. With the larger roaster comes larger capacity with an eye on increasing the wholesale end of the business.
But what is really cool is his relationship with Danny Catullo of Catullo Meats. Danny runs a company called Perishable Shipping Solutions and an Etsy like platform for food named foodecrave.com. He gathers food products from all over the nation, but special concentration on locally produced products, allowing folks to mix and match items into their own food baskets as well as order just one thing. Dan also participates in a food club business called clubsgalore.com (Aged Steak Club) which allows folks to do a Harry and David like monthly package either as a gift or for themselves.
Josh has worked closely with Dan to make sure the Steel Valley Coffee Roasters wholesale and drop-ship business maximizes its capacity. For those small food product producers in the area, this is the kind of service that will allow small businesses to thrive.
I was privileged to meet Dan at Stone Fruit and talk a bit when I was there. I can’t wait to see how Perishable Shipping Solutions and foodecrave.com work up close and personal. It’s another one of those hidden businesses that makes this area strong and the Mahoning Valley a great place to live. Plus…you can’t beat Catullo meats.
So if you are driving around Boardman or up by the Youngstown State, stop by Stone Fruit Coffee Company and give it a try. And while you are at it…have a piece of toast. You will like it a lot.
Stone Fruit Coffee Company
Phone: (330) 501-3020
Address: 8414 Market St. Ste 2, Boardman, OH 44512
Mon – Saturday: 8 AM – 7 PM
Sunday: 8 AM – 3 PM