Nearly five years after opening, The Depot Coffeehouse in Urbana, Ohio is still moving ahead at full steam, thanks to dedicated owners, an inspired location, talented staff and support from Crimson Cup Coffee and Tea.
From Concept to Profitable Coffee Shop in Just Four Months
When Susan Oelker and her husband Dave decided to open a coffee shop in a restored 150-year-old train depot, they had lots of passion but little experience. “We had no idea how to pull an espresso shot, let alone how to do it perfectly,” Susan says.
The Urbana couple quickly gained the knowledge and skills needed to run a successful coffee shop by reading Greg Ubert’s Seven Steps to Success in the Specialty Coffee Industry and completing Crimson Cup’s 7 Steps training program. Susan took charge of day-to-day operations at the shop, while Dave, who continued his full-time work as Purchasing Unit Manager for Honda Marysville Auto Plant, assumed control of business operations.
“We offer this comprehensive training program at no charge because of our strong belief in small businesses,” says Greg, founder and president of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea. “Their success is our success.”
Greg and his team guided the couple in purchasing and laying out equipment, choosing and training staff, creating a menu and marketing the new store. After only 4 months of planning and training, the Oelker’s Depot Coffeehouse opened on April 23, 2007 at 644 Miami Street. The shop was profitable from the beginning – unlike the average small business, which takes a year or more just to break even.
A Hub for Community, Conversation and Coffee
Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays, The Depot Coffeehouse has become a meeting place for local businesses, government organizations and civic groups. Customers are a mix of local coffee lovers, Urbana University students and tourists cycling the adjacent Simon Kenton Bike Trail. With inside seating for 80, its quaint, comfy interior invites customers to relax and converse. “We have customers who come and hang out every day,” Susan says. “It’s like their house.”
“People are so busy these days,” she adds. “It’s very satisfying to offer a place where people can sit, relax, talk and get away from the real world.”
Coffee Shop Ownership Offers Freedom to Travel
In addition to “thriving on the people at the coffee shop,” having the freedom to travel for missionary work is the aspect Susan most enjoys about running an independent coffee shop. She has traveled as far as Vietnam and Peru – and as near as Logan and Franklin counties – to advocate for victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse. She also has time to visit daughter Amanda, who works in Columbus at Ohio State, and son Alex, who recently moved to Nashville for an internship with Dark Horse Recording Studios.
Until recently, Alex worked at The Depot, managing the coffee shop’s schedule of live music. “We’ve become a hangout for artists and musicians,” Susan notes. “We feature a different artist’s work every month, and host lots of musical guests on national tour.” Among the shop’s notable guests is actor Clancy Brown, an Urbana native known for tough-guy roles in movies such as The Highlander series, Starship Troopers and The Shawshank Redemption.
Coffee and Community Support Success
Susan says the partnership with Crimson Cup has been integral to the success of her business.
“Change is the only constant in this business, so it’s good to have the guys at Crimson Cup and a community of other coffee shop owners to tap for ideas. Crimson Cup sent Brandon Bir, a Customer Growth Specialist, out to the shop a couple of months ago to refresh our training, which is really important for consistency. And, I like being able to get all of my products from one source – not one for beans, another for cups, another for syrups.”
Customers frequently comment on the quality and consistency of the drinks. “Our coffee is always fresh and good – not too acidic, not too harsh.” Her own favorite beverage, consumed daily, is “a white chocolate mocha with an extra shot, skim milk, light whip.”