Lockland's Kiro Coffee serves up drinks for a cause

LOCKLAND, Ohio – It may one of the most unassuming spots in Cincinnati for a coffee shop.

Upstart Kiro Coffee is slinging its drinks from a once-abandoned former factory space in Lockland. Besides being delicious, it's also coffee for a cause.

Kiro (pronounced chi-ro) uses a portion of its proceeds to help fight the region's opioid and heroin epidemic. Its mission is to give recovering addicts access to therapies like chiropractic care.

Intrigued? So were we.

Kelly Duffner, a chiropractor by trade and self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, founded Kiro Coffee in 2016. The company started as an online retail outfit last year. This summer, it landed its official legs – well - wheels - really.

Barista Cailey Blair and Kiro Coffee owner Kelly Duffner in Lockland.| Photo by Liz Engel Photo

Duffner rents space for his coffee cart inside Gertz Garden Center, at 100 William St., an early 1900s factory garage once part of the Stearns and Foster footprint. The company, which made mattresses, batting and other cotton products, employed as many as 1,200 in Lockland and spanned more than 1 million square feet. It closed in 2003. Other Stearns and Foster buildings have been demolished, but this one still stands. 

Today, it screams history.  The vibe is urban and rustic, and Duffner - who still practices full time in West Chester - wouldn't have it any other way. 

"I was dead set on this space when I saw it," he said. 

"I drove by here probably two years ago, and this place was in shambles, the brick was crumbing, there was no roof, but I thought it was the perfect spot for a coffee shop," he said. "We just want to bring life back to the area, and I think all good things start around coffee shops."

The cart features an espresso machine and an on-demand nitrogen tap for nitro cold brew coffee, among other features. Its tabletop is made from reclaimed wood from the Stearns and Foster factory.

Duffner sources his coffee from another Lockland-based business, La Terza, located in the same complex as Rivertown on Shepherd Drive.   He's also serving up tasty treats: Kings Mills' PaleoPrimal Sweets – gluten-free donuts - that you seriously won't believe.

Among his best sellers: the nitro vanilla latte, a strawberry green tea and alpenglow iced tea, or strawberry hibiscus tea.

All teas, by the way, are shaken, not stirred, which affords " a frothiness that you won't get otherwise," Duffner said.

Kiro Coffee is located inside the Gertz Garden Center at 100 William St., Lockland. |  Photo by Liz Engel

"Coffee is kind of like craft beer," he said. "Your taste evolves. I think that's what's happening with this underground movement with craft roasteries (like La Terza). They really care about what they're putting out, instead of just trying to mass produce." 

But Kiro's mission goes way beyond coffee. Duffner wants to push chiropractic care as an alternative to painkillers.

The idea is to increase access to conservative treatments, which also include physical therapy or massage therapy, before opioids are prescribed for issues like back pain or migraines. Roughly 20 percent of people given just a 10-day supply of drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone or morphine become addicted, the Center for Disease Control said in March.

RELATED: Overdosed and Overrun: A State of Crisis in Ohio

"We see these patients in our office that are recovering addicts, and the results are amazing," Duffner said. 

The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation this year approved a rule for lower back injuries that would require 60 days of conservative care – which includes physical therapy, chiropractic care rest and anti-inflammatory before surgical options are considered. The change was pushed for after research revealed that surgical patients are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to opioids. The new rules is set to hit the law books in 2018. Duffner said he hopes to help fund organizations that push similar legislative causes.

Last year, Kiro donated $1,000 to OneChiropractic, a nonprofit. They'll consider a similar effort this year.

"There's no simple answer to the opioid epidemic, but there's a lot more that we could be doing to conservatively manage people," Duffner said. "If we can change the laws, we can change lives."

Kiro Coffee has limited hours – usually 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Sometimes the cart travels to weekend events, so be sure to check its social media pages for updates.

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