CINCINNATI -- Make extraordinary coffee and they will come. This simple principle has brewed sweet success for Collective Espresso founders Dustin Miller and Dave Hart.
The longtime friends and coffee artisans started Collective Espresso in Over-the-Rhine more than four years ago to share their passion for coffee. They have since built a strong following – propelling their expansion to a second location in Northside, along with a café inside the Contemporary Arts Center.
“The expansion of Collective has always come organically, not by pushing to open more and more places,” Miller said.
The organic growth continues this year, spanning three distinct areas: the launch of a deli and micro-grocery, mobility and formalization of their pastry program. And as part of its new focus, Collective Espresso will close its cafe at the CAC on March 4.
Taking coffee on the road
Collective Espresso will take its offering on the road with the launch of Field Services this spring.
“This is something I’m really excited about,” Hart said.
The pair have been approached many times to serve their coffee at various events, but they held back because they wanted to offer the same quality coffee and vibe as their coffee shops. That is, until two big pieces of the puzzle came together. First, Hart said, Miller’s brother bought a truck, which previously served as a bookmobile, that he later realized he no longer needed.
“Around the same time, we bought a used espresso machine just because we got a good deal on it,” Hart said.
Between the truck and the espresso machine, the duo immediately recognized they had found their answer.
“When the opportunity with the truck came in front of us, it was one we had always dreamed of,” Miller said. “Can we take what we do in our shops and offer the wider community the Collective experience? Now we can."
The two have since bought the truck, which is currently being outfitted in a shop in Dayton. A “cold-brew bicycle,” a redesigned pedicab, will also join the fleet to offer cold beverages such as cold brew coffee and espresso lemonade that’s kegged and on tap.
“We plan to be in food truck spots and have a stable weekly business in the mornings between Fountain Square, Court Street and Washington Park,” Hart said.
He said they want to take the truck to neighborhoods they don’t currently serve, such as Walnut Hills and College Hill.
Hart also anticipates doing more evening and weekend events, and both the pedicab and truck will be available for private bookings as well.
Expanding pastry program
Customers have come to love baked goods like croissants, muffins, scones and chocolate chip cookies at Collective Espresso. For two years, pastry chef Raymond Moore has been making these pastries from the basement of the Contemporary Arts Center. However, it’s still not well-known.
“I still get people asking me almost on a daily basis, ‘Where do you get your pastries?’” Hart said.
Collective Espresso will formalize its pastry program into a standalone brand, Mainwood Pastry, a move that will increase the visibility of the baked goods. Mainwood is also the name of the building at the corner of Main and Woodward that will house the baking production. They hope to start production in spring.
"Mainwood Pastry is simply taking what we already do and expanding upon it,” Miller said.
Production will be geared at first to supply pastries for their stores and then also wholesale the products to external clientele.
“We envision eventually a retail concept with a little sit-down space and walk-up counter,” Hart said.
Deli, micro-grocery in the works
Miller and Hart also will stretch their wings and develop a deli and micro-grocery, though they don’t yet have a projected opening date.
Aptly called the Takeaway, it will be located at 1324 Main St., just a few steps away from their Over-the-Rhine coffee shop. The deli and micro-grocery will face Main Street, in the same building as Mainwood Pastry, and the project stems from what they see as the need for a place where folks can pick up simple, good food.
Miller and Hart intend to remain focused on crafting quality coffee even as they diversify their stake in the marketplace. That’s why they created the separate brands, Hart said.
“We are a neighborhood coffee shop that focuses a lot of time and effort on quality,” Hart said. “I get excited when I talk about a good shot of espresso.”
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO Digital. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation, and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek.