CINCINNATI -- When Dan Thaler debuted his cold brew nitrogen-infused coffee (nitro coffee) at the Covington Farmers Market last May, it was an instant hit: The crowd couldn't get enough of the smooth, creamy java that poured like beer.
His fans wanted to know, "Where can I get this every single day?" But without a storefront, he could only tell his customers, "Come back next week."
Now Thaler, the founder of Smooth Cincy Coffee, can answer the question definitively. This April, Smooth Cincy will open its first retail location at 525 Vine St., Downtown.
"It's on the street level, in the Huntington Bank Center," Thaler said. "It's a kiosk between the two escalators that take you to the Skywalk."
The freestanding kiosk is not unlike a mini-retail storefront in an airport or mall, he said. "It's a small decent storefront without investing in a buildout or store."
The kiosk will open as a walk-up counter with the possibility of minimal seating (one or two tables) at a later date. There will be 12 taps of nitro beverages, ranging from black coffee (Grind) to lightly sweetened coffee with almond milk, such as Elevate (cinnamon and vanilla), Buzz'n (hazelnut and honey) and Dark Side (dark chocolate). There also will be one or two nitro teas such as Charm (Southern-style sweet tea) and Rise (green tea with jasmine flowers and honey).
"Some people like to mix Elevate and Dark Side, giving it a cinnamon-chocolate flavor," Thaler said. "It's off our secret menu."
There are currently 10 lightly sweetened nitro coffee flavors with almond milk. The newest flavor, Mintside, is a minty dark chocolate blend, which Thaler compared to the Girl Scouts' Thin Mints.
"They are all under 100 calories for a 12-ounce serving and have one-and-a-half times more caffeine than a cup of coffee," Thaler said of his nitro coffee drinks.
The beverages will come in three sizes: 8 ounces, 12 ounces and 16 ounces. Customers can also get growlers (64 ounces) and "howlers" (half growlers, 32 ounces) of their favorite beverage.
Thaler plans to partner with local producers to offer cafe-style food like bagels, muffins and pastries. He's currently based in The Incubator, part of the Incubator Kitchen Collective, in Newport alongside other startup food entrepreneurs.
"I'd like to reach out to the other tenants to sell their products," he said.
Smooth Cincy also will debut its "kegerator tricycle" this spring, a mobile unit that will deliver nitro coffee on tap at various markets and private events.
Thaler plans to continue expanding through wholesale and retail avenues. Since last year, he has formed partnerships with various restaurants and breweries to carry his product.
"Now we have nine to 10 partners where you can get our coffee on a pretty daily basis," he said, adding that partner establishments typically carry only a few nitro coffee flavors and not the full variety as he intends to do at his new retail location. Partners include Streetside Brewery, FigLeaf Brewing and Roll On In, among others. Another key partnership is with Urbana Cafe, from which Smooth Cincy procures roasted coffee beans. The cafe, in turn, carries Smooth Cincy's nitro coffee.
As part of the retail launch, the company will change its name from Smooth Cincy to Smooth Nitro Coffee, which better describes the business, Thaler said. The company's website and social media accounts are currently being updated.
Although "Cincy" is getting dropped from the name, Thaler emphasized that it doesn't make the brand any less Cincinnati. Born and raised in the Queen City, Thaler went to St. Xavier High School and double majored in marketing and entrepreneurial studies at Xavier University.
"I'm a Cincinnati boy, and I've been here my whole entire life," Thaler said. "I love Cincinnati. It's a huge part of my identity."
Staying true to his roots, Thaler's plans for growing his brand remain focused on the Queen City.
"I would love to be the Cincinnati nitrogen-infused coffee brand," he said. "I'd like to start here, grow a community and bring jobs to Cincinnati. Hopefully I can prosper and spread further north to Columbus and Cleveland at some point, too."
Smooth Nitro Coffee
525 Vine St., Downtown
Projected opening date: April 10
Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO.com. 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.