New hours, ready-to-go coffee for people headed to work, brunch-type food, Italian sodas, a 2-way liquor license and more staff are all in Conjure Coffee owner Corey Waldron's plans for the coming weeks and months.
Waldron, 36, opened the cafe and roasting space at the Columbia Avenue-St. Joseph Boulevard split in August 2015 after first testing his coffee as Fort Roasting at the Barr Street Market. He had wanted to expand at his business's site at the beginning, but the landlord had already leased the space that faces the road split, Waldron said. Now, that tenant is gone and the door, or rather, two planned roll-up bay doors will be open to him.
Waldron envisions an "organic and gardenesque" patio with new patio furniture for customers to sit near the river.
"It gives us more exposure," he said of the visibility of the spot.
Drivers heading now to the right at the split onto Columbia Avenue might never know Conjure Coffee's entrance lies on the opposite side of the building.
Waldron and his wife, Darcy Winners, came up with the name for the business after tossing around several others. "Conjure means to make something appear from thin air," said Waldron, a 1998 Homestead High School graduate who got into coffee after studying at Ball State. He sees the coffee business as similar: how customers can order a cup of coffee that appears in about 60 seconds with the whole process hidden, from the plant creating the fruit that contains seeds – the coffee beans – to their being picked and roasted to make that drink.
"There's a lot of magic that goes into it," he said.
The 1,000 square feet of extra space in the addition will bring the total square footage to 5,000. On Tuesday, two customers chatted at a table while two others sat at the coffee bar on stools. Light music played, punctuated by the metallic tapping of the sample spoon being brought in and out of the roaster, with the sound of traffic passing on St. Joseph Boulevard barely noticeable.
"The roastery is the real part of the business," he said.
Right now customers' coffee beans – sustainably grown and fairly traded – are roasted in small batches by hand. Conjure prepares only light roasts.
"We don't roast dark coffee," he said. "Our motto is we want the oils to be in the coffee, not on it. But just because it's roasted lighter doesn't mean it's not as robust."
By this summer, Waldron hopes the completion of the addition will create room for a larger roaster, which will allow Conjure to create larger batches of coffee beans for customers.
He'll also move his packing and shipping areas to the new space from an area behind the counter where it sits now.
One change soon on the horizon: the first week of May he plans to add Monday hours and serve ready-made coffee to customers headed to work. He'll also open an hour earlier, at 7 a.m. weekdays, compared to the current 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday schedule, with Saturday remaining the same, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Other changes customers will see this summer:
*Italian sodas will join the menu. Conjure already makes its simple syrups, including vanilla and lavender. So the addition of soda water will offer a refreshing cold drink. It already serves one or two types of cold brewed tea daily.
*A liquor license to serve beer and wine. Conjure already has worked with Trubble Brewing. Grind Crimes, served at the Broadway brew pub, combines Trubble's 9 Crimes rye pale ale with Conjure's Ethiopian cold brew coffee. The liquor license will allow Conjure to serve such brews, as well as "natural wines," Waldron said.
*The addition of one or two employees in the short-term to the staff of four. Waldron said he'll likely add one or two more later on.
"Step 2" as Waldron calls it, will be to add more food.
"We're fairly into modernist cuisine," he said.
He's tested sous vide – a technique of cooking with water – omelets.
Already, he works with three businesses on food. GK Bake Goods makes the gourmet quiche and muffins sold at Conjure. Beet Street Juicery supplies gluten-free cookies. Hetty Arts Pastry provides macarons and chocolate tarts.
Waldron has a hand in several projects. He is a founder of ModBar, which makes and installs customized, under-the-counter coffee brewing systems. He also does freelance design as a consultant in the coffee business.
He sees coffee as a growing business and predicts its value will rise. It's growing in popularity throughout the world and finding new markets in places like China. So demand is growing but only so many regions can grow and supply it.
Meanwhile, "we're continuing to build great relationships with producers and farmers," he said.