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‘Coffee Bandits’ to spread downtown brews to outerbelts of Columbus

March 17, 2014

etchison.4@osu.edu
Raccoon Coffee Co. is a local coffee food truck set to open later this spring.  Credit: Courtesy of Ryan Ford

Raccoon Coffee Co. is a local coffee food truck set to open later this spring.
Credit: Courtesy of Ryan Ford

Taking its name from a masked and mysterious woodland animal, Raccoon Coffee Co., a coffee food truck, plans to become the source for mobile access to Columbus’ growing local artisan coffee scene.

“We’re like coffee bandits — spreading the downtown coffee to the outerbelt,” said Jakob Murphy, co-owner of Raccoon Coffee Co. “In a weird, kind of funny way, we’re like stealing coffee from other people and taking it out into the world.”

Murphy and his partner, co-owner Ami Iannone, said it was their shared love of coffee that inspired them to create Raccoon Coffee Co., set to open later this spring.

Iannone said she started drinking coffee when she was 12.

“I love coffee, I need it,” she said. “My entire life, my mom had a cup of coffee in her right hand. She spilled it on every car and surface that we ever owned. It reminds me of her. So coffee has always been a really big part of my life.”

Murphy said he began his personal journey into the world of coffee as a “casual coffee drinker,” but soon adopted a more holistic view as he began to research the trade.

“Coffee for me has always been a really accessible way of enjoying a really strong sensory experience,” he said. “You can basically take (coffee) and really … respect the history of where it came from. By the time you drink a cup of coffee, hundreds of people have had their hands on it. From where it’s grown, to where it’s processed, to where it’s roasted, to where it’s brewed. You can touch a lot of people’s lives.”

Iannone said she and Murphy met while employed at Cup o’ Joe in the Short North.

It was this experience of working in specialty cafés and coffee shops that inspired the business partners to share their passion for coffee with communities outside of the city, Murphy said.

“A lot of the good coffee in Columbus is pretty centrally-focused … there’s a lot downtown, there’s a lot in the Short North, but once you get beyond that, it’s kind of hit and miss,” he explained. “We will have the opportunity to take that quality of coffee and take it to suburbs, take it to the strip malls or to the outerbelt or festivals, events, anywhere. If there’s a need for coffee of that quality, we can be there.”

While Raccoon Coffee Co. does not plan to roast its own coffee, Iannone said the mobile café will feature “high quality, local (coffee).”

“We will be serving primarily Brioso coffee and espresso, but we will also like to feature other local roasters on a rotating basis,” she said.

Brioso, located at 14 E. Gay St., is a café that boasts gourmet coffees roasted in-store, according to its website.

The coffee menu for Raccoon Coffee Co. is set to feature classic drinks like espressos, lattes and cappuccinos, Iannone said.

“There will be a pour-over bar, but there will also be regular drip coffee,” she explained.

Although both Iannone and Murphy said they prefer drinking their coffee black, they plan to include homemade syrups and flavorings on the truck’s menu, as well as alternative drinks like Italian sodas.

“Any kind of syrups or flavoring that we do will be homemade, so no generic sugary bottled stuff that you can get anywhere,” Murphy said. “We’re going to do some Italian sodas, all with fresh citrus, fresh ingredients. As much as we can do ourselves, we’re planning on doing.”

Raccoon Coffee Co.’s mobile café is also set to feature a desert menu, Iannone added.

“We are going to do a very limited pastry menu,” she said. “I make tiny pies and we’re doing some of those … We’ll be doing biscotti for sure.”

Iannone said the drink and food menu is set to change and possibly expand based on customer comments and suggestions.

“We’re going to rely heavily on customer feedback … kind of what people want and what they are looking for,” she explained.

Prices are set to range from $1.50 to $4 per cup, Iannone and Murphy said.

Raccoon Coffee Co. is planning for a “soft opening” this May, with plans to be “fully operational” by June. The truck is set to attend festivals and other private events throughout the summer, Iannone and Murphy explained.

“We’ll probably find a quasi-regular spot that is pretty accessible,” Murphy said of establishing a set location for the truck.

Iannone said like the menu, the location of the truck ultimately is determined by customer feedback.

“We will be around at events and then other than that, it is really hard to say,” she said. “If there is a demand on (Ohio State’s) campus, then as long as someone tells us about it, we’ll give it a shot. It’s kind of up in the air at this point.”

Tommy Gaston, a fifth-year in international studies and a student manager at the Express-OH coffee shop in the Ohio Union, said he is interested in visiting Raccoon Coffee Co.

“Working at Express-OH, I came into (the job) trying new coffees because I have to try new coffees every time we get something in,” he said. “So I will try (Raccoon Coffee Co.) to get some ideas to bring to Express-OH.”

Iannone and Murphy said they hope Raccoon Coffee Co. represents the ideal combination of mobile food and coffee, two markets they see growing and thriving in the Columbus area.

“There’s a lot of buzz about coffee and mobile food in Columbus, but there isn’t really a great representation that combines both,” Murphy said. “If we can combine the two and do something we really care about and build it ourselves from the ground up, that’s kind of the plan.”

Iannone expects the atmosphere of the truck to set Raccoon Coffee Co. apart from other trucks and cafés.

“Really the difference with our truck is that we’re focusing a lot on … the ambiance,” she said. “We really want to create that craft coffee café ambiance in a mobile setting.”


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