For the love of coffee. That’s what it all brews down to on the Columbus Coffee Trail.
“We all love coffee and we all love each other’s coffee,” said Mick Evans, co-owner of the Short North’s One Line Coffee and co-founder of the Columbus Coffee Trail.
And it’s because of that love that a total of 12 Columbus coffee shops owned by seven “competing” companies have teamed up to make the Columbus Coffee Trail.
The concept of the trail is relatively simple: customers pick up a card at one of the participating stores and then buy a drink or food item at four or more locations. At each stop, customers get their cards stamped, which can then be redeemed for a Columbus Coffee T-shirt.
Every store falls within a roughly 1.5-mile distance of another stop along the trail, with several found on High Street in the Short North.
“It’s been wildly popular,” Evans said. “More locals are doing it than visitors, and I’m glad the local coffee scene is experiencing something different.”
In fact, it’s been so popular that Evans said Thursday they’re currently out of coffee trail cards and are waiting on new ones to arrive, adding that they should be in “any day now.”
In the first week of the trail alone — which began on Sept. 29 to coincide with National Coffee Day — Evans said about 40 people claimed T-shirts.
“It was an immediate response,” he said. “We’ve had plenty of new customers and there is at least a new customer in here (One Line) every couple of days inquiring about the coffee trail.”
Participating stores include Café Brioso, Mission Coffee Co., Impero Coffee, One Line Coffee, Boston Stoker, several different Cup O’ Joe and Stauf’s stores and eventually The Roosevelt Coffeehouse, which has yet to open its doors.
Even though the majority of the stores are owned by different companies and they’re all technically competitors, Evans said it’s not hurting any of their businesses.
“There are plenty of coffee drinkers for our businesses,” he said. “We’re basically just swapping customers.”
Kenny Sipes is the founder of the future nonprofit The Roosevelt Coffeehouse, which aims to raise money to fight hunger, unclean water, human trafficking and slavery. Sipes said he agrees with Evans when it comes to the collaboration of the coffee shops.
“Coffee is very communal. It has a following. If you’re a coffee junkie, you’re usually visiting more than one shop,” Sipes said. “The shops that are on that trail all kind of work together.”
To be a part of the trail, Sipes said the coffee shops have to meet the requirements of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, which has specific requirements about how the coffee should be brewed.
“There’s just a standard in coffee,” Sipes said. “There’s more to the coffee than meets the eye.”
He said there is no time requirement in which customers have to finish the trail. Instead, they can go at their own pace — be that within the course of a day or over several months.
For Grace Ferguson, a second-year in public health and a self-proclaimed “two-cups-of-coffee-a-day kind of person,” she said it would be fun to complete the trail in just 24 hours.
“It would be kind of like a marathon,” Ferguson said. “That sounds like a fun Saturday to me.”
Evans said the trail should be around until at least next year. He isn’t sure of the exact longevity of the Columbus Coffee Trail but said he hopes it will have lasting effects.
“I think this is just the beginning of what will become a greater level of collaboration between the community,” Evans said. “The idea is to continue developing. We definitely have the energy to do it.”