Collective Espresso now offers two of the city’s finest coffee shops found off the beaten path.
Owned and operated by Dave Hart and Dustin Miller, Collective Espresso’s original alleyway location off Main Street in Over-the-Rhine quickly established itself as a worthwhile destination for caffeine-cionados. They’ve branched out with a second location between Happy Chicks Bakery and Fabricate on Hamilton Avenue in Northside. And their new spot has inevitably found itself on a similar easy-to-miss-but-hard-to-forget alleyway — enter through the swinging wrought-iron gate in front of Cluxton Alley, home to Cluxton Alley Roasters, which is renting them the space.
The imposed sense of secrecy only adds to Collective Espresso’s allure. Staff and owners, who are usually steaming milk or doing pour-overs alongside each other, are extremely inviting, talented and knowledgeable in all things espresso. And though the new location boasts a fully functional coffee roaster (owned by Cluxton Alley Roasters), it’s not in the duo’s business trajectory to roast and sell their own coffee beans yet.
The shop has already enjoyed a soft opening and is currently open the same hours as the OTR location (7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday; 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday). The Northside shop also serves Collective’s same critically acclaimed coffee drinks, which recently received accolades from Food Network star Alton Brown, who grabbed a “spot-on” cortado when he was in town for his show at the Aronoff.
Before construction on Collective Espresso Northside was finished, CityBeat shared a cup of java with the brewed-bean bosses and shot the coffee-scented breeze about what’s in store for new locale.
: Why a second location?
: Our shops are small and I don’t think we would want to expand the space down in OTR. Northside feels like a really good neighborhood right now and there’s a lot of momentum over here. There’s a lot of good stuff happening. We’d said offhandedly if this spot ever became available we’d want to do something in Northside.
: What is the occupancy limit?
: About 14. Dave and I really like small spaces. People experience our coffee shops differently than going to other places because you’re kind of forced to be in close proximity with people.
: People go to coffee shops to connect with people, but then you go to big coffee shops, use your laptop and you don’t connect. [Collective Espresso] is like a forced connection.
: How do you grow Collective Espresso while staying true to your original vision?
: We want to be pushed and we want to be on the edge. We’re experimenting with different brew methods. Sure, we know how to use Hario and Chemex, but what else is there? What else can we get good at?
: Does your business have the potential to expand outside of Ohio?
: It’s weird because that’s the way this kind of coffee shop is going right now. When this specialty coffee industry came up it was always based on little one-off shops. If you go to Chicago you can go to Intelligentsia, if you go to Portland you can have Stumptown; you’re seeing a bunch of cash flow going into these types of businesses. Now Intelligentsia is not only in Chicago, but Los Angeles and San Francisco. You’re seeing these people expand. They’re getting a lot of cash dumped into their businesses from investors. There’s definitely room in the market for shops like this to move out from one’s city, but I don’t know if we’re close to that yet.
: I wouldn’t say it’s our passion to try to do that. Part of the fun for us is going to other cities and seeing all these good shops being run just a little differently. I like the differences. There’s room for growth in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati’s going to continue to take off, and when that happens that means a lot more neighborhoods will need things like [Collective Espresso]. There’s something about these hidden spaces that seems to fit our brand. It’s not something we set out to do. The entrance sequence off of Hamilton is amazing. It feels like you’re doing something wrong.
COLLECTIVE ESPRESSO’s newest spot is located at 4037 Hamilton Ave., Northside. The original location is at 207 Woodward St., Over-the-Rhine. More info: facebook.com/collectiveespressootr.