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Social Issues




College town coffee shop creates community
Students, professors, and other Kent residents gather under the tree
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
Architects Jason Turnidge and Kathryn Strand, like Evan Bailey, teach at Kent State University.
Courtesy of Danny Doherty
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In The Region:

A lot of story-telling happens over coffee. For today’s Quick Bite WKSU’s Vivian Goodman gets a journalist to spill the beans about his new coffee shop.

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Tree City employee Ryan Comeau at the drive-through


Tree City employee Ryan Comeau at the drive-through

(Click image for larger view.)

Evan Bailey, the owner of Tree City Coffee and Pastry, does other things. 

"I’m also an assistant professor in the school of journalism and mass communication."

He also works part time as a booking agent for musicians and bands, mostly electronica.

But he finds time to run a coffee shop because he says he saw the need.

The town needs a good cup of coffee 

“And it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a couple years. It was sort of the perfect mix of the right developer, Ron Burbick, we felt very comfortable working with him and we felt he had the best intentions for the community in mind. The right business partner, Mike Beder, he’ s been invested in the community for over 10 years now as owner of Water Street Tavern and Cajun Dave’s."

Bailey notes that coffee shops historically have played a very important role in social movements, “And they’re part in my opinion of the fabric of the community. “

Tree City offers eight different kinds of coffee and a key partner provides one of the house blends.

 “ Bent Tree Coffee Roasters here in town. We call it Two Trees because we both have trees in our name. But essentially that blend is choice Central American coffees, all fair trade, all organic. So that one’s a blend it’s not just a single origin and our other house coffee, we call it Tree City Direct, but it’s a direct trade and organic product from Brazil and that’s a single origin coffee. Decaf, we use water instead of chemicals to remove the caffeine. That’s a Columbian. That’s also a direct trade product. Bistro blend, one we call the solstice blend, a mocha java that’s a darker one. We carry a Peaberry which is sort of a different shape bean, sort of a different taste.”

Partnership is key
 

But you need something to go along with it and Bailey’s got that covered. His partners, Brian and Amy Bauer, are pastry chefs:

 “ We basically have two rounds a day it’s sort of morning pastries and then sort of afternoon desserts and then we have food in the afternoon by way of sort of a classic peanut-butter and jelly menu and then in the morning we have breakfast-sandwich options and bagels, too. Can you show me some of your bakery goods? Sure, of course, yes. Let’s go. It’s a nice, gleaming front counter here. Yes. Yes. So we have some walnut chocolate chip biscotti here this morning, orange star anise biscotti, blueberry muffins with wild Maine blueberries in them, lemon-toasted almond muffins, some sour cherry with butter-crumb muffins, bacon-swiss scone, that’s been a big one for us. People seem to really enjoy that. Blueberry scone, lemon-poppy-seed loaf, banana walnut crumb loaf, zucchini craisin. Then we have some biscuits. We have regular biscuits, and cayenne biscuits, and assorted Danish, and I think the cupcakes are about to come out, too, so it looks like we have some red velvet cupcakes, chocolate, and peanut-butter filled cupcakes coming out. There’s a lot of calories in everything you said right there. Some of it. The scones and biscuits probably are good options for people who are trying to be a little more conscious about sugar intake or something like that . But yes we enjoy eating and we hope you will, too.”

Another Kent connection
 

If you enjoy the atmosphere, you have Jason Turnidge and Kathryn Strand to thank. The husband and wife architect team also teach at Kent State. There’s an industrial-techie feel to the décor with a lot of gleaming metal, but also lots of cozy reclaimed wood, walnut benches, and a four-sided fireplace with a metal sculpture of a tree on top. For Turnidge, it all comes together under that tree:

 “ Using the device of the fireplace to kind of organize activity around, kind of produce a way to kind of focus activity on one side and the other side into a kind of central space. Are you and your wife happy with what you’ve achieved? We’re thrilled. It’s like of living room in the city for us. We get to meet with our students and other people that we haven’t seen for a while so it’s been nice.”

Nice, too, to help someone realize his dream. Tree City founder Evan Bailey grew up with Turnage in Kent:

We were grade school friends and the other day before open we were looking at the fireplace and saying ’Y’know we get older and the legos just get bigger.”

Adam Griffiths , one of Bailey’s former students, stopped in recently to see the shop. He lives in D.C. now and works for the Washington Post:

“It’s awesome. When I was still in college Evan told me about he was starting the original process of planning this whole thing and I just finally saw it coming together online and I was really excited to come back and visit and its amazing. I think he did a really great job. How does it compare to the coffee houses of Washington, D.C.? Oh, I think you see a lot of places like this in big cities. I think it’s really awesome something like this is in Acorn Alley and its really helping bring back the downtown Kent area.”

Catering to students's needs
 

Tree City has the potential to be a touchstone, a place where townspeople and students can form a broader community. But Evan Bailey knows his most important customers are the students, so he had the J-school’s audience Analysis class do research on how to accommodate their needs:

That basically said that students wanted a lot of outlets, one for their cellphone, one for their laptop. So we kind of doubled that up and Jayson and Katy did a nice job of integrating that into the bench so yeah it’s a very wired space and hopefully that’ll make it easier for people to work and socialize.”

And tell stories. Or write them, like former Akron Beacon Journal reporter and current Kent State journalism professor Tim Smith, a Tree City regular:

 “Coffee is essential. It’s the next thing to blood in our veins and it ties in nicely with a community-type based place like this one. And the coffee’s better here. You’ve tried others. I have indeed. Everything that’s available, and this is the best around.”

Seven nights a week, Tree City Coffee and Pastry stays open till 11, but students really appreciate that during finals week it stays open around the clock.

And that’s this week’s Quick Bite. Next Friday we visit a Geneva seafood restaurant built around an antique Coney Island shooting gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Related Links & Resources
Tree City's website

Listener Comments:

Is the last name Turnidge or Turnage?


Posted by: Terri on July 6, 2012 6:07AM
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